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FIFA World Cup 2018: With Neymar fit and other key players showing form, Brazil are favourites to clinch title for 6th time

The beautiful game, Brazil and the FIFA World Cup. For years, all three have complemented each other so well and as a result, the South American nation have won football's ultimate trophy for a record five times. For the sceptics, Brazil's football may not be beautiful anymore, but looking at their squad for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia, the team can certainly be termed as favourites to clinch the World Cup for the sixth time.

Coached by Tite, Brazil's squad boast some of the world's best players, who are playing at some of the world's best football clubs. PSG's Neymar is counted among the game's best attackers. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker can give David de Gea a run for his money when it comes to deciding the world's best goalkeeper. Marcelo is probably world's most attacking full-back. Casemiro – for Real Madrid and Fernandinho – for Manchester City, played pivotal roles in their respective clubs winning important titles last season. Philippe Coutinho's talent prompted Barcelona to bring him in to replace the legendary Andres Iniesta. And Gabriel Jesus' finishing skills is right up there.

Quality was never an issue for Brazil in their footballing history and it's no different for next month's World Cup.

Quality was never an issue for Brazil in their footballing history and it's no different for next month's World Cup. Art by Rajan Gaikwad

Quality was never an issue for Brazil in their footballing history and it's no different for next month's World Cup. Art by Rajan Gaikwad

With 12 victories out of 18 matches, and losing just one in the process, Brazil topped the South Americans qualifiers for the Russia event. The defeat came in their very first match of the qualifiers at the hands of Chile, but since then, Brazil enjoyed a comfortable run. Everything was smooth until Neymar sustained a serious foot injury in February while playing for PSG. His injury came just months ahead of the World Cup and he was racing against time to get fit for the event. Neymar completed his rehabilitation just in time and ensured that he doesn't miss the tournament. He made a substitute appearance in Brazil's friendly against Croatia last week and even got on the scoresheet.

With Neymar back to full fitness, Brazil's morale is certainly up but Tite faces quite a few selection dilemmas, especially in attack. Under Tite, Brazil have employed a 4-3-3 formation for the majority of the games and it's unlikely that he will shift from the system. Neymar's recovery from injury means he's a sure starter on the left with Jesus occupying the central role. The Manchester City forward is heavily favoured by Tite, but Roberto Firmino's sensational form with Liverpool has ensured that he's not to be ignored. Firmino also made things difficult for Tite by scoring against Croatia.

Against Croatia, Willian started on the right and impressed with his pace and trickery. But in the qualifiers, Coutinho started on the right for Tite and the formation worked brilliantly for Brazil. Tite can opt to play Coutinho in the centre and Willian on the right, but considering the stature of the former and his preferred position, Tite wouldn't want to take that risk in a big tournament. At least for the initial part of the tournament, Willian will aim to make an impact coming off the bench.

The midfield will most likely be comprised of Casemiro, Fernandinho and Paulinho. Casemiro will have the holding midfield duty while Fernadinho will look to up the ante when it comes to tackling and breaking opposition's play. Paulinho started on a positive note after making his move from China's Guangzhou Evergrande to Barcelona last season, but as the season progressed, he didn't quite live up to the hype. However, Paulinho operates well in a box-to-box role and also have a good working relationship with Tite. Both worked together at Corinthians previously and the familiarity might put him ahead of others.

There's no doubt about Marcelo and his attacking abilities but as often seen in last season for Real Madrid, he was not quite at his best when it comes to defending. This a problem area for Brazil and opposition teams will look to take an advantage from the left. Dani Alves' injury before the World Cup means City's Danilo will have to step up. Alves' experience would've given some confidence to Tite but judging by Danilo's performance against Croatia, he's is up to the task. Thiago Silva is not the same player as he was in the last World Cup and Marquinhos has done a good job for Brazil. Marquinhos will be partnered with Inter Milan's Miranda. Alisson will be the goalkeeper for Brazil in Russia, but they are fortunate enough they are to have a backup option in the form of Ederson.

Last World Cup was supposed to belong to Brazil considering they were playing at home. Despite reaching the semi-final, Brazil's World Cup is defined by the humiliating 1-7 defeat against Germany. It was one of the lowest moments in the history of the Brazilian football. Brazil's current team is definitely a notch better than the one that played in the previous World Cup. What's also positive for Brazil is that the players, too, have been in good form ahead of such an important tournament. Tite will hope that his players will maintain the form throughout the World Cup and deliver them the title they missed out last time.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Cassio

Defenders: Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marquinhos, Geromel, Fagner, Danilo, Marcelo, Filipe Luiz

Midfielders: Casemiro, Fred, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, Fernandinho, Willian, Coutinho

Forwards: Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa, Taison

Click here for comprehensive coverage of FIFA World Cup 2018


Updated Date: Jun 11, 2018 17:38 PM

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