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Brazil: Team Preview - 2014 FIFA World Cup

Brazil should go all the way this year

The convergence of a world full of people experiencing the World Cup might be the biggest event one can enjoy from his home. As Brazil prepares for a month full of joy and passion, millions of people around the globe wait with bated breath for the World Cup to begin.

While we mystify ourselves with indefinite thoughts about the potential champions, a preview of the hosts Brazil shall do well to help us postulate our theories.

Road to 2014 World Cup

October 30, 2007. Josep Blatter officially announced that Brazil would host the World Cup after 64 years in 2014. Brazil’s place at the 2014 World Cup was secured then as they automatically qualified as host nations.

Essentially the greatest side in World Cup history, Brazil’s pre-world cup jitters towards hosting it were silenced by victory in the Confederations Cup last summer.

Their resolute style of play coupled with a revamped squad that possessed the Samba flair combined with solidity brought back to the reckoning a Brazilian side that had remained dormant for nearly a decade. Despite the fact that they had won the Confederations Cup thrice in a row, their performance in the 2010 World Cup had indicated the fact that they were a side in decline.

Yet, Scolari managed to inspire his young side into defeating the world champions and instilling the belief in them that they could go all the way in the 2014 World Cup.

Since that match against Spain, they have played eight friendlies, of which they have lost just one and won the rest. While there have been minor tweaks, the core has remained the same throughout.

Brazil's performance in the Friendlies

Switzerland 1-0 Brazil
Australia 0-6 Brazil
Portugal 1-3 Brazil
South Korea 0-2 Brazil
Zambia 0-2 Brazil
Honduras 0-5 Brazil
Chile 1-2 Brazil
South Korea 0-5 Brazil


A look at this would tell you that Brazil have not only remained a strong force, their only loss has come against a top 8 team. Although their opponents have been relatively low-ranked, their comfortable victories are assuring of the fact that Brazil go into the World Cup as one of the favourites.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Júlio César, Jéfferson, Grêmio

Defenders: Dani Alves, Maicon, Marcelo, Maxwell, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dante, Henrique

Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Ramires, Fernandinho, Oscar, Willian, Hernanes, Bernard

Forwards: Fred, Neymar, Hulk, Jô

The squad is a well balanced and solid squad. Scolari has assembled a squad that isn’t rich in flair and panache but has a mixture of all components – flair, stability and experience. Julio Caesar is expected to guard the goal while Thiago Silva is an assured presence at the back. Although David Luiz could turn out either way, Scolari has back-ups available in Dante and Henrique, although it is highly doubtful he would do so. Dani Alves and Marcelo are experienced players who would no doubt be the first-choice.

The midfield is concentrated on attaining stability over expressing style. Oscar has the vital role of looking for openings in the opposition defense.

The striker force is undoubtedly the icing on the cake with Fred proving to be excellent in running behind the defense. We had an excellent insight into Fred’s ability last year at the Confederations Cup and we should be least surprised if he manages to top the scoring charts this time around.

Although Scolari has been facing some heat for dropping big names like Lucas Moura, Philippe Coutinho and Filipe Luis, the present squad is short of nothing and has the necessary components to bring home the World Cup for a record sixth time.

Coach

Luiz Felipe Scolari: Brazil’s best weapon

Luiz Felipe Scolari is the man who won Brazil their fifth World Cup. Since then, Brazil have disappointed. His appointment this time around was perceived by many as a step back.

However, Scolari has transformed the side which was questionably inexperienced and young into potential World Champions. The transformation has been at such a quick pace that the top teams from the world failed to equate with it.

Scolari’s emphasis on playing a non-altered starting XI coupled with a resolute defense and a free-flowing attack has been the key to his successful return. 

The present team has created an identity for themselves as a young side with the verve to squash out big opponents like they did with Spain last year. While it has been the result of slow preparations for the past 8 years, Scolari acted as the catalyst and I see no reason he shouldn’t win this World Cup.

Tactics and Formation

The style of play that Brazil will follow

The beauty of Scolari’s side is such that there is never much change. Unlike Spain or Germany who tweak the side regularly because they can, Scolari goes with a set of players whom he trusts and knows will deliver. In his illustrious career, that has been the norm he has used at every club and country he has managed and seeing as that produces results, he isn’t going to change his mantra this time.

The Confederations Cup last year saw David Luiz and Thiago Silva starting all the matches and that should follow suit this year. 

He plays a single striker, Fred on whom the onus is to score goals. He has two more forwards, Hulk and Neymar to complement a hard-working attacking midfielder, Oscar in a narrow supporting three, 

Except for Neymar, whose lightning pace is a great bonus, all the attackers track back and allow transition from defense to attack very fast. The genius of their attack is such that it is a blend of everything a team could expect in modern football.

With Hulk’s physicality, Fred’s finishing, Oscar’s vision and Neymar’s unpredictability, they make up a very solid front-four whose characteristics blend well together. Their midfield is set up to work hard and retrieve the ball. Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo will start, and would concentrate on covering the spaces left by the full backs marauding forward.

While the midfielders remain deep near the half line, the full backs have the license to roam ahead. Dani Alves and Marcelo provide excellent augment to their strength on the flanks.

But, above all these, the best feature of this side is the fact that their style of play is unpredictable. This was well portrayed in their 3-0 mauling of Spain where two goals were the result of counter attacks while the other was that of a direct nature. Scolari uses a system that accommodates the roles that the players play at their club and thus, prove effective.

