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Brazil kick off today

Paris: Brazil kick off their fifth Confederations Cup campaign against Cameroon on Thursday determined to improve their poor record in the tournament.

The world champions were below-par in the eight-nation event two years ago when they managed only one victory in five games.

Widely regarded as hot favourites, the Brazilians are refusing to take anything for granted.

“It would be great to start with a win in this demanding tournament,” said coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. “Winning the opening game would put us in a more comfortable situation.

“The guys have had just one week to prepare themselves but they have gift and a strong will.”

Parreira picked only six players from the squad who claimed Brazil’s fifth world title last year. He is without a number of key players, including defender Roberto Carlos and striker Ronaldo, who are with their club Real Madrid until the end of the Spanish season on Saturday.

Playmaker Rivaldo of AC Milan is also absent but Parreira can rely on Ronaldinho.

“Ronaldinho is an artist. He is smart, skilful and efficient. He embodies the quality of our football. He is an example for every one of us,” Parreira said.

The Brazilian coach is hoping 21-year-old striker Adriano can replace Ronaldo in the No. 9 shirt and provide goals in a strong Group B also including Turkey and the US, two surprise teams at last year’s World Cup.

“We must beware of every team here and we can expect tough challenges. It’s a little bit too soon to think about a final against France,” said experienced midfielder Emerson.

“Cameroon are a solid side. They are the reigning African champions and their guys are used to play together for quite some time now,” Parreira said.

Winfried Schaefer’s men have very little to lose in the tournament. “We are going to fight with our skills and with our hearts like we always do,” Schaefer said. “This Confederations Cup is a contest of prestige.”

The Indomitable Lions will be without defensive midfielder Salomon Olembe who has been ruled out of the tournament with a pulled hamstring.

Turkey on a high

Turkey open their campaign against the US on Thursday aiming to prove that last year’s run to the World Cup semi-finals was no fluke. Senol Gunes’ men return to the world stage after being one of the revelations, along with joint hosts South Korea, of the 2002 finals in Asia.

Hoping to join favourites Brazil from Group B in the Cup semi-finals, Turkey face a US team who were themselves surprise quarter-finalists last year.

Determined not to underestimate their opponents, Gunes said: “The United States are not a weak side — they’ve taken part in every World Cup since 1990.

“Our team has changed since the World Cup. I’ve brought in some players from the under-21s...as have all the other sides in this competition.

“I wanted to try out new players with a view to Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.”

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