|Brazil go into the World Cup 2018 as the sportsbooks’ favourite to win the competition.
The Brazilians have a loaded team featuring Neymar, Marcelo, Alisson, Philippe Coutinho and more. The national team has experienced players combined with energetic, youthful members that make them a difficult side to beat.
Under manager Tite, Brazil stormed to the top of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with 41 points from a possible 54. Forwards Gabriel Jesus, Neymar and Paulinho combined to score 19 of the team’s 41 goals on the way to Russia. Tite’s reign as manager has been a breath of fresh air. His predecessor, Dunga, was more defensive and his preference was for Brazil to be stronger rather than silky smooth. Tite has done away with Dunga’s pragmatism and sexy football with swagger has returned.
Forward Neymar is the team’s leader and how the Paris Saint-Germain man plays will determine how far Brazil go at the World Cup. In 2014, Neymar’s injury in the quarterfinal against Colombia curbed all hope the nation had for winning the World Cup. A 7-1 dismantling at the hands of Germany followed in the semifinals; and without Neymar, Brazil were beaten in the third-place game by the Netherlands. In Brazil’s last two matches at the 2014 tournament, the team was outscored 10-1.
Neymar will not be fit going into the World Cup, which immediately raises questions over how well Brazil will do in Russia. The forward suffered a foot injury in February and is only now back in training. Prior to the World Cup, he won’t have played a meaningful football match for club or country, and whether his body can hold up to the rigours of the tournament are unknown. The forward has already stated he could suffer foot injury relapse and be out the entire World Cup.
With or without Neymar, Brazil have a fantastic array of attacking footballers. Jesus has proven himself at Manchester City and he is only getting better at the international level. Countinho has come into his own with the national team and is finally performing for his country like he does for his club.
But what about Brazil’s defence? The side gave up 10 goals in two games in 2014 World Cup. Is Brazil’s defensive unit any better?
The team gave up just 11 goals in qualifying, the lowest number in CONMEBOL. Brazil’s defence will see several of the players from the last World Cup reprise their roles this year. Thiago Silva and Marcelo are the two constants, and depending on injury, David Luiz could return – although fitness could keep him out. PSG centre-back Marquinhos is also expected to be a part of Tite’s back line. The team is expected to be without right-back and captain Dani Alves, however. Alves is suffering from a knee injury and his loss could affect Brazil’s defensive performances. In addition, the right-back’s personality will be a miss on the pitch and so will his leadership.
Brazil’s individual parts are exceptional, and when put together, Tite’s side is a formidable opponent. Against the world’s best teams, and not just South American rivals, Brazil may not be such an elite force going into the tournament. Of course, a lot higes on Neymar and just how fit the forward is in Russia.