Brazil is a scary, scary team. In the 2014 World Cup, Brazil was in an awkward transition stage where the lost/disgraceful generation of Brazilian players stepped down for the new era of players to take over. Most notably, despite being 22 years old, Brazil became Neymar’s team. This in itself wasn’t bad, but his teammates were at least a year away from being able to help him in any capacity. Since Brazil relied so heavily on Neymar, as soon as he got injured, it was no surprise that they lost by a touchdown to the Krauts.
Two years later, Neymar—at aged 24—carried his team to a gold-medal at the Brazilian Olympics, an achievement that surprisingly never happened before. All seemed well with the Brazilian lesser footy world. It validated what many Brazilian fans believe: If Neymar was in the lineup against Germany, Brazil would have won in 2014 and will likely win in 2018.
Fast forward to the early stages of World Cup qualifying when Dunga was coach and Brazil were not playing good lesser footy. The team was in sixth place and at risk of not making it to Russia. The reason for this poor performance was that Dunga still thought it was 2014, where Brazil had to rely so heavily on Neymar.
I know this is just a contrast in coaching philosophy, but holy shit was that ever stupid decision by Dunga. If a team like Wales wants to give the ball solely to Gareth Bale and let him do his thing because the rest of the team isn’t that good, that’s acceptable. However, in the context of Brazil, where they are loaded at every position, that’s a foolish decision because you’re essentially neutralizing some of the best players in the world who can take pressure off of Neymar having to score every game. But I digress.
Naturally Dunga was fired for being an idiot and was replaced by current coach, Tite. Tee hee hee, Tite. This was a smart move because the lost generation—mainly Ronaldinho, Robinho, Kaka and Adriano, partied their way in search of Titties. Ronaldinho recently decided to settle down with four Tites. By hiring someone with the name Tite, they’d always have the attention of the current crop of players.
Obviously, being around Tites all the time inspired Brazil to win nine in a row—which included beating Argentina 3-0 and getting a 4-1 road victory against Uruguay. After two consecutive draws, Brazil beat Chile 3-0 to eliminate the Peppers and became the first South American team to qualify for the World Cup.
FIFA Ranking: 2
Qualification method: 1st in CONMEBOL qualifying stage
Nickname: Canarinho (Little Canary), A Seleção (The Selection), Verde-Amarela (The Green and Yellow) and Samba boys
National anthem: Hino Nacional Brasileiro.
In thy bosom
Our chest defy death itself!
Goalies: Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Man City), Cassio (Corinthians)
Thoughts: Alisson is a goaltending phenom who is going to get paid by a high end club by the end of the summer. Unless your favorite super wealthy European team is in need of a goalie, you likely have never heard of him. Soon, you will as I’ve seen lesser footy analysts calling him the Pele or Messi of goalkeepers. Alisson is their starter and is an excellent goalie. Even if he gets hurt, Brazil’s goaltending depth is strong, as Ederson is a very talented goalie.
Defenders: Fagner (Corinthians), Danilo (Man City), Thiago Silva (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Geromel (Gremio), Miranda (Inter Milan), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
Thoughts: This is a strong group of guys who know how to defend. They only conceded eleven goals during CONMEBOL qualification. Right back might be a slight weakness because Dani Alves is hurt and will be replaced (most likely) by Fagner. However, Fagner and Tite spent time together at Corinthians, so, he should have a good idea of his role and what to expect in this Brazilian system.
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Man City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
Thoughts: If you had a gun to your head and had to list a weakness of Brazil, it would be their midfield. With that said, it’s still well above average. Outside of Croatia, Spain, France and Germany, I’m not entirely sure there’s a better midfield. Overall, this group is pretty balanced.
Forwards: Willian (Chelsea), Douglas Costa (Juventus), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk) Neymar (PSG), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Even if Brazil were to play without Neymar in order to let his toe heal, this assembly of players are still arguably the best attacking group on the planet. Willian, Jesus and Firmino would still cause havoc for defenders and they would still have Taison on the bench. It’s also worth mentioning that Jesus is the primary attack option, even with Neymar in the lineup. This team has evolved to the point where Neymar doesn’t have to score all the goals and is not the only offensive option. Also, be ready for the “Jesus is on Brazil’s side” puns from lazy news media outlets once they become aware of the player.
And then there’s Neymar. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that before he is thirty, he is going to shatter Brazil’s all-time goal scoring record, currently held by some guy named Pele. He is one of the top three players in the world and could be crowned as the greatest by many if he wins the World Cup. He has entered his prime and health permitting, could win the Golden boot as top scorer. If he has health issues, I would not risk him playing until he’s needed in the quarter-finals. Until then, Brazil can easily win their group and will have no problem beating Mexico, Sweden or South Korea in the round of 16.
After the 1950 Brazilian squad shit themselves on home soil, they rebounded and began their Lesser Footy dynasty two world cups later. Similarly, given Neymar’s age and quality of players around him, this could be the beginning of another dynasty. The pressure of winning the World Cup is not going to be a problem for a team of players who play for teams that are expected to win their club championships with relative ease. Like the lost generation who always seemed to be favoured to win championship, the biggest hurdle for this year’s squad is to not take their opponents lightly, resulting in them not training as much as they should. If they can do that, as long as they check their ego—a guy like Firminio may not get much playing time, despite finishing top 10 in EPL scoring—I don’t think there is a team that can beat Brazil.