FIFA World Cup Team Prospectus: Brazil
By Young Kim
For the next 32 days, I will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview. If you think my comments or opinions about a certain team is incorrect, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will respond to your questions on a mailbag post before the first day of the World Cup.
These previews aren't just written to inform, but to entertain the fans of this wonderful game. Alright, lets start things off with the host nation in Group A: Brazil.
Nickname: A Seleção
FIFA Ranking: 4
Previous World Cups: 1930, 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1958 (won), 1962 (won), 1966, 1970 (won), 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 (won), 1998, 2002 (won), 2006, 2010
How Did They Qualify:
Opponents (Match Date): Croatia (6/12), Mexico (6/17), Cameroon (6/23)
Projected Finish in Group A: First
Why they’ll finish in First?
With marquee players like Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, and Neymar, Brazil boasts too much talent for their opponents to handle. Additionally, Brazil has retained that Joga Bonito or that samba style that’s been missing in the previous two World Cups thanks to their youth and the return of Felipe Luis Scolari.
The other nations in their group have some problems to solve before kickoff; Cameroon can’t solve their own midfield problems; Mexico keeps failing to integrate their European-based stars to a new formation; Croatia lacks a strong backline.
It also helps to be hosting, too!
Keeper: Julio Cesar of Toronto FC will likely start between the posts. Wait, did I write that correctly? Toronto FC? As funny as that sounds, it appears that Brazil will trust the steady hands of the 34-year-old MLS keeper. This isn’t a knock on Julio Cesar. He’s had a great career back at Inter Milan and can still flash his cat-like reflexes now and again.
However, there are still some worrisome aspects about his decision making and positioning. Just hope he doesn’t do anything like he did against Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup. Considering that the final will be held at the Maracana, isn’t it possible that comparisons to Barbosa* will emerge after he misplays a cross that finds itself into the net? The Curse of Barbosa lives on!!!
*Moacir Barbosa Nascimento was the starting keeper for the 1950 Brazil World Cup squad who surrendered two goals to the underdogs Uruguay in the final match at the Maracana. Brazilian fans blamed Barbosa for the loss and the burden of defeat was weighed upon his back until the days of his life. When the Brazil National team was training for the 1994 World Cup, Barbosa was banned from training grounds because he was considered a jinx to the national squad.
Defense: This may be the World Cup where Brazil boasts the best back line in the world. Starting center backs will likely be Paris St. Germain’s Thiago Silva and Chelsea’s David Luiz while Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Barcelona’s Dani Alves will play the left and right back, respectively. Not to mention they have Dante from Bayern Munich, Maxwell from PSG, Napoli’s Henrique, and the veteran AS Roma defender Maicon who can provide cover off the bench. That’s one helluva insurance right there.
What makes Brazil’s defense so lethal is their ability to contribute on the offensive end while being smart enough to cover up for one another the moment someone leaves their position. They’re athletically capable of playing in such manner. Whenever Brazil launches a counter-attack, watch the replay and see how the defense springs the offense loose. With great defense comes great freedom.
Midfield: Speaking of defense, Brazil should consider themselves fortunate that Luis Gustavo has been in fine form over in Germany at VFL Wolfsburg. Gustavo plays a key role as a defensive midfielder because his presence alone gives others in the midfield freedom to travel forward and play that up-tempo style on offense. Considering how right back Alves will be a menace on the attacking end, it’s up to Paulinho or Gustavo to cover Alves’ spot when he overlaps the midfield on the attack. Despite not putting on eye-popping numbers on the score sheet, Neymar will definitely make his presence known for Brazil. It seems he is more comfortable with the Brazilian style of play than the La Liga game given by his higher scoring output for the national team. On the national side, fans see a less restricted Neymar, the one that seems nearly identical to the fantasy Nike created in their ridiculous ads. He looks to shine in this year’s edition of the World Cup, as if he was born for this moment.
Forwards: Who will play up top? Fred, Jo, or the Incredible Hulk? Fred proved to be the answer after an outstanding showing in the 2013 Confederation Cup, but a thigh injury this season has raised doubts as to whether he will be in perfect form in time. Hulk is an anomaly because his success at the club level doesn’t translate to the Brazilian style of play. He’s rarely deployed up front and looks out of place out wide, but it’s likely he’ll be used as a late-game substitution in case Brazil is desperate for a goal.
While Jo has been familiar with the national team, he has struggled greatly at the club level and has never been in a good scoring rhythm throughout this season. In other words, the forward position depends on how well Fred can get back in form from that thigh injury.
Coaching: Felipe Luis Scolari a.k.a. Big Phil, did everything he could to restore Joga Bonito in Brazil. The almighty Big Phil has cleansed Brazil of Dunga and Mario Menezes’ pragmatic approach. A solid decision-maker, Big Phil just knows which players to send onto the pitch without ruining chemistry. Off the pitch, he is sensible in giving his players the right balance of training and resting. He’ll keep the team happy throughout the cup. The team will respect him since he already won the cup in 2002. Chances are, he’ll win it again. Is Big Phil the Pele of managers? You bet your sweet Brazilian buttlift that he is.
How can they win the World Cup?
As long as key players like Neymar, Dani Alves, Fred, and Oscar remain healthy, Brazil will not lose any momentum in their offense. This team has too many factors (home field, coaching, health, star players in good form) in their favor that it almost looks like the 2014 World Cup is catered just for them. I see Brazil and Spain facing off in the World Cup final at the Maracana. The only trouble I see is the possibility of a potential matchup against Germany in the semi-finals, considering how Germany has a superior midfield and ability to play both on the ground and in the air.
What Can Go Wrong...
Pick Your poison Brazil. Once you reach the World Cup semifinal, it's either going to come down to France who will win Group E or Germany who will win Group G. If Joga Bonito has a critical weakness, it's the French. The last three times France and Brazil faced in the World Cup (1986, 1998, 2006), the French came out on top, the most notable victory coming in the 1998 World Cup final when Zinedane Zidane led Les Bleus to a 3-0 victory. If the Brazilians face against the French, history will be their undoing.
Germany on the otherhand looks like an inevitable defeat. After placing third in the last two World Cups, the Germans have likely flipped the “Eff You” switch and are willing to kill (yes you read correctly) anyone who gets between them and the World Cup trophy. Germany’s holdovers from the last two tournaments (Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, Per Mertesacker, and Lukas Podolski) have been pushed to their limits after falling short twice that their motivation will be infectious to the entire squad.
Oh yeah, Miroslav Klose might be in the squad and he could’ve won the whole thing back in 2002 if it weren’t for Ronaldo and those meddling Brazilians. Klose will be out to avenge the tragedy from 12 years ago, and putting Brazil in total misery at age 36 will be poetic justice.
*Some argued that Ronaldo was hindered by a knee injury, but let’s be honest. Zinedane Zidane simply outclassed the Brazilians like Bobby Fischer in a chess match.
The home kit has stuck with the traditional patterns, but the ocean-blue away kit is a colorful welcome for the team. Instead of having that yellow collar like in 2010, Nike decided to give the shirt alternating stripes of a darker shade and a lighter shade. Perhaps the kit is meant to invoke the image of water, symbolic of the way Brazil plays.
What’s to love about Brazil?
Food, music, and women. Their fans are definitely the most festive and passionate about their team. Football is a religion in their country so they will cheer as if it’s life or death (maybe more than death. See also: Barbosa). The best thing about the Brazilian crowd is that they don’t cheer on their teams with this. Sing away, drum away, play the trumpets and tambourines, and crash on those pots and pans, but please for the love of God don’t bring the vuvuzelas to the match.