Brazil's Olympic stars set to shine

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On Friday evening, the British public get their first opportunity to glimpse potential Premier League stars of the future when Team GB take on Brazil.

For British fans, the unfortunate reality is that the world-class talents will largely be wearing the yellow jersey of the Samba Boys'. For if they don't recognise the names on the back of the Brazil shirts tonight, they surely will in a few year's time.

Of course, Stuart Pearce's side also harbour hopes of a glorious triumph next month, but their opponents at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium will head to London as heavy favourites.

For a country with such an illustrious footballing history, the lack of an Olympic gold medal stands out as a glaring omission. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the fact that fierce rivals Argentina have made a habit of Olympic victory adds greater urgency to the task. So Brazil manager Mano Menezes is taking no chances this time around - his team is stacked with talent.

Lucas Moura, Neymar, Ganso, Hulk and Oscar are not just the future - they are the present. All have full national team caps - Neymar is his country's established centre-forward and Lucas Moura - still just 19 - already has 15 appearances to his name.

As an under-23 competition, the Olympic Games pits the rising stars of world football against each other, which too good an opportunity to miss for Premier League clubs lacking the financial clout to maintain globing scouting networks. But while the likes of West Ham, Norwich and Wigan focus their attentions on the realistic targets - those of Mexico, Japan, perhaps Uruguay, the Champions League clubs, plus a few pretenders, already have their eye on the cream of Brazil's crop.

This evening gives these clubs a first, proper look at the young maestros - scouting trips to South America aside - but if reputation is anything to go by, this latest generation of Brazilian youngsters could be one of the country's best ever.

Rarely has such a class of young players graduated to the full national team so early. The era of Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Robinho is over, and the 'magic quartet' of the World Cup 2006 looks like a misplaced utopian dream - each of these global superstars has now been replaced by a younger, hungrier alternative.

Lucas Moura, Oscar and Ganso are their country's creative outlets. With their teenage years still fresh in the memory, all three compete in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, but already each has been linked with a move to the Premier League.

Over the past few seasons, scouting reports filed from the balmy beaches of Brazil have reached Europe with ever more excitable tales of unique talents. Pacy strikers with a lethal eye for goal - Tottenham target Leandro Damiao, sly creators with ice in their veins - Chelsea target Oscar, the new Kaka - Arsenal target Ganso, and the best of the bunch, a spiky shock of black hair belonging to the fastest boots on the continent, Neymar.

The Santos forward is undoubtedly the focal point of attention, for both rival defenders and the media. He's expected to move to Europe - Barcelona or Real Madrid most likely - after the World Cup in 2014. Internacional pairing Damiao and Oscar could arrive much earlier, probably this summer, and both likely to sign for Premier League clubs.

Damiao is a sharp finisher, he's scored 58 goals in the last two seasons, while Oscar has been described as the "brains" of this Brazil team. The prices being quoted for these youngsters are eye-watering, Oscar close to £25m, Lucas Moura's value is north of £30m, while Neymar will probably won't swap clubs for less than £50m. Whether they are worth the inflated fees is debatable, but their talent is undeniable.

Sao Paulo manager Ney Franco has coached many of them, and was left impressed. "This is the best generation of players Brazil has had for some time," declared the former-Brazil under-20 coach. At home in Brazil's most populous city, Franco coaches the talent of Lucas Moura at club level.

The Sao Paulo star is half the age of Team GB captain Ryan Giggs, and he is the subject of admiration from Old Trafford. If recent reports are accurate, Manchester United are prepared to pay as much as £34m for the 19-year-old, who they see as a long-term replacement for Giggs.

In many ways, the Team GB captain, despite his advancing years, is the player the Brazilian team fears most. The Manchester United winger last faced Brazil in 2006, captaining Wales in their 2-0 defeat. That day, then-Brazil coach Dunga admitted Giggs was the one player he'd take in his Brazil side. In 2012, not many, if any, of Team GB's side would command a place in the Brazil squad.

As such, Team GB's quality will largely flow from the boots of Giggs. Although the Team GB squad contains some bright young talent, somewhat predictably, in terms of technique, vision and that ability to pull off the unpredictable, Brazil are light years ahead.

While Team GB's young stars fight to manage the expectations of home advantage, Brazil will be under equally heavy pressure from a ruthless Brazilian public desperate right their winless record.

This group contains several of world's most wanted players - never will scouts have flocked to Middlesbrough with such speed and with such expectation of what they may find.

With 25,000 fans also predicted to attend, the atmosphere will be electric, but it is still a friendly after all. The marquee fixture could be a pre-cursor to a potential knock-out tie, something Olympic bosses most be longing for after reports of unsold tickets and half-empty stadiums.

And for Premier League fans, it will be the first opportunity to watch a potential new signing.

After Team GB's loss in a behind-closed-friendly to Mexico, Stuart Pearce will be keen to put on an improved performance. But he knows the size of the task is massive, as those who trawl YouTube for clips of football's next bright young stars can testify.

Somehow, signing a Brazilian player for your club seems more exciting, even if evidence suggests it doesn't always work out. But those clubs that manage to snap up the top stars of this Brazil team will not be left disappointed.

This evening, British fans will find out what the Brazilian public already know - this team is the future. And a couple of Premier League clubs will be hopeful that, when Brazil's stars head home - gold medal in tow or otherwise - a few of them will be sticking around on English soil.

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