World Cup Countdown: The ones to watch for Brazil

As the World Cup inches closer, we continue our run down of all 32 competing nations in Russia.

Tite’s side are among the pre-tournament favourites and are boosted by the timely return to fitness of star man Neymar, who has not featured since the end of February.

Neymar suffered World Cup heartache four years ago when suffering a severe back injury in Brazil’s quarterfinal win over Colombia that could have ended his career.

The 26-year-old will be desperate to avoid similar catastrophe in Russia next month, but there will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders to return and hit the ground running immediately.

Brazil have drifted on the international stage since winning the 2002 World Cup with a 100 per cent record, but Tite does appear to have turned things around since taking charge two years ago.

The 57-year-old has only lost one of his opening 19 matches and the Selecao breezed through a very difficult qualification group, finishing 10 points clear of second.

However, results in qualification will be irrelevant when the World Cup starts in 17 days and Tite will only be judged on how Brazil perform in Russia.

It’s safe to say that Tite has at his disposal one of the best squads at the World Cup. Manchester City star Ederson would want into nearly every squad, but he is only good enough for the bench for Brazil, Roma’s Alisson set to start between the sticks.

The same is true of Thiago Silva, regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world, while Filipe Luis’ return from a broken leg means Juventus’ Alex Sandro didn’t even make the 23-man squad.

The one area of concern, however, is on the opposite side of Brazil’s defence. Injury to Dani Alves earlier this month has left Tite short of options at right-back. City defender Danilo and Corinthians’ Fagner will battle it out for a starting berth, but neither carry Alves’ presence.

With the likes of Paulinho, Fernandinho, Fred and Renato Augusto to pick from, Brazil have enough industry in central midfield that should allow the likes of Neymar, Douglas Costa and Philippe Coutinho to flourish for the South Americans.

Based on the performances for their respective clubs this season, many would lean towards Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino leading the Brazilian attack, but Tite is expected to side with City’s Gabriel Jesus.

The 21-year-old has held off committing to a new City deal prior to the World Cup and several good showings in Russia will only strengthen his bargaining power when talks resume at the end of the summer.

Gabriel Jesus hasn’t kicked on as many would have hoped this season but, as opposition defenders concentrate on the likes of Neymar and Coutinho, the City youngster should have the perfect platform to deliver for the Selecao this summer.

Brazil should qualify from a group that contains Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland without too many problems and then a round of 16 clash against Mexico could await Tite’s side.

Opponents will highlight Alves’ replacement at right-back as a source of vulnerability, but if Tite can find a manageable solution, then Brazil have a great chance of going far in Russia.

 

Today Sports
…with Gottlieb Baako (gottlieb.baako@todaygh.com)

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