Brazil is the only South American nation to have won a World Cup outside of the Americas with wins in 1958 and 2002. With World Champion coach Carlos Alberto Parreira back at the helm after stints in Major League Soccer and Saudi Arabia, the Selecao look set to go the distance yet again.
But the timing may not be right for Brazil. A year or two ago, Dida, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Adriano were probably all among the twenty five best players in the world. And that list does not even include Ronaldo who is poised to become the all time leading goal scorer in World Cup History at Germany 2006. (Ronaldo would ironically break German Gerd Mueller’s record.) This season in Europe though has been anything but a picnic for many of Brazil’s stars. Dida had a troubled season in the nets for AC Milan, while Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos’ troubles in Madrid have the subject of endless speculation and gossip. Both Emerson and Ze Roberto had avaerage season in Germany, but both seem to be looking at their best years in a rear view mirror.
All of this having been said, Brazil is still without a doubt one of the best squads in the World Cup. Ronaldinho is simply amazing, but as critics back home like to point out, his performances for Barcelona always seem to exceed his output for his national side.
Guus Hiddink is one of the most accomplished coaches in the International game having led South Korea to the WC Semifinals in 2002, and his native Holland to the same point in 1998 where they lost to Brazil on penalty kicks. Now Hiddink directs an Australian side who makes its first World Cup appearence since 1974. Hiddink’s squad has no shortage of accomplished players at the club level. Mark Viduka is a special striker who provides both a tall target for service as well as the pace to be deadly with the ball at his feet. Harry Kewell has been one of the better attacking midfielders in the Premiership in recent seasons and he’ll run alongside Tim Cahill who is one of the best goal scoring midfielders in the EPL with Everton. Lucas Neill has been a critical element in making Blackburn Rovers one of the best defensive sides in the EPL the past two seasons as well. And how can we forget about Marco Bresciano, whose stamina and pace are on display in some of Europe’s most imporant club matches with Juventus. For a nation with such little international football success, it is truly amazing how many top players Australia has currently. Now they have a head man whose track record is unmatched among current world cup coaches who should have little trouble molding all of the individual talent Australia posses into a cohesive and disciplined side. Watch out for the Aussies. They have waited 32 years to get back to the WC Finals and they look ready to make this trip worth the wait.