The overwhelming belief is that this is Brazil’s year and that it will win its sixth World Cup crown in Qatar next month. Tite announced a strong 26-man squad led by the mercurial Neymar. Twenty-two of the 26 players play in Europe with 12 representatives from the Premier League. Brazil does have a stacked attacking line-up, but does the Selecao have all bases covered to lift the trophy?
Brazil possibly has the strongest goalkeeping one-two at this World Cup with Alisson Becker (Liverpool) and Ederson (Manchester City). Both are adequately excellent with their feet while playing out from the back but Alisson tends to get the nod ahead of Ederson in Brazil colours because of his shot-stopping ability. Third-choice goalkeeper Weverton recently won the Brazil first division title with Palmeiras.
While Brazil has lost only to Argentina in its last 29 matches, it has played only one European team since the 2018 World Cup. Defence is possibly where Brazil appears a little susceptible on paper and where it could be vulnerable. Known for their expansive attacking style of football and high defensive line, Brazil’s defence will be tested against quality teams with balls over the top and runs in behind them.
Thiago Silva, 38, is still the starting center-back and the captain of the side. Silva, who has usually played in a three-man backline at Chelsea, has had his struggles with pace and could find himself targeted on the left side. Left-back Alex Telles, on loan at Sevilla from Manchester United, in recent fixtures has moved into a starting place in the XI and is an attacking fullback. Telles found it hard to break into the United side and has had problems defensively.
Marquinhos will be Silva’s center-back partner with Eder Militao, who plays as a central defender for Real Madrid, as an alternative. With an aging defensive unit, Tite could use Militao to fill in as a right-back to offer solidity and inject some pace in the backline. Danilo and Dani Alves are the recognised right-backs in the squad. Danilo could likely be the starting right-back, while Alves, 39, could find it hard to get a look in.
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While Tite has more forward-thinking central midfielders in Bruno Guimaraes, who is Newcastle United’s talisman in its Premier League success, and Lucas Paqueta, the pairing of Casemiro and Fred will be the preferred midfield two in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Casemiro and Fred have been a strong midfield two for Brazil in the last year with the pair offering protection to their backline and allowing their attackers to flourish. Casemiro is a natural sitting defensive shield, while Fred plays the perfect foil with his energy and runs as a box-to-box midfielder. The duo is also club teammates at Manchester United which will add to their understanding of their roles.
Fabinho, who hasn’t been at his best at Liverpool this year, will be the second-choice defensive midfielder. Bruno, Paqueta and Everton Ribeiro are versatile midfielders, who could fill in multiple roles in both midfield and as attacking options.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, who has scored 15 goals and registered 11 assists in France, will be a regular fixture in the XI, and Tite will have a wealth of options to choose from to play around him in attack. Neymar can play across the front line but he is best utilised as a left winger or in the No. 10 role.
Barcelona’s Raphinha has been the preferred right winger with Antony being another similar profile attacker on the right side. Vinicius Jr., who is evolving into one of the feared attackers in Europe, must start for Brazil on the left side. Gabriel Martinelli has been pivotal on the left for Arsenal and his direct runs can be called upon from the bench.
In the striker’s role, forward Richarlison has got the nod in recent times, while Gabriel Jesus, whose goals have dried up at Arsenal, possesses the nous and work rate to bring the best out of Brazil’s flair players. Rodrygo has proved he is a handy option off the bench with his Champions League exploits for Real Madrid last year. Flamengo’s Pedro has aerial strength to provide an alternate striking option. The 25-year-old was the top-scorer in Flamengo’s Copa Libertadores win this season.