Brazil go into Russia 2018 as second favourites behind Germany, the team that humiliated them 7-1 at their own World Cup four years ago.
The Canarinha will be looking for sweet revenge in Russia. If their recent form is anything to go by, they may be able to get it. Brazil were the first team to qualify for the World Cup Finals and they have improved in leaps and bounds since the 2016 appointment of coach Adenor Bacchi.
Brazil find themselves in Group E at Russia, with early matches against Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. While Brazil should face little difficulty progressing to the Round of 16, once they are there, they will have to face the likes of Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, and France just to name the most obvious contenders. Brazil beat Germany 1-0 in a friendly match on 28 March, and will go into the World Cup with confidence and momentum on their side.
While Brazil always have an abundance of natural talent, their embarrassing 2014 loss to Germany showed that this is not always enough. By using a clever 4-1-4-1 system and finding a way to integrate key players, Bacchi, known by everyone as Tite, has managed to organise a disparate group of talented superstars into a real fighting force. If they can keep their shape at the back and stay staunch when under attack, this creative and forward-thinking team could go all the way.
Brazil are always spoilt for natural talent, and this year is no different. While Neymar is not yet 100 percent fit and they don’t have the unbelievable depth of the German squad, the team Brazil are likely to field should put fear into the minds of any opposition. Tite recently announced his final 23-man squad, with a lot of depth in some parts of the field and not so much in others.
The goalkeeper position should go to Roma’s Alisson Becker, although Manchester City’s Ederson will fight him all the way. While any team would be more than happy with Ederson, 25-year-old Alisson has emerged as the finest keeper in Italy’s Serie A this season and seems to have earned Tite’s trust. Joining him at the back will be Miranda from Inter Milan and Marquinhos from Paris Saint-Germain, with PSG’s Thiago Silva also a possibility.
Marcelo practically picks himself on the back left, with Fagner likely to make the line-up due to the absence of Dani Alves. Unfortunately, the experienced Alves did not make the squad after picking up a serious injury playing for PSG a few weeks ago. Casemiro will play as a holding and defensive midfielder, with the Real Madrid star probably joined by Paulinho and Arthur in the centre of the park.
Willian and Coutinho are likely to make up the midfield four if Brazil use a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Neymar Jr. up front. If Tite decides to use a more attacking line-up, he also has the incredible talents of Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino to choose from. Both of these players could conceivably make the starting line-up, with Fernandinho, Walace, Douglas Costa, and Filipe Luis also in contention. If Brazil do have a weakness, it’s at the back of the park, with injuries also likely to trouble the Canarinha more than Germany due to the shear depth of the German squad.
Brazil have three matches to contend with in Group E, against Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. While none of these teams should trouble them too much, they all have their own strengths going into Russia 2018. While Switzerland haven’t won a World Cup knockout game since 1954, they have a great balanced squad that originates from their 2009 Under-17 world champion team.
Costa Rica could also be a challenge for Brazil, having reached the quarter-finals four years ago. However, they have been inconsistent since then. This will be the fifth World Cup appearance for the tiny Central American country, who are one of the hardest teams to predict in world football.
The game against Serbia shouldn’t be too difficult for the Brazilians, even though they only suffered one defeat in 10 qualifying matches
The real competition for Brazil will come in the knockout stages, with this part of the World Cup always being hard to predict. While Germany will go into Russia 2018 as favourites, Iberian cousins Spain and Portugal are also capable of going all the way. While Spain have been lacklustre of late, the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro winners can never be discounted. While it would be a big surprise if Portugal went all the way, with Ronaldo on your side, anything is possible.
France are also on the ascendancy and Belgium are fielding an incredible squad of young and established talent. Brazil’s neighbours and fierce South American rivals Argentina will also be in Russia to win, especially with this being Lionel Messi’s last big chance to impress on the global stage. While Brazil and Germany go into this World Cup as favourites for a reason, the field is far from shallow. If Brazil wants to get revenge over Germany, they will need to be organised and disciplined without losing their natural attacking flair.