Brazil went down in football history as five-time world champions, but have not lifted the famous trophy since 2002.
The Selecao have only made it past the quarterfinals at one of the last four World Cups, being beaten 7-1 by Germany in the semifinals on home soil in 2014.
But with less than two months to go before this year’s tournament in Qatar begins, Brazil have emerged as favorites to go all the way and add a sixth star above their badge.
Brazil emerged as favorites for the trophy at this winter’s World Cup in Qatar
Tite’s side face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G and are expected to easily advance to the knockout stages.
Ahead of next week’s Samba Boys friendlies against Ghana and Tunisia sports mail takes a look at what the current team has to offer.
A Premier League core
Times have changed since Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, when 13 of the 23-man squad played their club football in their home country and none played in the Premier League.
20 years later, the change is clearly visible. Only three of the 26-man squad for this month’s friendlies play in Brazil, while 12 are on the books of English clubs. That is more representation than in any other country.
Four members of the current squad joined the Premier League this summer – Manchester United duo Casemiro and Antony, West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta and Nottingham Forest full-back Renan Lodi.
Casemiro and Antony strengthened Brazil’s representation in the Premier League this summer
Premier League representation runs through the entire team. Ederson and Alisson are battling for the No1, Thiago Silva is still strong in defense at 37, Fabinho, Fred and Bruno Guimaraes can form a midfield three and Richarlison and Roberto Firmino offer options up front.
There are also the England based players who have not been selected this month but could still be at the World Cup.
Arsenal’s three Gabriels – Jesus, Martinelli and Magalhaes – have been surprisingly left out of the squad, while Liverpool loanee Arthur, Tottenham full-back Emerson Royal and Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho will all be hoping for recalls.
Attack options galore
Gone are the days of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, but Brazil have no shortage of attacking quality in their squad. No fewer than nine strikers have been selected by Tite for this month’s two friendlies.
The fight for the jersey with the number 9 alone is fierce. Roberto Firmino, Matheus Cunha, Richarlison and Pedro will be looking to make their claim this month in Gabriel Jesus’ surprise absence.
Neymar is guaranteed to be one of those places far out, but on the other hand, Tite has a selection dilemma thanks to the emergence of a plethora of young stars in recent years.
Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus has been left out of the squad this month despite his strong form at club
Real Madrid duo Rodrygo (21) and Vinicius Junior (22) are options for Brazil
Vinicius Junior, Antony and Rodrygo are all 22 years or younger and offer a lot of exciting potential. Raphinha, who is only 25 himself, sees his star rising following his summer move to Barcelona.
It’s a sign of the wealth of talent available that Jesus – who has scored four goals in his first seven league games for Arsenal – has not been included in the squad this month as Tite wants to take a closer look at more fringe players.
The Gunners star is still expected to be picked for the World Cup, but to put it this way – Gareth Southgate wouldn’t even have considered dropping Harry Kane two months before the tournament so he could give Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford chances could give.
With FIFA increasing squad capacity for Qatar from 23 to 26 players, the likelihood seems pretty high that Tite will use this to fill his squad with attackers.
Neymar’s pursuit of glory
Ever since Neymar arrived at Santos as an exciting teenager, Brazil have been hoping for the forward’s sixth World Cup title. So far he hasn’t been able to do that.
Neymar was the poster child of the World Cup when Brazil hosted the tournament in 2014 and he got off to a flying start – scoring twice in the opening game against Croatia before scoring another two in the final group game against Cameroon.
But disaster struck in the closing minutes of the quarter-final against Colombia, when he fractured his vertebrae in a tackle with Juan Zaniga. He was missed more than could have been imagined in the semifinals as Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany.
Neymar fractured his vertebrae in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals against Colombia
Four years later, the forward scored twice in Russia, but his tournament is perhaps better remembered for his theatrical acting – he has been known to spend a total of 14 minutes on the floor in Brazil’s five games.
Brazil won the Copa America in 2019 but Neymar missed the entire tournament through injury so his personal quest for glory continues in earnest; especially after losing the Copa America final on home soil last year.
Without an international honor to his name, there will be questions as to whether he can be counted among the greatest Brazilian players of all time.
This may not be Neymar’s last World Cup – he will be 34 when the tournament takes place in 2026 – but he certainly won’t be at the same level playing in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
With 11 goals and 8 assists in 11 games for PSG, Brazil’s big hope started in form at just the right time.
The 30-year-old is still in the hunt for a major international trophy and in red-hot form
The fight for number 1
No other coach in Qatar will be able to claim to have two better goalkeepers in their squad than Tite, who makes the unenviable decision to choose the number 1 shirt between Alisson and Ederson.
Both could easily lay claim to being the best goalkeepers in the world and they have been crucial parts of the Premier League’s top two teams over the last four years.
Since 2018/19, one or the other of the pair has won the English top flight’s Golden Glove award and last season they shared it, conceding 20 goals each.
Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson offer Brazil two world-class options in goal
Alisson played the most in World Cup qualifiers for Brazil and has been favored in the past. The Liverpool goalkeeper has 55 caps compared to Ederson’s 18.
At last summer’s Copa America, Tite rotated between all three goalkeepers in his squad. Ederson played four games (including quarterfinals, semifinals and finals), Alisson played twice and even Weverton, third pick, was handed the gloves in a group match.
It might even come to that in Qatar that we’ll see a half-time change between the posts.
A record-breaking qualifying campaign
Brazil perhaps owe their title as World Cup favorites to their remarkable qualifying campaign.
Tite’s side went 17 games unbeaten, won 14 and drew three to set a new record 45 points in South America qualifying. They scored 40 goals and scored four or more goals in a game six times.
They also had a home game against Argentina ahead of them. FIFA agreed to cancel this after the original game was suspended just five minutes later when Argentina walked away when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch and demanded the isolation of four Argentine players accused of breaking quarantine rules .
Ahead of this month’s friendlies, Brazil are unbeaten in their last 13 games since losing to Argentina in the Copa America final last year. That’s their only loss in 27 games since November 2019. Nobody goes to Qatar in better form.
Brazil have been unbeaten in their 17 World Cup qualifiers, winning 14 and drawing three
Tite’s last hurrah?
The Brazilian manager’s position has not been particularly good for job security in the past. Between 1998 and 2016, six different coaches were given the role (including twice Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga), and most stayed in the role for no more than two years.
But Tite went against the grain. The 61-year-old has held the job since 2016 but has confirmed he will step down after the World Cup. He will leave as the longest-serving manager in the country’s history.
Tite has inherited a squad that had just been eliminated from the group stage of the Copa America and has nurtured a new generation of Brazilian talent with relative success.
Tite, 61, will step down as coach after the World Cup after serving six years
Being eliminated by Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals four years ago was undoubtedly disappointing, but Brazil then went on to win the Copa America the following year and reached the final again in 2021.
Tite’s win rate as a coach currently stands at 75.7%, the best of any Selecao coach since Scolari’s first tenure in the early 2000s when he won the World Cup.
“I’ve won everything in my career and all that’s left is the World Cup,” Tite told Brazilian broadcaster SporTV in February.
There is no better way to go out.