Baptista, Alves could draw in for Brazil

Brazil is likely to make two changes for its final Group G match against Portugal on Friday, with Julio Baptista replacing the suspended Kaka and Daniel Alves coming in for the injured Elano.

Kaka to serve suspension Friday, while Elano doubtful after injuring ankle

Brazil is likely to make two changes for its final Group G match against Portugal on Friday, with Julio Baptista replacing the suspended Kaka and Daniel Alves coming in for the injured Elano.

Brazil has already qualified for the second round but needs at least a draw against Portugal to clinch first place in the group.

Kaka got a late red card in the match against Ivory Coast on Sunday, while Elano remains doubtful after injuring his right ankle against the Ivorians.

Brazil doctors had said Elano's injury was not serious and that he would be fit for Friday's match, but he practised separately from his teammates for the third day in a row on Thursday. He tried to participate in a few ball drills on Wednesday but felt pain in his ankle and then just jogged around the field.

"He likely won't be able to play, but we will wait until tomorrow [Friday]," Brazil coach Dunga said.

Elano was hit on his right ankle in a hard tackle in the match against Ivory Coast at Soccer City Stadium and had to be substituted by Alves in the 67th minute. Kaka was sent off in the 88th minute, after a collision with an Ivory Coast player.

Dunga didn't officially announce the team for the match in Durban, but said Baptista is the one "who better adapts" to Kaka's position.

Baptista and right back Alves were among the starters in Brazil's penultimate practice before travelling from its training camp in Johannesburg to the coastal city of Durban on Wednesday.

Dunga closed most of the practice to the press, but images obtained by Brazilian media showed Julio Baptista and Alves training in the main team.

"If I get a chance to play, be it a minute or an entire match, I will try to take advantage of it to help the national team as best as I can," Alves said.

Immediate substitute

Baptista is Kaka's immediate substitute, and played in the playmaker's position when Brazil won the 2007 Copa America title in a final against Argentina. Baptista scored a goal in that final, as did Alves.

"If he decided that I will get to play, I will be ready," Baptista said.

Dunga also has other options for the midfield, and he has tried a couple of other alternatives since Brazil arrived in South Africa nearly a month ago to try to win its sixth world title.

Kaka entered the World Cup struggling to regain his top form after a series of injuries with Real Madrid last season, forcing Dunga to make several changes to the team.

In the opening 2-1 win against North Korea at Ellis Park, Kaka was substituted in the 78th minute by striker Nilmar, and Robinho moved back to the playmaking position.

Dunga also may use the versatile Alves in Kaka's position, using Kleberson or Ramires to replace Elano in a more defensive team.

Kaka was in Durban with the rest of the team and stayed longer than the other players on the practice field on Wednesday undergoing physical training for about half an hour. He still took time to shake hands with some 30 local kids who were allowed to watch part of Brazil's practice from the reserves' bench.

Although Brazil can secure first place with a draw against Portugal, Dunga and his players said the team will try to win the match to gain confidence ahead of the second round. Finishing first may also keep Brazil from having to face European champion Spain, which currently is second in Group H.

Brazil leads the group with six points, two more than Portugal, which has virtually secured a second-round berth after routing North Korea 7-0. Ivory Coast has one point, while the Koreans have zero.

FIFA did not allow Brazil and Portugal to practice at the match stadium in Durban to preserve the field for Friday's match. Brazil had its practice about 30 kilometres from Durban.