Nickname: A Seleção, The Samba Boys
World Ranking: 2
World Cup history: Five times Champions, appeared in all World Cup tournaments since 1930
Truth be told, Brazil is no longer the powerhouse they used to be and much of it has to do with the neglection of their natural style of play that once made them the dominant force they used to be in world football.
Their attempt to win for the second time at home after 64 years, when they hosted the soccer spectacle in 2014, ended in disappointment following 7-1 semifinal loss to eventual champions, Germany, which was their biggest ever defeat at the World Cup and first home loss in a competitive match since 1975.
The first they had hosted the tournament was in 1950 losing to Uruguay in the finals.
After decades of being the dominant force in world football, the temptation to supply the European market with more and more players saw Brazil develop players for that market. In so doing, Brazil moved away from their own samba identity which had initially made them the football powerhouse with the likes of Garrincha, Pele, Socrates, Jairzinho, Zico, Junior, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka. Their prowess in international football took a serious dive. It is by no accident that it has been more than a decade since Brazil last won the World Cup. In 2006 and 2010, the once-feared football giants failed to proceed beyond the quarterfinals of the tournament – a far cry from the team that still holds the record of being the most successful team in the world with five titles to their name.
That was enough a clarion call for Brazilian football and afraid that history would judge them harshly, Brazilian technical brains like Filipe Scolari and Carlos Alberto-Parreira decided it was time to revert back to what had made Brazil a powerhouse in the first place – the samba roots! From that initiative highly-skilful, dynamic and very versatile players like Neymar, David Luiz, Robinho, Luiz Gustavo, Marcelo, etc. were developed. Gradually, Brazil reclaimed its rightful place in international football – the highlight of which was humbling the World Cup defending champions in the 2013 Confederations Cup in 2013, by 3-0 in Maracana – bringing Spain’s 29 games without defeat to a screeching halt.
However, generally the tenure under former defender, Dunga has been disappointing until he was fired.
In came, former player and coach, Tite, who has managed change things. With a win-rate of more than 70%, Tite led Brazil to being the first team, after the hosts, to qualify for the World Cup.
Drawn against Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E, Brazil are expected to sail through the group stages and are tipped to reach at least the semifinal of the tournament.
Players to watch: Neymar, Coutinho
Know your coach: Tite
The 56-year-old must have earned the respect of the footballing world when he went on a sabbatical leave to study modern football in 2015, turning down offers for coaching jobs. That’s rare! It then should come as a surprise that since he took over from Dunga as the Brazilian head coach he has managed to turn the team into a force to be reckoned with scintillating players like Coutinho and Neymar.
Brazil’s transformation since Tite arrived in June 2016 has been nothing short of remarkable. Sixth in the CONMEBOL standings when he took over, they won nine consecutive games to become the first side to join hosts Russia at the finals. Tite will hope to emulate his FIFA Club World Cup 2012 title with Corinthians in Russia.