The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Brazil

Brazil National Team

Brazil

Selecao

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Brazil
Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 12-5-1
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 2nd
World Cup 2014 Finish – 4th place (3-0 loss to Holland)
Russia 2018 Group E (BRAZIL, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Formation – 4-3-3
Strengths – Flexible, great pressing, defensive structure, midfield, everything
Weaknesses – Defense (CB specifically)
Major Threats – Gabriel Jesus, Neymar, Marcelo, Coutinho

The quest for the ‘Hexa’ is on and Brazil has every reason to feel like they can win it all. The job Tite has done with this Selecao squad mean they go into the tournament without any noticeable weaknesses. If there was one possible one, it was Dani Alves at rightback but an injury means either Danilo or Fagner will take his place. Brazil are a very good squad, they’ll take some stopping.

Are you a fan of the Seleção? Get your authentic and original Brazil Jersey from SoccerPro before the cup starts, it’s kicking off soon! Add the nameset of your favorite player. Neymar, Coutinho, Willian, you name it, we have got it!

Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

CBF expect to win the cup.

DEFENSE:

If Brazil has any weaknesses, they lie in defense. As with many teams at the World Cup, Brazil’s defense is built holistically i.e. the responsibility for defending falls on everyone and they defend as a unit, from the front players down. Tite likes his teams to press high and depending on the opponent, you’ll see him set up different levels of blocks for his back four.

The attacking players press for the ball, the central midfielders close the spaces behind them and press too, then the defense sets itself up if the press is broken. When they play ‘weaker’ teams i.e. most teams, it works to a charm but against stronger sides who can dominate possession like Spain or Germany, you’ll see a more cautious approach with a more tactical press and likely a low block to go along with it.

For A Selecao, it all starts with the goalie and they’ve got two magnificent ones. The likely starter will be AS Roma’s Alisson Becker, he’s a dominating goalie without any major weaknesses and indeed he cannot afford weaknesses because his competition comes from Ederson Moraes of Manchester City, a beast between the sticks. Brazil have a formidable last man no matter who starts.

The center back positions are where there may be signs of chinks in the armour. Those chinks come primarily from Thiago Silva. The 2014 captain has shown slight signs of slowing down at PSG. They’re nothing major and he’s still one of the finer CBs at the tournament but at the highest levels, those slips in pace and focus can be suicidal. Mistiming jumps or losing track of runners can be deadly. This is where the low block against the other heavyweights can be helpful to him. It means there’s less to worry about behind him and he can focus on winning in the air and tackling everything in front of him. He has simply gone from Superhuman to merely human, that is not too shabby.

His CB partner will most likely be Miranda. The ex-Atletico Madrid player was one of the linchpins who Diego Simeone relied on as he built that attacker-eating machine at the Vicente Calderon. Miranda now plays for Inter Milan but hasn’t lost any of defensive nous. He is a brilliant foil in the center of defense for Thiago Silva. Together the dominate the air and make Brazil a terrifying prospect to play against. Miranda’s focus is topnotch and his timing remains among the best around. Thiago and Mirando will be backed up by Pedro Geromel and the young future star Marquinhos.

At the wingback spots, Brazil has another potential area of slight weakness. Left back, Marcelo is probably the best at the position in world football when he is on his game but he has always been prone to getting caught out of position and losing focus. In that 7-1 destruction to Germany, he and David Luiz got pulled all over the park by German movement. He shows similar traits at club level too. However he is so good when he is good that it’s all worth it with him. He creates a great stretch option for the Selecao and will be relied upon alongside the RB to provide Brazil’s width, and help win the numbers game versus opponents.

The starting rightback going into the tournament was Dani Alves who got an injury that keeps him out of the cup. That may be a lucky break for Brazil. Dani Alves is not the player he once was, he is far more likely to get caught out of position now than ever before. It’s one thing having Marcelo bombing forward and getting caught out, having Alves doing same on the right flank at the same time would have been really bad at the highest levels. Replacing him will be Fagner or Danilo. Neither man offers quite the same threat going forward though Danilo packs a proper wallop when he locks eyes on goal, his pace and ability to stretch the field are not quite at Dani Alves’ level but he is a more solid defensive player. Ditto Fagner.

MIDFIELD:

The midfield is possibly where the biggest change has occurred from the 2014 version of Brazil. Gone is the double 6 midfield pivot, instead you’ll find one man holding the fort as the central anchor. Casemiro has become the mainstay for Real Madrid as well as Brazil. The midfielder does everything well, he can be nasty when needed, he can join the attack, he shields the back four brilliantly, he covers every blade of grass, he is the proper modern defensive midfielder (alongside Ngolo Kante). With Brazil, he can push forward slightly to give the midfield a flat three central line or he can drop deep into the central defense to give that unit a three man CB. He is the do-it-all key.

