It is official: Brazil’s former Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is a miracle worker. How else can you explain away ex-Manchester City and Everton striker Jo scoring two goals – yes, two goals – in as many games at the Confederations Cup?
And he hasn’t even started either game – he’s only been on the pitch for a total of 18 minutes. How on earth has that happened?
When in England, Jo was so lazy he couldn’t even be bothered to put an ‘e’ on the end of his name and for his entire time in this country he resembled a bloke leaving the boozer at closing time who had won a competition to become a Premier League footballer.
Yet his rehabilitation as the new Romario (poetic licence, there) is symbolic of the confidence that is building within the Brazil camp after a pair of wins from their first two competitive games for 23 months and the Samba Boys go into their final Group A match against Italy already in the semi-finals and in fine fettle.
Of course, the Italians are also into the last four after winning both of their fixtures against Mexico and, thrillingly, Japan, and the meeting of the two in Salvador on Saturday is essentially a match to see who avoids facing Spain in the semi-final.
Brazil need only avoid defeat to ensure they top the group and therefore face (in all probability) Uruguay rather than the world and European champions, and they are 57/100 to win the match, with the draw at 3/1 and the Italians a 19/4 chance.
Few international fixtures are as iconic as Brazil v Italy – Carlos Alberto, Paolo Rossi, Roberto Baggio and all that – and I have a feeling that the latest meeting between two nations who’ve won nine World Cups between them can be an entertaining one.
As such, the even money that both teams find the net looks a great bet.
Brazil have clicked into gear at the top end of the pitch under Scolari, scoring in all nine matches of his second tenure, hitting 16 goals in the last six.
And although they have kept three clean sheets in succession, Japan and Mexico showed limited ambition against them and it was only three weeks ago that England and Chile both scored twice against the Brazil rearguard, so I am far from convinced that all their defensive issues have been ironed out.
Italy will pose much more threat than any of those sides. Cesare Prandelli’s team, with six goals in their two matches in the tournament so far, have played 14 fixtures since losing to Spain in the Euro 2012 final – and scored in 13 of them.
Both teams have scored in ten of those 14 fixtures – which include a 2-2 draw between the sides in March of this year – and at even money I definitely want to be on it happening for an 11th time on Saturday.