World Cup 2018: Brazil Preview
The only team to have participated in every World Cup aim for an unprecedented sixth win in Russia this summer.
A promising campaign on home soil in the last World Cup ended in abject failure. A historic 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany was followed by a 3-0 loss against the Dutch to leave them nursing fourth place, however, that will surely be used to help motivate them this time around.
While traditional excellence has often proved a heavy weight around the Brazilian’s collective neck, Tite has restored a grounded sense of realism to the team.
Trading a little flair for some effectiveness, Brazil are now a team with a firm system in place with each player knowing their role intimately.
With players such as Ederson, Roberto Firmino, Fred, Fernandinho and Douglas Costa all struggling to get playing time, there’s a wealth of talent in this squad.
Coupled with a strong qualifying run and a recent 1-0 win over Germany in a friendly, it’s not surprising that the five-time World champions head into another major tournament as favourites to win.
Route to final
As the first team to qualify for this summers competition (excluding Russia who automatically joined as hosts), Brazil ultimately enjoyed a relatively painless journey to the finals. At the time of Dunga’s dismissal in June 2016, however, Brazil had suffered one defeat and three draws from their first six matches.
This left them in sixth position and looking like they were to be in a long fight for qualification.
Tite’s appointment immediately changed all of that. A 3-0 win in Ecuador was the first of nine consecutive wins in which they scored 26 goals and only conceded twice, qualifying with four games to spare along the way.
Draws in Columbia and Bolivia preceded a 3-0 win over Chile during their final three fixtures, putting them top of the CONMEBOL group table by ten points and with a goal difference of +30.
One hallmark of Tite’s rule over the Brazilian national team is just how settled he has made the first team. Dani Alves’ knee injury has disrupted this consistency to a degree, however, after naming 16 of his 23-man squad at the beginning of this year there should be relatively few surprises for Brazil fans.
Thiago Silva and Marquinhos are in direct competition for a starting berth in central defence while Renato Augusto has missed the previous 2 friendlies but could return in favour of either Fernandinho, Fred or Willian who are all looking to snatch his place away from him.
Key Player: Neymar
The world’s most expensive player was a beacon of hope during their previous World Cup campaign before he suffered a fractured bone in his back against Columbia.
Still the poster-boy of the Brazilian team, Neymar has just recovered from foot surgery and is expected to be back in full health for their opening match with his return scheduled for the upcoming friendly with Croatia.
The Seleção’s (the squad) are once more living up to this title with Tite having developed Brazil to be less reliant on the 26-years-old’s talents.
Neymar will still be the side’s most threatening element, the spark that can create some Samba magic, and he is the player which all eyes will be glued on during their games this summer.
Group stage matchup
Pitched in group E with Costa Rica, Serbia, and Switzerland, there appears little to stand in their way of progression through this stage. The first match sees them face the Swiss in Rostov, a potentially hard nut to crack but not a team blessed with huge attacking prowess.
A long journey to the North-West city of St Petersburg then has them take on Costa Rica, the surprise package of the previous World Cup where they reached the quarterfinals only to be defeated by Holland in a penalty shootout.
They may find it hard to repeat this feat in Russia, however, nobody truly expected them to achieve relative success in Brazil either.
The final fixture looks to be the hardest, a Serbian side who boast an impressive midfield comprised of Nemanja Matic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
This Brazilian side is a finely balanced team with a strong defence, sharp and varied attack and possessing plenty of physical presence throughout its core. Tite has transformed them from a team of promise to one of consistency but they’re largely untested against the world’s top sides during his 20-game reign.
Brazil should have no problems in cruising through the group stages and anything less than a semifinal appearance will be viewed as a catastrophic failure for them back home.
While there have been more inventive and elegant iterations of the national team in the past, this current version has an effective edge to them which makes them a tantalising proposition to back for victory.
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