Great Britain plays its first football match for 40 years tonight and it couldn’t be harder.

They take on Brazil at the Riverside stadium in Middlesbrough.

But if the British think they have it tough – and there is a huge controversy over the very existence of a British soccer team, as is explained here, here and most interestingly here – then the Brazilians have it tougher.

As I say in my Reuters story:

There is much more at stake for their opponents Brazil, who go into the Olympics looking not only for their first Olympic title but also seeking to find the team and the style of play that will bring them success when they host the World Cup in 2014.

Brazil has won world titles at every level and is the only country to lift the World Cup five times. But it has never won Olympic gold and most Brazilians would gladly pass up victories in sailing or judo or volleyball if it meant they could finally get their hands on the elusive soccer medal.

For coach Mano Menezes, winning in London is only part of the deal. He must also shape and prepare his team to win the World Cup on home soil, which will be no easy feat given that they recently dropped to their lowest FIFA ranking ever – 11th – and that they will be under huge pressure from their home fans.

Making their task even harder is the lack of competition between now and 2014. The Olympics are the last competitive fixtures that Brazil will play for two years, unless you count the relatively relaxed Confederations Cup, and I don’t.

Menezes, moreover, doesn’t have to just do well in the Olympics. He has to do well and in style.

His task is to get Brazil playing a more exciting football, something resembling their own futebol arte of the past, as well as the European possession game that Spain (and latterly Germany) have made so successful.

The former Corinthians coach has introduced a more attacking style of play than his predecessor Dunga, and they appear to be learning from the Europeans who press higher up the pitch and value possession.

He has a squad full of youngsters who would walk into almost any team in the world. Neymar, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Alexandre Pato, Oscar and Leandro Damiao are joined by over-age picks Hulk, Marcelo, and Thiago Silva, who last week signed for Paris St. Germain for a reported 42 million Euros.

Most of them will start the match against Great Britain tonight.

It is one more step on a long journey they hope will end with them lifting the World Cup at the Maracana stadium two years from now. The Olympics will give us some sense of how likely that is.