The most highly-decorated team in World Cup history will always come in as one of the favourites to win the competition, and this year Brazil have a real chance. Memories of the 7-1 humiliation to Germany on home soil in 2014 will still be fresh, but this side have come a long way since then. Luiz Felipe Scolari was replaced by ex-player Dunga as boss following that semi-final disaster in Belo Horizonte, however more failures in the 2015 Copa America and Copa America Centenario the year after meant that he too was shown the door.
In stepped Tite in June 2016 – man with experience with domestic side Corinthians – and the team have never looked back since. The first side to qualify other than host nation Russia, Brazil finished top of the CONMEBOL group in South America with just one defeat in 18, having scored 41 goals and conceded just 11 in the process.
A rebuilding process by the boss has seen the Canarinhos become a superb all-round team with the added bonus of having Neymar in the forward line, rather than relying solely on the latter player to bail the side out of jail, as was the case in the past. Balance has become the cornerstone of this new Brazil, Tite having developed a midfield equipped with holding, playmaking and box-to-box roles, in contrast to the slightly predictable approach of wing-backs bombing forward from the past.
Perhaps the Coach is sweating over the fitness of his former Corinthians man Renato Augusto at this point, the Beijing Guoan midfielder having been sorely missed even in a 2-0 win over Croatia last Sunday after having been deployed in an Andrea Pirlo-esque role during qualifying.
Whatever the outcome, now it seems that Brazil have a wealth of quality throughout the side, and even if the last line of defence is breached during the tournament, they can rely on supremely talented AS Roma goalkeeper Alisson. The return from injury of Neymar will nonetheless provide a welcome boost though, especially after he found the back of the net in that aforementioned friendly encounter with Croatia.
He will be supported by a stellar cast of attacking players including Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Juventus winger Douglas Costa, who stunned Serie A audiences with pace, trickery and skill as he made 12 assists from open play during the domestic campaign.
“The collective empowers the individual,” Tite told reporters back in March. “If the ball arrives to Neymar, they mark [him], but the other side is more exposed. Coutinho creates chances. Enter Fagner, enter Paulinho. We take Neymar to one side, let him be isolated and make room for another.”
Hopes are high for the side who always enter the tournament as favourites in some way, however this time it seems like Brazil will be a genuine force to be reckoned with as this summer’s World Cup gets underway.
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