2014 World Cup Preview: Brazil
The Samba Sensation enter World Cup 2014 as the odds-on favorite to lift the trophy, but will home-soil advantage and a flashy style of football enable the Brazilians to reign supreme in the world’s most prestigious tournament? Can a cast of world-class individuals come together and reclaim the first nation of football’s birthright as kings of the sport?
The Brazilians are always pegged as one of the favorites in any international competition, but the country’s dreams of lifting the most illustrious trophy in the game were dashed at the previous two World Cup Finals, where Brazil‘s pursuit of greatness came to a screeching halt in the quarterfinals in both 2006 and 2010.
After winning the 2013 Confederations Cup, Brazil looks to be headed in the right direction once again. A group of talented individuals will look to lead a new generation to greatness, but the Brazilians have to hope talent trumps experience as the Selecao are largely inexperienced on the biggest stage in the sport.
The players to watch for the host nation consist of a trio who are capable of scoring goals, but are also prone to fading at crucial junctures in the game.
Neymar is a player who is no stranger to the theatrics of the game and is the unquestioned leader of this squad heading into the tournament, but will his flamboyant style of play translate in a “grind it out” type of game? Oscar endured a roller coaster season for his club side Chelsea as he played a critical role to the team’s success early in the campaign, but faded by season’s end and was continually left out of Jose Mourinho‘s side in the most important games of the year.
Paulinho may not be the most recognizable player in the Brazilian side, but is arguably the most important as the fiery midfielder serves as the triggerman on counterattacks, and provides another attacking option to a team that is lethal on offense.
As the host nation, the Brazilians will see action on opening day of the tournament as they open group play in what is a very manageable draw. Brazil’s opening game comes against a Croatia side that will be without their star forward, Mario Mandzukic, who is suspended for receiving a red card in the country’s last qualifying game.
In the second group game, Brazil meets a Mexican squad they dispatched just a year ago by a score of 2-0 in the Confederations Cup. Lastly, Brazil will face a Cameroon team that has the ability to score in bunches, but has a defense that leaves something to be desired.
Brazil has the pedigree of a champion and a manageable path to the finals, but will the home-soil be an advantage or a detriment as the team feels the weight of a whole nation on its back? The country is seeking its sixth overall World Cup trophy, but first since 2002.
Prediction: The Brazilians should breeze through to the semifinals of the tournament, but will ultimately meet their match when they face a tough European side in either Germany or France. While there is an obvious advantage of playing at home, there is also the downside of having all the pressure, and Brazil’s stars will be too young and too fragile to handle it.
Greg Douglas is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.