In a nutshell, they have a solid custodian ahead of whom there is a  strong defense that has conceded just six goals in their last 13 games. They have the pace to turn over an opposition at the blink of an eye and they can be destructive on the counter.

This system may not be a tactical masterpiece like the ones employed by Jose Mourinho or Jurgen Klopp but to say the least, it talks about using your resources to the best effect.

Best Line Up

Brazil in their standard 4-2-3-1

With the experienced Julio Caesar at the back and Thiago Silva to lead the defense, their conceding rate could be expected to remain low.

Marcelo brings some Samba flair to complement that of his partner Neymar’s, their left side is an all out attacking combo. Hulk and Dani Alves are likely to make up the right flank which will be a duo that defend and attack equally well.

In the center of the park, Scolari has always gone for stability over panache. By picking Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo, he has ensured that he has two men in the middle of the park that shield the defense from counter attacks and those channeled through the center. Fred represents a pure goalscorer whose job is get the ball into the back of the net. He isn’t the player that catches the eye with bouts of brilliance but at the end of the day, he gets the job done.

History at the World Cup


Brazil at FIFA World Cups

YEAR

RESULT

1930

1st Round

1934

1st Round

1938

3rd Place

1950

Runners up

1954

Quarterfinals

1958

Champions

1962

Champions

1966

Group stage

1970

Champions

1974

4th Place

 

1978

3rd Place

1982

Round 2

1986

Quarterfinals

1990

Round of 16

1994

Champions

1998

Runners up

2002

Champions

2006

Quarterfinals

2010

Quarterfinals


Brazil are the only team to have qualified for every World Cup that has been held till date. Their record in World Cups is nothing short of amazing and is a testament to why they are revered as the greatest footballing nation. They have won five World Cups till date which is a record. Their first triumph was in 1958 and that was the tournament when Pele introduced himself to the world with brilliant performances.

Ever since then they have been dominant at World Cups and have gone into every single one of them as favourites. Their 1962 triumph was the last time the defending champions won and Mane Garrincha stood out with extraordinary performances. But their 1970 World Cup win was the period which captivated the globe. With an experienced Pele leading their charge and excellent players like Carlos Alberto and Jairzinho, it was one of the best displays of football in history 

But, after 1970, despite having players such as Zico, their trophy cabinet next got an addition in 1994 where Romario came to the forefront with spectacular performances to help Brazil win the World Cup for a fourth time. It was the tournament in which Cafu debuted, a player who would go on to repeat this acheivement eight years later. After a heartbreaking loss to France in 1998, they came back strong in 2002 to recreate their past glory with an effective attack. Luis Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho made up one of the most devastating attacking trios in modern football as Brazil won the World Cup for a record fifth time, an achievement no side has emulated till date.

Their showings in the last five World Cups have been good but for the recent shortcomings. Two titles, one runners up and two quarterfinal losses. The two titles were achieved in 1994 and 2002, while they lost in 1998 to France and once again in the quarterfinals to France in 2006. In 2010, they lost  2-1 in the quarterfinals to eventual runner ups Netherlands.

Best Performance

Their five World Cup titles provide a hard choice picking their best performance but I shall go ahead with 1970 where they capped off an excellent tournament with a remarkable 4-1 win in the finals. They defeated defending champions England 1-0 in the group stages, a match which is famous for Gordon Banks save from Pele. Their quarterfinals and semifinals were relatively easy with victories against Peru and Uruguay respectively. Their performance in the final sealed what had been an extraordinary three weeks.

Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and Carlos Alberto helped Brazil score four goals to win the World Cup in a match where Carlos Alberto’s goal was regarded as one of the finest in history. In the aftermath, they earned the right to keep the Jules Rimet trophy as they had won three World Cups.

It was the tournament where Pele won the Golden ball and had himself writ in gold as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Pele scoring in the 1970 World Cup final

Prediction

Brazil’s expectations are at an all-time high with the fans and supporters demanding nothing other than a triumph. They have been placed as the No.1 team in Group A as a result of being the hosts.

To their benefit, they have a relatively easy group that can be warded off without being touted as a ‘Group of Death’. Part of a diverse group with teams from four different continents, Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon look like threatening teams on paper but it is hard to see them go past Brazil.

Mexico have come off a poor qualifying campaign while Croatia and Cameroon have had mediocre ones. While the three teams may fight it out between themselves for the second spot, Brazil to top the group and they should do it without any real trouble.

However, Brazil’s Round of 16 is a tricky one with them facing the runner ups of group B. In all likelihood, this would be Netherlands, who can be expected to finish below Spain. So, Scolari would have to play that one clever and make sure there is no mess up against the Dutch like in 2010.

Their quarterfinal opponents are likely to be Italy or England depending on who qualifies and how they do. Again, they present a tough opposition on paper, but Brazil’s all-round abilities should suffice for them to outshine their opponents.

Their semifinal possibilities widen with Germany looking the most probable match-up. However good Germany maybe, with all respect, they do not have a proper striker. Seeing as that is a big hole in their team and one which Brazil possess in sufficient quality, they should go through after a tough match.

The final is most likely to be a rematch of the Confederations Cup final against Spain. While del Bosque would sure have plans under his sleeve, Spain’s lack of goalscoring ability was widely reflected in their last campaign and the same should follow this time, unless Diego Costa can prove to be the difference.

While this would be a intensely fought contest, Brazil should be able to win the World Cup as they have the ammunition with their home conditions, and previous endeavours have shown that they rarely lose in the final of a World Cup, having lost just twice in seven encounters.

To see other Team Previews : 2014 FIFA World Cup Team Previews

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