Brazil: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro)
Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell, Thiago Silva (both Paris St Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli)
Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires, Willian, Oscar (all Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg)
Best Ever Finish: Winners (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Captain: Thiago Silva
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Brazil qualified for the 2014 World Cup as the host nation, therefore less is known about their competitive form when compared to the other top nations taking part.
That being said, Brazil thrived during the 2013 Confederations Cup, a tournament in which they were once again hosts. They eased past Japan in the first game and followed that display by dispatching increasingly difficult opposition as the tournament progressed. Mexico and Italy were both beaten by a two goal margin before Uruguay fell 2-1, setting up a mouth watering clash with the powerhouse of modern football, Spain.
Brazil ensued in steamrollering them 3-0, producing an outstanding display of attractive, attacking and brutally effective football. That result meant the ripple of expectation around this team has now become a wave on which the hopes of a nation rest and one that the hosts hope will reach its crest come the World Cup final on Sunday, July 13 2014.
There are some slight concerns about this team, though. Most notably a lack of depth in the centre forward position, which Fred now looks to have made his own. In central midfield too, whilst they have physicality and industry with Paulinho and Luis Gustavo, they are without a ballplayer to match the calibre of those possessed by Spain, Italy and Germany.
But on home soil with a carnival crowd raucous for their heroes, not to mention a wealth of stars like Neymar, Hulk, Oscar and many more at Scolari’s disposal, it will take a Herculean effort to prevent the Pentacampeões securing an historic sixth World Cup triumph.
Key Player – Neymar
With an impressive 27 goals already scored for his country at the time of writing, Neymar is starting to bloom into the star many believed he would eventually become. Blessed with electric pace, sublime skill and a keen eye for goal – often spectacular at that – the Brazil forward will pose an almighty headache for opposition defenders this summer.
Neymar moved to Barcelona ahead of the 2013/14 season for a price tag in the region of €50 million despite many expecting him to remain in Brazil until after the World Cup. Would the mammoth price tag, huge expectation and sleight somatotype possibly hinder him from succeeding in European football? Or would playing with megastars like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta help him blossom?
In his first season, the latter came to fruition, and although Neymar has a long way to go before reaching the heights of his teammate Messi, he has scored goals and provided assists aplenty. Perhaps most importantly, one of each in his debut Clasico.
Continuation of this form will only strengthen Brazil’s chances of winning in their own back yard and in Neymar, the fans have somebody to truly be excited about. A tournament top scorer possibly, a match winner most definitely. But can a player so young handle the enormous pressure being put on him by a fanatical footballing nation?