ABU DHABI // Brazilian football officials in Abu Dhabi for the draw ceremony ahead of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup took notice of the reaction from the largely Emirati crowd when the South American giants were assigned to the host country's group.
"We enjoyed a little laugh among ourselves," said Elliot Alves, an assistant coach on Brazil's U17 side. "We see this as a sign of respect to our team, because they feel we are the strongest team.
"And we are also happy that we will be playing against UAE, as they are the host team, which are always strong because they will have the home crowd behind them."
Brazil's squad of young players is not yet final, Alves said this week.
"So far, there are about 50 players in contention and we will trim that to 35 for the provisional list which we have to submit to Fifa. Then with the coach we will select the final 21 players.
"But I would say Marcos, Abner, Lucas Silva, Eduardo, Auro, Gustavo, Indio, Thiago Maia, Caio Rangel, Robert, Boschilia and Kennedy are players whom we have used the most and have the chance to make the final cut, for sure," Alves said.
A host nation is always a threat, he said, without having seen the Emirati side.
"To be honest, we are not aware of the UAE team, we have not analysed or studied them as of yet but we are going to be doing that in the coming days. We will watch their games, see what tactics they like to use, and their footballing philosophy.
"But I heard that they are a very well-organised team and play attacking football. We know that UAE does not like to play a physical style and they are a bit like us."
Given the footballing reputation that follows them, being Brazil is not easy and Alves recognises it.
"Yes, absolutely. We have won many trophies and competitions, so it comes naturally. Everyone is saying that we are the favourites, even before the tournament is started, and that adds pressure to us to perform to the Brazil standards.
"So sometimes it's hard to be Brazil," he said. "So far, it's only talk and on paper that we are going to win it. We have to go out and play and win our group games. Youth football is different, because the players still are at an early stage of their development. But it's a crucial stage, so you can find countries who are not popular for football, but play strongly, so anything can happen."
Alves said Brazil's delegation has been impressed by the welcome to Abu Dhabi.
"It is an amazing city," he said. "We did not get much chance to go around, but we will surely visit one of these days. It's a great environment here. We have been welcomed and treated as family by the people here and we cannot wait to come back in October."
The Brazil team delegates will return to Sao Paolo to meet with the team manager and the football association to discuss their next step in preparations for the World Cup.
Brazil are planning to come to the UAE earlier than scheduled to get adjusted to the weather and time change.
Alves said the Brazil team will arrive in Dubai on October 7 for a pre-tournament camp at Jebel Ali. It has not been decided if they will play any friendlies.
The team move to Abu Dhabi on October 13 and will stay at the InterContinental Hotel, assigned to Group A teams by organisers.
"For now we have been discussing the draw and our opponents," Alves said. "We will be visiting Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, where we will play, and also the training grounds there.
"We look forward to the tournament and hope we can achieve our target of reaching the round of 16, then take it one step at a time."
UAE, Brazil, Honduras, Slovakia
All games in Abu Dhabi unless stated
Brazil v Slovakia, 5pm
UAE v Honduras, 8pm
Slovakia v Honduras, 5pm
UAE v Brazil, 8pm
Slovakia v UAE, 8pm
Honduras v Brazil, 8pm, RAK
Available at www.fifa.com/u17/worldcup or call 800 782342
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