Mano Menezes faces uphill task to convince Brazil he is on right track

Brazil go into a friendly with Germany concerned with a run of poor form while the host nation frets about their chances at the 2014 World Cup

Surrounded by visiting journalists at the entrance of the Steigenberger Hotel in Stuttgart, Bayern Munich's Brazilian defender Luiz Gustavo looked a bit puzzled not only for the attention devoted by his compatriots to a player barely known in his home country, but for all the questions inquiring after the mood of his many club team-mates who play for Germany.

The hacks were all interested to know if Schweinsteiger, Müller and co, who on Wednesday night face the five-times world champions in a friendly at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, smelled blood. After all, following the horrendous exit from the Copa América, where lacklustre performances prefaced a penalty shoot-out against Paraguay in which Brazil failed to convert a single kick, Brazil arrived in Germany without a victory against a top side in over a year.

"The boys are pretty much looking forward to it," said Luiz Gustavo. That's not surprising, even if Germany haven't beaten the seleção since 1993. Germany will hope to follow the lead of Argentina and France, who have both done so recently, rather than Holland, who were flattered not so much in the comeback that eliminated Brazil from South Africa 2010 but in the goalless draw on the warmer side of the Atlantic in June.

Sharp anxiety has taken hold among the fans, media and players in Brazil. If the delays in the organisation of the 2014 World Cup are worrying, there are many people who also scratch their heads doubting what the hosts can achieve on the pitch. After a bright start under Mano Menezes, when a young squad ran rings around the United States in New Jersey, the seleção have not clicked. Qualification for the London 2012 Games has been secured, but by the Under-20s, not the senior team.

The defeats to Argentina and France may have been close-fought games (especially the one in Paris, where the Brazilians played with 10 men for almost 60 minutes thanks to Lazio's Hernanes applying a UFC-style kick to Karim Benzema's chest), but in the Copa América last month the woeful displays sent jitters through the country.

It has reached the point where Menezes could see his position in serious jeopardy if he manages anything less than a victory in Stuttgart on Wednesday. The manager, whose name was third on the Brazilian FA's list to replace the vilified Dunga after the World Cup (a manager who delivered the scalps of Argentina, Italy and England), inheriting a post declined by Luiz Felipe Scolari and Muricy Ramalho, has yet to be publicly undermined by his boss, Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation. But surely Teixeira is monitoring the events closely.

Menezes, who is committed to have Brazil play with more flair than the pragmatism imposed by his predecessor, is a gentleman in comparison with the constant tantrums thrown by the former World Cup-winning captain. This made Menezes popular with the media but the honeymoon period is over now and the chances to woo the critics back are few, since Brazil are not playing World Cup qualifiers and will have to resort to friendlies until the 2013 Confederations Cup. Therefore Menezes will have his neck on the line in the Olympic tournament next summer, where only the elusive gold medal will avoid calls for him to walk the plank.

It ought to be remembered that players are underperforming as well. Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso still seem more at ease at Santos than in a yellow shirt and Júlio César could make Massimo Taibi tut with his dip of form since the World Cup. Chelsea's Ramires spends more time hacking down opponents than anything else. Nor should Menezes be blamed for the absence of a true No9 in Brazilian football at the moment – the only one near it, the injury-prone Luís Fabiano, has not even been called up after South Africa. There is also no decent left-back, especially since Real Madrid's Marcelo showed little commitment to the national team cause.

That said, the manager is the one who picks the team and decisions such as splitting the more than promising defence partnership between Thiago Silva and David Luiz to bring in old campaigner Lúcio, as well as the persistence with Robinho are highly questionable.

He can buy some in Stuttgart tonight, but time is not on Menezes's side to fix these problems, with Argentina waiting in September and mighty Spain in November. But there is at least an omen: 30 years ago, in Stuttgart, Brazil produced a fine comeback to beat the hosts 2-1, with the goalkeeper Valdir Peres saving two penalties from Paul Breitner.

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