Nearly four years have now passed since the darkest hour in Brazilian football history. A 7-1 Semi-Final defeat to Germany on home soil in 2014 left deep wounds in a county that prides itself on its football above all else. This summer’s World Cup offers a shot at redemption for those that featured on that miserable night in Belo Horizonte and hopes are reasonably high that Brazil can restore some pride in Russia.
Most bookies have them as at least joint favourites to win the tournament alongside the Germans but they are perhaps a bit short at 4/1 to lift the trophy given their recent showings in big tournaments. The Seleção sunk to new depths by failing to even get out of their group at Copa America Centenario in 2016. However things have taken a real turn for the better since then.
Former Corinthians boss Tite was appointed in June 2016 following that tournament and made an immediate impact as Brazil reeled off nine straight qualifying wins to comfortably make it to Russia as the highest ranked South American side. Overall they’ve won 15 of their 19 games under Tite, losing just once and gained a degree of revenge by beating Germany in their most recent international.
Defensively they look much better this time around and Brazil are certainly expected to be pushing for at least another Semi-Final appearance. The Brazilian public will hope for even better than that but it’s worth noting that only one of their five World Cups have been won on European soil and that was the first way back in 1958.
Brazil feature heavily in our World Cup Trends: Previous Winners Stats And Facts.
Manager – Tite
Ederson (Manchester City)
Danilo (Manchester City)
Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
Thiago Silva (PSG)
Miranda (Inter Milan)
Pedro Geromel (Gremio)
Casemiro (Real Madrid)
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan)
Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
Douglas Costa (Juventus)
Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
The most notable absentee for Brazil is that of Dani Alves and although he has recently turned 35, it’s still a major blow. His dynamic attacking runs from right-back will be missed while his injury also starves Brazil of their most experienced player with Alves having won 107 caps, more than any members of their 23-man squad.
It also wouldn’t be a World Cup build-up without a big name suffering a fractured metatarsal and that was the fate that fell upon Neymar earlier this year. He hasn’t played for PSG since February but has been included in the squad though it may take him a few games to get back up to full match sharpness. What’s more, transfer rumours suggesting he could be on the verge of a controversial move to Real Madrid could prove an unwelcome distraction for the former Barca man.
Overall Brazil’s squad, which includes just three domestic-based players, looks a lot more solid and boasts greater depth than it did four years ago but there are still a number of survivors from the unfortunate class of 2014 who will be keen to prove a point. David Luiz was one of the casualties during the sweeping changes that inevitably followed that tournament and there is no place for the colourful Chelsea centre-back this time around. Defensive solidity has been a focus and they boasted the best defence in South America during qualifying but the elite European sides will still fancy there are weaknesses to exploit.
The central midfield lacks some of the flare and creativity we’ve come to expect from Brazilian sides of the past but it is still a strong unit and there are plenty of goal threats out wide and up top with Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and obviously Neymar, capable of firing Brazil into the deep end of the tournament.
Huge pressure lay on the young shoulders of Neymar when Brazil went for glory in 2014 and the same is largely the case here. He was just 22 during that tournament but four years on, he has unquestionably developed into a world class player and injury-permitting, he will be the main man again for Brazil despite the emergence of the talented Gabriel Jesus.
Neymar’s international record is exceptional. He has 53 goals in 83 matches for his country, a strike-rate which is better than that of Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. He generally operates in a wide left role for his country now and is also a huge creative threat.
28 goals in 30 competitive games and a host of trophies in his first and perhaps only season in France also points to a strong campaign but Neymar’s only international silverware to date came in the shape of the 2013 Confederations Cup. Only Thomas Müller and James Rodriguez could better his tally of four goals at the 2014 World Cup but Neymar’s tournament was ended prematurely by injury in the Quarter-Final win over Colombia. Like many of his teammates, he will be hungry to prove a point on the big stage here.
One to Watch
With only one player under the age of 24, this is a Brazilian squad that is largely made up of players in their prime. Most will be familiar names to viewers this summer but one player, who is less of a household name is midfielder Fred.
Like many young Brazilians, his first steps in European football have come in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk, where he is now into his fifth season. His international career has been a stop-start affair with just one cap since 2015 but he has been rewarded for a place in this squad thanks to a good season with his club.
He has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United this summer and while unlikely to start, the World Cup could provide Fred with a perhaps unexpected opportunity to announce himself on the big stage. He’s an extremely mobile player, boasting raw pace and while he has a nice passing game, he’s mostly viewed as a defensive central midfielder which makes him a good fit for this system.
Check out some of the other potential breakout stars this summer in Russia.
Tite has tended to employ a 4-1-4-1 system, which may not sound too bold but it’s easily adaptable to a 4-3-3 and often functions as such.
Alisson is the undisputed number one and with Ederson a very capable back-up, there are no problems there. The back four has been very settled with 2014 skipper Thiago Silva now more of a fringe option. However the injury to Dani Alves creates a hole at right-back, which is set to be filled by either Man City’s Danilo or Fagner, who has made just four previous international appearances. There may even be some temptation to utilise Willian in that role, certainly in the group stage when Brazil may feel they can afford to be more adventurous.
Their style is largely based around being strong in the middle of the park with Casemiro shielding the back four and the likes of Fernandinho, Paulinho and Renato Augusto jostling for places ahead of him. The real attacking flare and quality comes from out wide with Neymar regularly employed on the left and Coutinho off the right. Gabriel Jesus up top adds to the pace in this side which makes Brazil a dangerous counter-attacking side.
Tite does though have the option of mixing things up by playing Neymar through the middle and Willian out wide. Certainly against the top sides in the business end of the tournament, that looks a more viable option as the Chelsea wideman certainly offers greater defensive qualities.
Although there are more alternative sources for attacking spark now, much still revolves around Neymar and we can expect him to be the first man on the ball in set-piece situations.
Possible Starting 11:
Alisson, Marcelo, Miranda, Marquinhos, Danilo, Casemiro, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, Coutinho, Neymar, Gabriel Jesus
Follow Free Super Tips on Twitter to stay up to date with our daily tips and predictions or browse more football content on our website: