Whenever the FIFA World Cup comes around, the Brazilians are always amongst the list of top contenders for football’s biggest prize, and after an impressive qualifying campaign, it would be foolish to underestimate the powers of the World’s most successful team.
The last time a nation was successfully able to defend a World Cup was when Brazil did so in 1962. History will look to repeat……
World Cup History
With five world cup titles to their name, Brazil is the most successful team in World Cup history.
Boasting a rich history in the competition, Brazil is the only team to have played in every single FIFA World Cup. They emerged winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, whilst also reaching the final in 1950 and 1998.
Their successful campaigns have seen the likes of Pele, Rivellino, Jairzinho, Romario, Ronaldo Nazario, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho all become global superstars, with their trademark samba style of football shining through on each occasion.
How They Qualified
Brazil became the first team to qualify for Russia 2018, on the back of a very impression CONMEBOL campaign.
Following a 0-2 away loss to Chile in their first game of qualifying, Brazil went undefeated in the remainder of their 17 games, notching up 12 wins and 5 draws. Amongst their qualifying results, a 3-0 win over bitter rivals Argentina, a 4-1 thrashing of Uruguay in Montevideo, and a 3-0 win over Chile in their final match undoubtedly stand out as their best performances.
They also registered impressive wins over Russia (3-0) and Germany (1-0) in international friendlies following the completion of their qualification campaign.
Manager & Playing Style
Brazil appointed Dunga as coach of the national football team after their disappointing 2014 World Cup campaign.
However, after back to back disappointments in Copa America 2015 and Copa America Centenario 2016, where Brazil was knocked out in the Quarter-Finals and Group stage respectively, his contract was terminated by CBF with Leonardo Bacchi, more commonly known as ‘Tite’, taking over the reins of the national team.
He led them to 7 consecutive wins in qualifying matches, playing a 4-1-4-1 system that has seen Brazil press high up the field and rediscover their attacking threat with an improved passing game. Under his guidance, Brazil ended up with the highest goal tally (41 goals) and clean sheet tally (10) in South American qualifying.
He has also shown his ability to adapt tactically by switching to 4-3-3 in the absence of Neymar to secure wins over Russia and Germany in friendly fixtures played in early 2018.
Strengths & Weaknesses
This Brazilian team has a great mix of youth and experience when compared to their 2014 squad. They are blessed with pace and abundance of technique and players like Neymar, Jesus, Coutinho, and Willian are all likely to cause many a headache for even the strongest of backlines.
However, most of their attacking players are slight in stature, and if teams opt to sit back and play a physical game, their game plan could be disrupted. In addition to this, their wide defenders, Marcelo in particular, are known to love getting forward which could expose their center backs on the counter when playing against teams relying on counter-attacking football.
The biggest loss to injury has been Dani Alves, who featured heavily during qualifying. Filipe Luis is his most likely replacement but does not pose the same threat in attack as Alves, who was in great form with Juventus up until his injury.
Neymar too has had his problems with injuries this season, and though he is expected to be fit in time for the event, he has publicly expressed his concerns with regard to his fitness and will also need to rediscover his form in order to make the impact Brazil need.
Neymar is undoubtedly Brazil’s most important player, as he was during the 2014 World Cup campaign as well, with coach Tite going as far to describe him as ‘irreplaceable’.
In qualifying Neymar bagged 6 goals and 8 assists in 14 appearances, clearly underlining his importance to the team. Gabriel Jesus has enjoyed plenty of game time under Tite and was Brazil’s top scorer in qualifying with 7 goals.
Paulinho is another player who has seen his career resuscitated under Tite’s rein, and in 11 qualifying games he netted 6 goals (including a hattrick against Uruguay) and 2 assists. His performances for Brazil were such that he was able to secure a move to Barcelona in 2017 from the relative obscurity of the Chinese League.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Alisson has been preferred over Ederson in goal, Thiago Silva has been a rock at the back, and Casemiro’s rise at Real Madrid has helped him secure a regular place as the sole holding midfielder in the 4-1-4-1 setup.
One to Watch
Whilst the likes of Neymar and Gabriel Jesus are likely to steal the limelight, Paulinho could be the key in midfield to determine whether Brazil can go the distance.
The midfielder has been in good form for Barcelona this season scoring 8 goals alongside 2 assists in the La Liga in 33 appearances. He has been a key performer in Tite’s team, and is likely to continue to play a key role in the summer in central midfield alongside Renato Augusto, especially if Neymar fails to fully recover from his injury.
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Cassio
Defenders: Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marquinhos, Marcelo, Filipe Luis, Fagner, Pedro Geromel, Danilo
Midfielders: Paulinho, Casemiro, Philippe Coutinho, Renato Augusto, Fred, Fernandinho, Willian
Forwards: Neymar, Douglas Costa, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Taison