A Premier League core and Neymar’s quest for glory. Meet the Brazil squad as they aim for a sixth World Cup
Brazil are etched in footballing history as five-time World Cup winners, but they haven’t lifted the famous trophy since 2002.
The Selecao have only passed the quarter-finals at one of the last four World Cups and on that occasion they were beaten 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals at home in 2014.
But with less than two months to go at the start of this year’s tournament in Qatar, Brazil have emerged as favorites to go all the way and add a sixth star above their badge.
Brazil have become favorites to lift the World Cup trophy in Qatar this winter
Tite’s side will face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G and should comfortably qualify for the Round of 16.
Ahead of Samba Boys’ friendlies against Ghana and Tunisia next week, sports mail take a look at what the current team has to offer.
A Premier League core
Times have changed since Brazil won the last World Cup in 2002, when 13 of their 23 players played for club football in their home country and none played in the Premier League.
20 years later, the change is evident. Only three of the 26 players in this month’s friendlies squad play in Brazil, while 12 are signed up with English clubs. That’s more representation than any other country.
Four members of the current squad arrived in the Premier League this summer – Manchester United pair Casemiro and Antony, West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta and Nottingham Forest full-back Renan Lodi.
Casemiro and Antony added to Brazilian representation in the Premier League this summer
Premier League representation runs through the entire team. Ederson and Alisson are battling for the No.1 shirt, Thiago Silva is still going strong in defense at 37, Fabinho, Fred and Bruno Guimaraes can form a three-man midfield and Richarlison and Roberto Firmino provide options up front.
There are also the England-based players who weren’t selected this month but could still feature in the World Cup.
Arsenal’s three Gabriels – Jesus, Martinelli and Magalhaes – have been surprise omissions from the squad, while Arthur, Tottenham full-back Emerson Royal and Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho are hoping for recalls.
Attack options galore
The days of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo are over, but Brazil are not lacking in attacking quality in their squad. No less than nine strikers have been selected by Tite for the two friendlies this month.
The battle for the No.9 jersey alone is fierce. Roberto Firmino, Matheus Cunha, Richarlison and Pedro will try to enforce their rights this month in the surprise absence of Gabriel Jesus.
Neymar is guaranteed one of the wider spots, but there is a selection dilemma for Tite on the other side thanks to the emergence of a host of young stars in recent years.
Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus was left out of the squad this month despite his electric club form
Real Madrid duo Rodrygo (21) and Vinicius Junior (22) are options for Brazil
Vinicius Junior, Antony and Rodrygo are all still 22 or younger and offer exciting potential. Raphinha, who is only 25 himself, is seeing his star rise after his summer move to Barcelona.
It’s a sign of the wealth of talent available that Jesus – who scored four goals in his first seven league appearances for Arsenal – hasn’t made this month’s squad as Tite wants to examine closer to other fringe players.
The Gunners star is still expected to be chosen for the World Cup, but in other words – Gareth Southgate reportedly wouldn’t even consider dropping Harry Kane two months before the tournament so he could give opportunities to Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford.
With FIFA increasing the capacity of the Qatar squad from 23 to 26 players, it seems quite likely that Tite will take the opportunity to pack his attacking roster.
Neymar’s quest for glory
Ever since Neymar burst onto the scene as an exciting teenager at Santos, Brazil have pinned their hopes on the striker to win a sixth world title. So far he has not succeeded.
Neymar was on the bill for the World Cup when Brazil hosted the tournament in 2014 and he got off to an electric start – scoring twice in the opener against Croatia, before adding two more goals in the last group game against Cameroon.
But disaster struck in the dying minutes of the quarter-final against Colombia as he suffered a fractured vertebra under a challenge from Juan Zaniga. He missed more than anyone could have imagined in the semi-final as Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany.
Neymar fractured a vertebra in the World Cup quarter-final against Colombia in 2014
In Russia, four years later, the striker netted twice, but his tournament is perhaps best known for his theatrical play – it was revealed he spent a total of 14 minutes on the ground in the five Brazil matches.
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 the Copa America final defeat at home last year.
Without an international honor to his name, one will wonder if he can be considered one of the greatest Brazilian players of all time.
It may not be Neymar’s last World Cup – he will be 34 by the time of the tournament in 2026 – but he surely won’t be at the same level if he plays in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
After starting the season with 11 goals and 8 assists in 11 games with PSG, the great Brazilian hope comes at the right time.
The 30-year-old is still in the hunt for a major international trophy and is in fine form
The battle for #1
No other manager in Qatar will be able to claim to have two better goalkeepers in his team than Tite, who has the unenviable decision to choose between Alisson and Ederson for the No.1 shirt.
Both could easily lay claim to being the best goalkeeper in the world and they have been crucial parts of the Premier League’s top two sides for the past four years.
Since 2018-19, either of the two have won the English top-flight Golden Glove award and last season they shared it with 20 clean sheets each.
Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson offer Brazil two world-class options in goal
Alisson has played the most for Brazil in World Cup qualifying and has always been the favourite. The Liverpool keeper has 55 caps to Ederson’s 18.
During the Copa America last summer, Tite alternated between his team’s three goalkeepers. Ederson played four games (including the quarter-final, semi-final and final), Alisson played twice and even third-choice Weverton received the gloves in a group match.
Maybe it will even get to the point in Qatar that we will see a half-time substitution between the sticks.
A record qualifying campaign
Brazil may owe their World Cup favorites tag to their remarkable qualifying campaign.
Tite’s side went unbeaten in 17 matches, winning 14 and drawing three to set a new record of 45 points in South America qualifying. They have scored 40 goals, scoring four or more goals in a game on six occasions.
They still had a home game against Argentina to play too. FIFA agreed to overturn that after the initial game was suspended just five minutes as Argentina walked away when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch to demand the isolation of four Argentine players accused of breaking quarantine rules.
Ahead of their friendlies this month, Brazil are unbeaten in their last 13 matches since losing the Copa America final to Argentina last year. It’s their only loss in 27 games since November 2019. No one goes to Qatar in better form.
Brazil were unbeaten in their 17 World Cup qualifying matches, winning 14 and drawing three
Titus’ last hurrah?
The Brazilian manager’s position has never been great for job security. Between 1998 and 2016, six different coaches were given the role (including Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga twice) and the majority did not last more than two years in the role.
But Tite went against the grain. The 61-year-old has held the position 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 inherited a team that had just been knocked out of the Copa America group stages and ushered in a new generation of Brazilian talent with relative success.
Tite, 61, will step down as manager after the World Cup, having been in charge for six years
Being eliminated by Belgium in the quarter-finals of the World Cup four years ago was undoubtedly disappointing, but Brazil went on to win the Copa America the following year and reach the final again in 2021.
Tite’s winning percentage as boss currently stands at 75.7%, the best of any Selecao manager since Scolari’s first spell in the early 2000s in which he won the World Cup.
“I’ve won everything in my career and there’s only the World Cup left,” Tite told Brazilian broadcaster SporTV in February.
There couldn’t be a better way out.