Casemiro will be joined by two or three others in central midfield. It all depends on the opponent and what Coach Tite feels like doing with his unit on the day. Fernandinho, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, and Coutinho are the guys you can expect to see in some iteration alongside Casemiro.
Whoever plays, what you can expect is a hard working midfield that has the ability to send runners into the attack to give Brazil the numbers edge without losing the compactness that is vital to team stability.

Two things to note. Firstly, While Casemiro is seemingly the most important midfielder, this doesn’t mean that Brazil cannot play without him. Fernandinho showed similar qualities at Manchester City under Pep and can deputize excellently if needed. He can also form a double pivot with Casemiro against very possession based heavyweights.

Secondly, Philippe Coutinho presents a dilemma of sorts for the manager. He isn’t quite as hardy in central midfield as the others and when he plays in the preferred central midfield 3, Brazil will lose some of that toughness and stability and though he can carry the ball and provide playmaking like none of the other midfielders, Brazil effectively become an attacking four with him in the side. He can play in attack as one of the two nominal wingers but that would mean Willian drops to the bench. Big problems for Tite…every other manager at Russia 2018 would love these problems.

Casemiro

Casemiro

STRIKERS:

In attack, it all revolves around Ney….no. Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City attacker will be the key to what Brazil does in attack this summer. He will be the focal point and his satellites will be Willian (or Coutinho) and Neymar. Neymar is the most gifted player in the squad, yes. He can create out of nothing and a lot of Brazil’s play will go through him but they no longer force the ball to him, and he’s no longer the focal point. That imbalance from 2014 has been addressed by Gabriel Jesus’ emergence. Neymar is not the top point for passing triangles anymore.

The other attackers going to the Mundial are Douglas Costa, Taison, and Roberto Firmino. All three can play several roles and change the dynamic of Brazil’s attacks considerably. Firmino especially may even start a game or two at the tournament depending on what Tite feels will work versus the day’s opponent. Firmino is one of the best modern day center forwards at the cup, he isn’t just about his goals, he makes it a true team effort and probably does that more than even Gabriel Jesus. No matter what the front 3 or 4 look like, Brazil’s attackers are going to hand out some major punishment at this cup.

GAME by GAME (v Switzerland, v Costa Rica, v Serbia)

*Keys to Switzerland game: Can the Swiss midfield trouble Brazil with its movement? Can Haris Seferovic get a hot streak? Will Brazil score early? Will Neymar start or even play? Can Brazil make enough of a statement in their first game? What position will Coutinho play?
Prediction: The keys to this feel useless because Brazil have the better units all across the board and this game ought to be a statement-maker for A Selecao. Yes, the Swiss played spoilers in 2010 beating Spain in the opener but they’ll need an almighty defensive effort and much luck to repeat that this time. Brazil ought to win a straightforward game, the only question is by how many goals?

*Keys to Costa Rica game: Can Costa Rica’s attacking movement unsettle Brazil’s central defense? Will Brazil try to win the midfield numbers game? Will Neymar explode in this game? Will Firmino start?
Prediction: Costa Rica in 2014 were a joy to watch, this generation will not present the threat the last one did. Brazil should win to wrap up early qualification for the last 16.

*Keys to Serbia game: Can Serbia outpower Brazil’s midfield? Can Mitrovic trouble Brazil’s central defense? Will Coutinho start this one? Will Brazil play direct or passing football? Will Firmino start?
Prediction: There’s a great chance Brazil would have sealed qualification and even if 1st place is on the line, expect to see some personnel changes rung in for this game. The changes shouldn’t matter, Brazil should have more than enough to win a third straight game and meet Group F’s runners-up.

Brazil's 23

Brazil World Cup Squad

Here’s the Brazil squad for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ederson, Alisson, Cassio

DEFENDERS (8): Fagner, Danilo, Marcelo, Filipe Luis, Marquinhos, Pedro Geromel, Thiago Silva, Miranda

MIDFIELDERS (6): Fred, Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Coutinho, Renato Augusto

FORWARDS (6): Taison, Willian, Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Firmino, Douglas Costa

Piece by Tise Okuo, frequent Center Circle writer, a recovering fan of Arsenal FC and lover of football.

 

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About the author: Tise Okuo

 

Soccer nut. Arsenal fan, used to enduring hard times. Admirer of the purity of tiki-taka, total football, catenaccio, and any other system bold enough to be itself. In my spare time, I am a professional thinker. Engage with me on Google+.

 

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