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2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – Brazil

2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – Brazil

Brazil FIFA World Cup 2018

Brazil – 5 Time World Cup Champions

Before we go on about the shocking 7-1 defeat by Germany in the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi-final, we need to take a step back and remind you that Brazil are the ultimate royalty in world football. They are the most successful team in the history of the World Cup, having won the prestigious title five times.Three times with Pele in 1958, 1962 and 1970 plus 1994 with Romario and Bebeto before 2002 with the Brazilian Ronaldo.

They had a tragic 1950 World Cup that they hosted and amidst widespread belief across Brazil that their team were going to be crowned the champions of the world at the Maracana, they were beaten by Uruguay 2-1 to cause a massive sense of despondency amongst their football-loving public.

It won’t be hyperbole to say that the defeat still rankles in the Brazilian psyche, however, the Selecao have done well to have won five World Cups since.

The First 5 World Cups

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They became world champions for the first time in Sweden in 1958 when they defeated the hosts 5-2 in the final courtesy of a brace each from Vava, a precocious 17-year-old named Pele, and a strike from Mario Zagallo. Their triumph somewhat exorcised the ghosts of 1950 and was a culmination of the huge potential that the Brazilian team were always thought to be capable of.

Pele and Garrincha defined the 1962 World Cup with their stellar displays as they helped the Selecao successfully defend the title they won four years ago. They registered a 3-1 against Czechoslovakia in the final.

 

Their triumph at the 1970 World Cup is the stuff of legend. That team was packed with an array of supremely gifted footballers and went on to win all six of their games comfortably to lift the Jules Rimet trophy after dispatching Italy 4-1 in the final at the Azteca Stadium.

After 1970, they had to wait 24 years for their next triumph at the highest stage. However, the team led by Dunga is widely derided for the combative style that they employed on their way to glory.

The last time Brazil were crowned world champions was in 2002 when a Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo inspired Brazil went all the way to collect an unprecedented fifth world title. Ronaldo, whose mystery illness four years prior in France caused a stir, revived himself with stellar displays in 2002 and went on to score both the goals in the final.

The Fall from Grace

 

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Since 2002, Brazil have struggled. A disappointing defeat from Zidane’s France in 2006 and then the shock of losing to Holland in World Cup 2010 was the calm before the storm.

Brazil have since struggled to win another World Cup and last year’s edition ended tragically as they crashed out of their home tournament at the semi-final stage after losing 7-1 to the eventual champions Germany. The thrashing led to the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari and the reinstatement of Dunga at the helm.

During his first spell as the manager of Brazil, Dunga copped a lot of criticism for the combative nature of his team and the functional football that they played, unlike the flair football that the Brazilians are famous for. As a consequence, his appointment didn’t excite many Brazilians and if the performances of the Selecao at last summer’s Copa America is anything to go by, Dunga is going to stick with his defensive approach rather than an expansive style. Well he would have done.

 

The Current State of the Brazilian National Team

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Brazil is known to produce exceptionally talented players, but it would be no exaggeration to suggest that the supply line of talent has not been the same in recent years. The attack is led by Barcelona superstar Neymar, but he lacks support of the same quality, putting too much pressure on the forward. The midfield comprises of players like Willian, Fernandinho, Fernando and Oscar amongst others, none of whom are the kind of exciting midfielders that the Brazilian national team have seen in the past.

And if we look at the FIFA Ballon d’Or, the last Brazilian winners were 2005 Ronaldinho and 2007 Kaka. It is only now that Neymar is being talked about as a potential winner that a Brazilian player is likely to win. In the old FIFA World Player of the Year Award which has merged with the Ballon d’Or, in the years of awarding the trophy between 1991 and 2009, Brazilian players won the trophy 8 times, and that is the highest win by a country as France were the next best with 3 wins.

For a long period however, there have not been similar World Class players. When we go beyond Neymar, there are no real stand-outs. Plus look at some of the ‘talents’ at World Cup 2014 such as Fred and Hulk and you can see the step down in class.

In defence Dani Alves and Thiago Silva could be well past their primes in three years time. David Luiz is never an assuring presence in the backline, while Danilo and Gabriel Paulista have been too inconsistent to inspire any confidence.

Copa America Backlash and Looking to the Future

Brazil experienced a disastrous Copa America Centenario in the USA. They crashed out at the Group stage, losing to Peru and drawing with Ecuador. Yes, they rested Neymar for the 2016 Olympics. However, this performance cost coach Dunga his job. Not even a 7-1 victory against the mighty Haiti could save him.

Tite is the new coach. He won the Brazilian Championship with Corinthians for the second time last year and is now tasked with leading Brazil to success in 2018. His style is pragmatism but much more entertaining than the defensive minded Dunga. However, Tite does like a stable defence whilst remembering the entertainment nature of football.

He has had tremendous club success with Corinthians including winning the prestigious Copa Libertadores (the equivalent of the Champions League in South America) and then winning the FIFA Club World Cup where they shocked heavy favorites and European Champions at the time Chelsea to win this highly rated trophy. He has already been a champion of the world at club level, what to stop him doing the same with Brazil?

He has his work cut out. Brazil are currently ranked the 9th best team in the world in the current FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings. That is not bad but not at the level of Argentina – their bitter rivals – who are rated number 1 in the world after making the Final of three international tournaments in three years – the FIFA World Cup Final in 2014 and the Copa America Finals in 2015 and 2016.

On the whole, Brazil have a task at hand in order to get a proper team ahead of the 2018 World Cup. However, it would be foolish to count them completely out of the running for the ultimate glory, such is their pedigree. And with the new Coach really well established at building team spirit, anything is possible. The bookmakers agree and make Brazil the third favorite to win the World Cup coming in at around 9/1. It might be time for Neymar and company to reach for Brazil’s sixth World Championship.

Follow Destination Soccer’s full FIFA World Cup 2018 Coverage

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