With the World Cup nearly upon us, debates have been discussed by fans and pundits alike on who will be lifting the famous trophy come the 15th of July.
Germany, France Spain, Argentina Belgium and Brazil are seen as the main contenders in winning the finals in Moscow. Brazil in particular, have an extra incentive as they will want to put the nightmare of the last world cup behind them (a 7 – 1 drubbing to Germany on home soil).
Though the early stages of qualifying were questionable along two poor performances in the Copa America, the appointment of head coach Tite has revived Brazil’s fortunes and with the likes of Neymar, Coutinho and Willian performing at their best.
The question here is, can Brazil make a genuine challenge for the first time since 2002?
Revival under Tite
As mentioned, Tite has revolutionise the Selecao since his appointment in June 2016.
Brazil had suffered an embarrassing group stage exit at the Copa America Centenario under then head coach Dunga. Tite arrival has brought a flare of expansive and attacking football, something the fans were desperate for under his predecessor.
Prior to his appointment, Tite had a successful stint with Brazil side Corinthians, which he won the Copa Libertadores and the FIFA Club World Cup against Chelsea in 2012.
In between his second and third spell with the club, Tite took a sabbatical and studied the concepts of modern football and visited major European clubs such as Arsenal and Real Madrid in order to expand his knowledge and approach to the game. This, in return shows that Tite is able to adopt and change his philosophy in order to adapt to the evolving footballing world.
Tite made a flying start with Brazil, winning his first seven qualifying matches, including a 3-0 win over Ecuador in his first game. Under his stewardship, Tite has an impressive 15 wins from 19 games, losing just once in the process.
Moreover, Brazil became the first side, other than the hosts to qualify for the world cup, which shows their vast improvement under the Brazilian.
The importance of Neymar
Down through the years, Brazil have had world class players sporting the famous yellow shirt and leading the national team to various honours and plaudits throughout the world.
The likes of Ronaldo, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Zico and Pele are just a taste of the history of Brazilian legends. One that is on his way is Neymar.
The poster boy for the hosts in 2014, Neymar burst onto the scene at 17 with boyhood club with Santos. A move to Barcelona followed in 2013, where Neymar linked up Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and formed a deadly partnership, which led to countless honours for the Brazilian.
Tired of waiting in Messi’s shadow, Neymar moved to the French capital and joined Paris Saint-Germain in order to express his talent as one of the best in the world.
On the international level, Neymar has a point to prove. Despite having an impressive tally of 53 goals in 83 games, Neymar has failed to win any major honours for Brazil (A Olympic gold in 2016 the exception).
Neymar dragged a disorganised Brazil into the latter stages in 2014 before a bad injury in their quarter final victory over Columbia ended his tournament. Neymar will be hoping for a happier ending come July as world cup success are remembered more fondly than impressive performances and stats.
Other key players?
Football is not just about one individual, it is a collective game, where a team prevails over the individual.
Although all the eyes will be on Neymar, Brazil have other players that can make the difference. Philippe Coutinho is one.
Having been Liverpool’s key player over the last couple of years, Coutinho made a £142 million move to Barcelona and has flourished in the team. Coutinho can play in a variety of attacking roles such as a number 10, second striker or out wide. This shows he can adapt in various team formulations which will be vital for Brazil.
Other attacking options include Willian, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus who provide flare and a tireless workload for their team.
From a more defensive position, the likes of Paulinho and Fernandinho will provide support and stability in the midfield. Paulinho has transformed since his arrival to Barcelona from China last summer, where Fernandinho was vital for Manchester City’s record breaking title success.
In defence, Thiago Silva provides experience and leadership (Although the captains arm band has gone to Neymar) at the back. He is expected to be partnered with club teammate Marquinhos, who is highly regarded as one of the best centre backs in the world.
Alisson is expected to be In between the sticks as the Brazilian played a pivotal role for Roma’s run to the Champions League semi-final. Overall, the players at Tite’s disposal provides Brazil the opportunity for a successful World Cup.
Revenge against Germany
When Germany defeated Brazil 7 – 1 in the World Cup four years previously, the gap between both teams was obvious to the world.
Germany were more disciplined and had the attacking flare that Brazil desperately craved for. Germany went on to win the world cup, where as Brazil were beaten 3 – 0 by the Netherlands in the third place play off.
Fast forward four years and Brazil are a different machine and showed it by beating Germany 1 – 0 in Berlin.
Although, one can argue it was only a friendly and posed no significance whatsoever, the fact that Brazil have come a long way was seen from that result. It was Germany’s first loss in 23 matches and was also both nations first meeting since the World Cup in 2014.
Although this result will not diminish the ghost of that embarrassing defeat four years ago, it will give this crop of players believe that they are in a better position to go one step further and reach the final in Moscow.
Overall, Brazil are seen as marginal favourites according to the bookmakers and pundits. With an open minded manager in Tite and players like Neymar at his disposal, there is no doubt that Brazil will come up in triumph and lift a record sixth World Cup in Russia
Written by James Reidy
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