Brazil underwent a huge transformation in 2013, and the hosts now enter the World Cup as favorites in many people’s eyes.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led the Selecao to World Cup glory in 2002, boldly declared after the 5-0 friendly demolition of Honduras in November that ‘Brazil will be world champions”.
If Big Phil’s prediction does come true, it will be quite a turnaround given that previous coach Mano Menezes was sacked in November 2012 because the team was deemed to have been in such a state of flux.
Results were not what they should have been under Menezes, but he was not given an easy task to overhaul an aging squad that had only reached the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup under Dunga, bowing out to Holland.
Menezes should be given credit for his part in turning Brazil into a team who like to monopolize possession of the ball, rather than one too reliant on the counterattack.
The manner in which Brazil brushed Spain aside in July’s Confederations Cup final ensured that the critics finally stood up and took notice. Now Brazil were no longer among the World Cup favorites simply because they were hosts, but because of the quality of their play, too.
In Oscar and Neymar, Scolari possesses two of the most technically accomplished players at the 2014 World Cup. He also boasts a defender in Thiago Silva, considered my many as the best center back in world soccer.
Brazil go up against Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon, in a group which they should negotiate comfortably enough. Brazil’s opponents will represent different challenges, with Mexico boasting a good recent record against the Selecao, Croatia possessing match winners in the likes of Luka Modric, and Cameroon always a physically imposing side who have shocked teams in the past, notably Argentina in 1990.
For Brazil, this tournament will be about reasserting its standing in the game after 12 years without a World Cup, and ending all arguments about where the real power lies in world soccer
Best World Cup Result: Winners (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Best Copa America Result: Winners (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007)
Record Scorer: Pele (77 goals between 1957 and 1971)
Most Capped Player: Cafu (142 caps between 1990 and 2006)
Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Captain: Thiago Silva
23-man Brazil 2014 World Cup Squad:
Goalkeepers: Júlio César (Queens Park Rangers), Victor (Atlético Mineiro), Jefferson (Botafogo)
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (Roma), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Dante (Bayern Munich), Maxwell (Paris Saint-Germain), Henrique (Napoli)
Midfielders: Ramires (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Hernanes (Lazio), Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Willian (Chelsea)
Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Hulk (FC Zenit), Jo (Atlético Mineiro), Fred (Fluminense)
Possible Brazil Starting Line-Up
Alves Silva Luiz Marcelo
Hulk Oscar Neymar
The Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari
The former Palmeiras, Chelsea and Portugal coach realized the dreams of a nation in 2002 when he guided Brazil to their fifth World Cup. A coach famous for his temper, Scolari is not afraid to ‘win ugly’, but will set his team out to attack in June – the press and public expect nothing less. Scolari boasts a fine pedigree and can add two Copa Libertadores titles to the numerous championships he has won throughout a lengthy managerial career.
Player To Watch: Neymar
The Barcelona star carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. Blessed with outrageous skill and trickery, Neymar has adapted well to European soccer since joining Barcelona, something that will stand him in good stead in the latter stages of the tournament. A deadly finisher and reliable provider of chances for team-mates, Neymar has few weaknesses as he impresses with a keen work-rate and willingness to fight until the final whistle.
Thursday, June 12, 2014 v Croatia (Sao Paulo)
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 v Mexico (Fortaleza)
Monday, June 23, 2014 v Cameroon (Brasilia)
Home advantage will no doubt boost the Selecao, but will it prove a burden if games in the latter stages are not going their way? The Brazil fans can be notoriously impatient with their side. There is little between the three favorites Brazil, Spain and Germany, but the Europeans have been more settled over the last four years. There is that nagging feeling that, Thiago Silva, Neymar, and possibly Oscar apart, Brazil lack the world stars of old. Expect them to reach the semi-finals and come up just short against Germany.