Chilly, but clean bill of health for Brazil
Rio de Janeiro: Brazil`s World Cup hopefuls began training in cool and rainy conditions but received a clean bill of health from their doctors Wednesday at their hillside base camp outside Rio.
If the squad had been hoping for balmy conditions at their Granja Comary complex in the town of Teresopolis they would have suffered a rude awakening, with the thermometer showing just 17 Celsius (63 Fahrenheit) as they trotted onto a chilly pitch.
Under the watchful gaze of 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, the 23-man squad began their session shortly after 10:00 am (1300 GMT) after some indoor warm-ups -- the three goalkeepers following the program in reverse.
Chelsea midfielder Oscar, coming off hip and thigh troubles, and striker Jo, likewise shaking off fitness problems as he looks to play second fiddle to main striker Fred, both joined the group from the outset for an hour-long session.
The bulk of the squad, most of whom play in Europe, had arrived Monday -- when they were met by sporadic protests by citizens angry at the cost of staging the event.
Tuesday they underwent a series of fitness tests, preparing to hit tip-top form for their June 12 opener against Croatia in Sao Paulo -- and all 23 are ship shape, according to doctor Jose Luiz Runco.
"Nobody risks having to cry off at the moment," Runco told a news conference after running the rule over Scolari`s men.
He struck a note of caution, however.
"Those who were here in 2002 know what problems can happen at the last minute -- as happened with Emerson (the then skipper, who missed out at the last minute with a dislocated shoulder.)
"Today, they are all in perfect physical condition," Runco said.
"I am not going to say there is no wear and tear as that would be fibbing," he added, but insisted that after a long season there would be "specific training for the needs of each player" ahead of the opening game. Physical trainer Paulo Paixao meanwhile sought to allay fears regarding the fitness of Oscar, who has permission to leave the camp temporarily with his wife expecting their first child any day.
"He came to the Confederations Cup more worn out. This time he is fine, not least for having played less matches than the season before."
Strike tandem Neymar and Fred have also had injury-tainted seasons -- the former`s first season in Europe marred by foot and ankle problems.
But "he has totally recovered," Runco insisted.
Paixao said Neymar was a tougher player after his year experiencing the rigors of La Liga with Barcelona.
"He has gained not only in physical strength but also in experience playing with Barcelona, going up against other players in Europe and a different form of marking.
"That encourages us to feel he could be even better at the World Cup" than when he helped Brazil win the Confederations Cup a year ago.
Fred, joint top scorer with Spain`s Fernando Torres 12 months ago with five goals, for his part missed several months of action with a serious thigh problem which saw him only return to the fray in January.
Scolari assistant and technical coordinator Carlos Alberto Parreira has admitted to some concern over Fred`s injury record but he did show form on returning with 10 goals in 19 games for Fluminense.
Reserve center forward Jo injured his right knee in early May but returned to training last week.
Before the Cup starts Brazil will play two friendlies -- against Panama on June 3 in Goiania and Serbia three days later in the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo.
The Croatian game will be played in the much-delayed Corinthians Arena before the Selecao meet Mexico and Cameroon to complete their Group A program.