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May 27, 2017

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Kaka looks set to start for Brazil in friendly against Iraq

SAO PAULO -- Kaka looks set to be picked by Brazil for the friendly against Iraq on Thursday, in what would mark his return to the national team for the first time since the 2010 World Cup.

The Real Madrid midfielder practiced among the usual starters Tuesday, playing alongside playmaker Oscar and strikers Hulk and Neymar ahead of the match in Sweden.

Coach Mano Menezes has hinted that Kaka would get a chance in midfield, even though Chelsea's Oscar has recently taken over as the team's playmaker.

When Menezes announced Kaka's return to the squad, he said he believed the two midfielders could play together and would try the formation in one of the team's friendlies. Brazil, which is not playing World Cup qualifiers because it will host the 2014 tournament, will also play Japan in Poland on Tuesday.

"I'm incredibly happy to be back," Kaka said. "I feel there's still a lot that I can do for Brazil, there's a lot that I can still win with Brazil. I want to return step by step. With patience, I'll be able to regain my space in the national team."

Menezes picked Kaka for some friendlies last year but he was ruled out due to injuries. His last game was Brazil's elimination to the Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinals in South Africa.

"It will be like I'm starting over," Kaka said. "Especially after everything that I've been through, with injuries, surgeries and doubts about how I would be returning. It's been more than two years, so I see it as a new start."

Kaka's return came as a surprise to many because he hadn't been playing regularly for Real Madrid, but Menezes said the player's dedication in practice and past experience with Brazil played a role in his decision.

Kaka has played more with Madrid recently and came on as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 draw with Barcelona in the Spanish League on Sunday.

"My goal has always been to return to the national team, but I knew that it would take time," he said. "I knew it would be difficult because of the injuries and because I wasn't playing regularly. Things are finally happening again."

With Kaka playing, youngster Lucas is set to start on the bench, along with striker Leandro Damiao, who didn't practice on Tuesday because he is nursing a right ankle injury.

Menezes also used Adriano to replace Daniel Alves, who dropped out from the squad because of a left thigh injury.

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