Brazil holds several distinctions when it comes to the FIFA World Cup. No other nation has won more editions of the tournament, with Brazil winning five. Currently, Brazil is tied for its longest drought in that regard at five tournaments without a triumph. Yet, a more impressive record is that Brazil is the only nation to have qualified for each World Cup in the tournament’s almost century-long history. With the nation struggling mightily in the early portion of World Cup 2026 qualifying, there are rumblings that its record of qualification could tumble.

After six games, Brazil is sixth in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table with seven points. Paraguay and Chile trail Brazil by just two points in the qualifying table. The next batch of qualifying games is not until September 2024. However, games in matchday eight and nine against both Paraguay and Chile are suddenly vastly more important when it comes to qualifying. The same applies to matchday seven’s fixture with Ecuador. The Ecuadorians are a point above Brazil in the qualifying table despite facing a three-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player.

The question remains as to whether Brazil is at any risk of missing the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mathematically speaking, Brazil is certainly at risk of not qualifying. In CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying for 2026, six teams earn an automatic spot in the tournament proper. The team finishing seventh will enter an intercontinental playoff to reach the tournament in the summer of 2026. Brazil is in a spot that would get it into the tournament, but only just. A nation of Brazil’s stature would figure to be a lock to qualify any year.

What has gone wrong with Brazil in World Cup 2026 qualifying?

The last time Brazil did not finish at the top of World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL was 2002. It also did not finish top in 2014, but that was because Brazil did not participate as it hosted the tournament in 2014. What is transpiring currently in South America is among the most shocking runs of form for Brazil in decades.

Some of the issues are more apparent than others. Injuries have plagued the current Brazil outfit. Neymar and Casemiro are perhaps the two best players Brazil can put on the field. Both missed the November international break with injury. Fortunately, the September 2024 international break is when qualifying returns to the schedule. Brazil will have a chance to be at better fitness when that rolls around.

Also, Brazil had a gauntlet of games. In each season, games against Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia present challenges to Brazil. However, losing three-straight to those sides is far below the standard. Worse off, the loss to Argentina came at the Maracana. Brazil had never lost a home game in World Cup qualifying before that loss against Argentina. Again, that may be a tribute to the injuries and the inherent lack of consistency.

Brazil is, after all, still without a permanent head coach. Fernando Diniz has overseen Brazil since July 4. He is only in the role on an interim basis. By many accounts, Carlo Ancelotti is next in line to lead the Selecao. However, there is no official confirmation that the Italian is stepping in for Brazil. He could very well remain at Real Madrid based on current trends.

Brazil’s risk of not qualifying

As things stand, Brazil would not qualify. However, that will not happen. Brazil will qualify for the World Cup in the United States. It comes down to how many teams reach the World Cup from South America. In all likelihood, there will be seven teams from South America competing in the World Cup. Three teams will not qualify, and Bolivia and Peru seem to be the two of those.

Therefore, Brazil has to do better than one team. In this case, that is either Chile or Paraguay. Those are not exactly easy opponents. There is arguably no such thing as an easy opponent in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. However, Brazil’s talent alone should be enough to bail it out of games when needed.

And, yes, only six teams will automatically qualify for the World Cup. If Brazil is that seventh-place team in a playoff, it will be a massive favorite to advance. CONMEBOL sides have a sensational record in intercontinental playoffs. Regularly playing opposition like Australia or Costa Rica provides challenges. Yet, remember, each of those confederations earns extra spots in qualifying, too. It is more likely that the CONMEBOL representative in the playoff, which would be Brazil in this hypothetical case, would play a relatively weaker nation.

Also, by that time, Brazil will have a permanent head coach in place. Some of its young stars like Endrick, Rodrygo, Joao Pedro and Gabriel Martinelli will continue to develop into stars. With more time spent with one another, a new generation of Brazilian stars can guide the team to another World Cup qualification.

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