Never has such pressure been so conspicuously put upon a country in the lead-up to a World Cup as 2014’s hosts Brazil. With the high-profile stadium delays, construction deaths and huge financial outlay that has seen plenty of Brazilians take to the streets in protest, anything less than a win will be seen as a massive disappointment.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s chosen ones are oozing with talent all over the pitch. With the indomitable captain Thiago Silva marshalling the back four alongside David Luiz, Marcelo and Dani Alves, this is the strongest Brazilian defence in ages.
The defensive midfield pairing of Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho worked to perfection at the Confederations Cup, while Oscar will be counted on to make the precise passes and through-balls for striker Fred to run into. Wingers Hulk and Neymar, meanwhile, are more than capable of finding the net on their own.
A look at the bench will lend some perspective as to how talented and deep this squad is. Maicon, Willian, Ramires and Bernard have the ability to come into a game when fresh legs and impetus are needed.
Scolari’s favoured attacking formation of 4-2-3-1 is specially tailored for each and every member of the first team to perform to their full potential. This summer’s extravaganza will reveal just that.
Brazil have won a grand total of five World Cups, which no one else has done. Brazil are also the only team to have qualified for every edition of the World Cup since its inaugural edition in 1930, which no one else has done either. Brazil are one of only two teams to retain the trophy, which they did in 1962. Also, Brazil have scored a total of 210 World Cup goals, which, once again, no one else has done. So yeah, Brazil are pretty good at World Cupping.
2006 and 2010 saw the Samba Boys exit in the last eight to France and Holland respectively. This time, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari seems to have found the perfect balance in the squad to avoid the lethargy, complacency and self-indulgence of Germany ’06 and the over-pragmatism of South Africa ’10.
With the ball at his feet, he is capable of breathtaking wing wizardry. His mazy runs can beat even the best of defenders and they always either end in a foul or a goal. Still only 22, his country’s high expectations are on his slight shoulders to bring the World Cup back to Brazil.
How far will they go?
Taking the equatorial South American climate and home advantage into account, Brazil are huge favourites to win the World Cup. If successful, it will be Brazil’s sixth World Cup out of a possible 20, beating their nearest rivals Italy by two World Cups.