WORLD CUP: A quintet of reasons why you should consider avoiding backing the five-time champions at Qatar this winter.
World Number One Curse
Brazil currently find themselves heading our Qatar 2022 Outright Market and top of the tree in the FIFA World Rankings, but this may actually be more of a hindrance, if previous World Cup patterns are to be continued. None of the last five World Cup winners have been ranked World No.1 heading into the tournament. In fact, the lowest ranked winner over the last 20 years were Italy in 2006, when they triumphed against the odds at a world ranking of 13. The average ranking of winners since Brazil won in 2002 is fifth.
Additionally, no top ranked country has even reached the final in that same time. The Netherlands side of 2010 are the lowest ranked to go home with a silver medal (4th), in contrast to Croatia who were 20th in the world when they lost out in 2018 to France. This shows that whilst it’s the norm in sports such as tennis and golf for the cream to rise to the top in Grand Slams and Majors respectively, the same doesn’t necessarily apply to International Football.
Route To The Final
If Brazil are going to reclaim the Jules Rimet Trophy in Qatar, then they are certainly going to have to do it the hard way. For starters, their group includes a pair of banana skin matches against Serbia and Switzerland. The Swiss rank 15th in the world and their squad include familiar Premier League names such as Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Fabian Schar (Newcastle) and Manuel Akanji (Man City), each of whom is enjoying a great season.
Serbia find themselves only a few spots behind in the rankings, 21st overall, and will be looking to their pair of star strikers Aleksander Mitrovic (Fulham) and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus) to cause an upset. Elsewhere, Cameroon make up Group G, and will be seen as the weakest team amongst that quartet, but we all know how much they can come alive in World Cups.
Assuming Brazil top Group G, they will play the runners-up of Group H, which will most likely be either Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, or one of Brazil’s South American foes – Uruguay. Either one of these outcomes will provide a stern test for Tite’s men. Should they come through it, the most likeliest scenario is that they would then face Germany (or Croatia).
The Germans may not be the force they once were, currently 11th in the World Rankings, but their squad will still feature the usual suspects from Bayern Munich, as well as Antonio Rudiger and Ilkay Gundogan. Will the demons of 2014 resurface?
Making it to the semi-final will probably be seen back home as the bare minimum for this Brazilian squad, but their fans will become even more demanding should they be squaring up with fierce rivals Argentina in the final four. Based off our projection, the alternative would be the Netherlands, so take your pick.
Argentina toppled Brazil in the 2021 Copa America Final last July, whilst both teams played out a scoreless draw a few months later in November. It’s clear Lionel Messi’s side are Neymar and co.’s bogey team.
Should Brazil defeat their nemesis and reach the showpiece, they’ll most likely come up against defending champions France, in a repeat of the 1998 Final. The French are arguably the only side in the tournament who can compete with Brazil when it comes to both squad depth and quality.
Raphael Varane, Antoinne Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé may each be having strange seasons with their clubs, but that trio tend to deliver on the big stage for their national side. You’d be brave to bet against Les Blues making it back-to-back successes.
Topping Group G: Uruguay -> Germany -> Argentina -> France
Group G Runners-up: Portugal -> Spain -> France -> Argentina
Tite may be blessed with a plethora of options in midfield, attack, and even between the sticks, but the same cannot be said across the backline. Specifically in the full-back areas. This lack of quality has forced the manager to experiment with a multitude of options, none of which are particularly impressive.
During their most recent run of four friendlies spread across June and September, Brazil used four different combinations at wing-back. Alex Telles and Dani Alves occupied the left and right flanks respectively on two occasions, yet never together. Guilherme Arana (Atlético Mineiro) and Alex Sandro (Juventus) came in for Telles for the other two games, whilst Eder Militao (Real Madrid) and Danilo (Juventus) replaced veteran Alves.
More tinkering took place earlier this year during the World Cup Qualifiers, but the trends suggest Tite’s first choice pairing in the full-back positions is Telles and Alves, who will have a combined age of 68 at the start of Qatar 2022. Throw in the centre-half partnership of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, and you have a backline who’s average age is 33.5 years. How will Telles and Alves cope against the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Serge Gnabry, Julian Alvarez and Rafael Leao?
How Brazil might lineup:
The Neymar Conundrum
Despite a squad filled with Champions League, Premier League and La Liga winners, there is no denying that the star of this show is still undoubtedly Neymar. The PSG trickster will still be haunted by his early exit in 2014 due to injury, and will be determined to prove the doubters wrong. But at what cost?
It’s easy to imagine a situation where he reverts to type by hogging the ball and attempting to win the game single handedly, forgetting the talent that surrounds him. He has always wanted to get out of Messi’s shadow, but how far will he go to do that during the Argentinian’s final World Cup appearance?
What’s more, as we are beginning to look ahead to Qatar, the former Barcelona attacker is currently facing alleged corruption charges in a court in Spain. How will this affect him? What will his frame of mind be like? Only time will tell, but it is far from the optimum preparation for the now thirty year-old.
Big Game Failures
It’s hard to imagine that a country who has won five World Cups could be considered failures when it comes to the big occasions, but that is the case since Brazil’s last crowning glory in 2002. If you look at the teams they have dispatched, compared to those they have been knocked out by, and there is a clear gap in quality. Check out the table below showing their fixtures from their last four World Cup campaigns.
|Group||Costa Rica||Mexico||Ivory Coast||Australia|
The five games highlighted in yellow are those that you would not necessarily expect Brazil to win. Barring a 0-0 draw with Portugal in the group stage in 2010, the Selecao have been eliminated every time they have been pitted against a side of similar class and quality. It’s reminiscent of a Premier League side who can beat the bottom half clubs week in week out, but hold a terrible record when facing any of the ‘Big Six’.
Given the potential routes to the final mentioned earlier, and with this history against the more established nations, it’s almost impossible to envisage Brazil going all the way.