The spiritual home of the beautiful game doesn’t need much of an introduction. All you need to hear are names like “Pele,” “Ronaldo,” or “Romario” to conjure up images of samba and sublime attacking skill. Now, with the World Cup tournament returning to Brazil for the first time since the disastrous 1950 final, nothing except a championship will do.
The Selecao enter the World Cup as the oddsmakers' favourites, but with such immense pressure on the side, nerves might be a far more dangerous opponent than anything Brazil faces on the pitch.
The hopes of an entire nation are on the Brazillians’ shoulders, and none feel the burden more than their latest superstar, Neymar. Merely 22, Neymar has skill far beyond his years, possessing incredible pace, pinpoint scoring accuracy, and the ability to perform the spectacular.
He has the ability to carry his team all the way to the title, but nothing in his career so far has prepared him for the pressure to come in June.
Road to Rio
Brazil qualified automatically as hosts of the tournament, but the side has made a point of scheduling friendlies with top-notch teams in order to better prepare for the World Cup.
The Brazilians served notice that they were a side to be reckoned with by taking the Confederations Cup last year in emphatic fashion, defeating Spain 3-0 in the final.
- World Cup Group: A
- Nickname: A Seleção
- Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
- Captain: Thiago Silva
- FIFA World Ranking: 3
- Best World Cup Result: Champions in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002
- Qualification Method: Qualified as Host Nation
How they Fared in 2010
As usual, Brazil was pegged as a serious threat to win the World Cup in 2010, and the squad started well, finishing first in Group G, which many dubbed as the “Group of Death.” A 3-0 victory over Chile in the round of 16 had many picking Brazil to go all the way.
But Brazil’s tournament came to a crashing end against the Netherlands in the quarter-final. Even though Robinho staked the Selecao to an early lead, two second-half goals from Wesley Sneijder sealed Brazil’s fate, and the Netherlands eventually made it to the 2010 final.
- Thursday June 12 – Brazil vs. Croatia, 4 p.m. ET
- Tuesday June 17 – Brazil vs. Mexico, 3 p.m. ET
- Monday June 23 – Cameroon vs. Brazil, 4 p.m. ET
Brazil is always a danger to win it all, and this side is no exception, especially with the weight of an entire home country behind it. An extremely favourable group draw should see the side progress without much trouble.
But this isn’t a team without question marks, and the pressure will mount as Brazil goes deeper into the tournament. Nobody can be sure how that sort of stress will affect this group of players.
One thing’s for certain: in mid-July, Brazil will either be hosting the biggest party in its history, or in a deep state of mourning. There is no middle ground.