For a country where only the tag of winners is acceptable, the past 20 years since their fifth World Cup triumph in South Korea & Japan have been disappointing for Brazil. And on one very memorable occasion, embarrasing.
The Selecao have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage in three of the last four World Cups: by France in 2006, Netherlands in 2010 and most recently by Belgium in Russia four years ago.
Yet it is the ghost of 2014 that still has scars which run deep: On home soil, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semi-finals on a chastening night in Belo Horizonte.
However, this crop of Brazilian stars are the favourites with the bookies in Qatar, off the back of a 2019 Copa America triumph and reaching the final of last year’s continental edition. So, can Neymar and Co claim their nation’s sixth title on the world stage? First, they have to progress from Group G, facing Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.
Here is everything you need to know:
Group fixtures (all times GMT)
Thursday 24 November: Brazil vs Serbia – 19:00
Monday 28 November: Brazil vs Switzerland – 16:00
Friday 2 December: Cameroon vs Brazil – 19:00
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras)
Defenders: Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marquinhos (PSG), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Danilo (Juventus), Alex Telles (Sevilla), Bremer (Juventus), Dani Alves (UNAM)
Midfielders: Casemiro (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham), Fred (Manchester United), Fabinho (Liverpool), Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo)
Forwards: Neymar (PSG), Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid), Richarlison (Tottenham Hotspur), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Antony (Manchester United), Raphinha (Barcelona), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Pedro (Flamengo), Rodrygo (Real Madrid)
Ones to watch
Star – Neymar: Still one of the world’s biggest stars, Neymar, 30, is looking to spearhead Brazil’s march to a sixth World Cup for a third time. Past appearances have been shrouded in heartache and controversy: the PSG star was ruled out of the semi-final loss to Germany in 2014 after sustaining a cruel back injury in the quarter-final win against Colombia, while a mixed display in Russia was overshadowed by accusations of play-acting. Will Qatar finally be Neymar’s time to shine?
Breakout talent – Bruno Guimaraes: The Newcastle midfielder, signed from Lyon last January, has been a hit on Tyneside and is highly-regarded at national team level too. He scored his first goal for Brazil earlier this year and with eight caps to his name, the 24-year-old could be the creative key from midfield - an area Brazil are lakcking somewhat - for his country.
Odds (taken from Betfair)
Brazil should comfortably top a group with no real dark horses - and a familiar trio of teams having played them at least once in 2014 or 2018. From there, a tantalising last-16 tie against Portugal or Uruguay could await before an opportunity for revenge perhaps against Germany in the quarter-finals. Whether they have the nous and firepower to beat the European heavyweights in the latter stages - their undoing in the last four World Cups - remains to be seen. Defeated in the final.
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