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Panama v Brazil: Lucas Lima ready to prove himself

Brazil forward Lucas Lima is ready to fight for his first-team spot as the South American nation step up preparations for the Copa America Centenario with a warm-up friendly against Panama on Sunday.

With Neymar set to miss the special Centenario edition of the tournament held in the United States, Lima has been given the famous number 10 kit in his absence.

The Santos attacker, who made his Brazil debut in September 2015, scored his maiden international goal in a World Cup qualifier against Argentina two months later.

And with the Copa America just one week away, Lima is aiming to use the friendly against Panama in Denver as a platform to show what he is capable of.

“I am very happy. It is a great honour for me,” the 25-year-old said of being given the number 10 shirt. 

“Everyone dreams of playing in the number 10. It is a great privilege. I hope to live up to it, as has everyone else who has worn it, and make a real difference to the team.”

However, with plenty of European clubs showing interest in him, Lima said he must remain focused on performing for Brazil, rather than his club future. 

“I have to put that aside and show my potential,” he said. “I’m very calm about it. I still have a contract with Santos. I am aware of the responsibility on us at the Copa, I’m totally focused on that. 

“Afterwards, we can start to think about the future. What may happen in the future depends very much on what happens here.

“I have sought to improve, get information from friends who are already in Europe and see how it all works over there.”

Brazil have been drawn in Group B of the tournament alongside Ecuador, Haiti and Peru. 

Panama, meanwhile, have been invited to the tournament for the first time, with an expanded 16-team competition taking place for the 100th anniversary of the Copa America. 

Their road out of the group stages is an incredibly difficult one, drawn against defending champions Chile, 14-time winners Argentina and Bolivia. 

Panama played out a 0-0 draw against Venezuela on Tuesday in the first of their warm-up games, but coach Hernan Dario Gomez is hoping for an improved performance against Brazil.

“We lost a lot of balls against Venezuela,” the 60-year-old said after the game. “It’s prohibited against Brazil to lose those kinds of balls, because a team like that will rob you and will not forgive you. 

“It is prohibited against Argentina and Chile too, because those teams will punish you.”

Fri 27 May, 2016
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