By the time the 2022 World Cup begins in Qatar, it will have been more than 20 years since Ronaldo’s two goals secured Brazil their fifth World Cup title in 2002. The Seleção’s 2-0 victory over Germany followed a pattern of Europe and South America alternating World Cup victories that stretched back to 1962. In the ten tournaments from 1962 to 1998, the two continents had five wins each.
However, the balance of power has shifted dramatically since that wonderful evening in Yokohama, with the last four victors (Italy, Spain, Germany, and France) all hailing from Europe.
Until Spain’s success in South Africa in 2010, European teams had never won the tournament outside of Europe. Any prospect of normal service being resumed four years later was blasted out of the water in the tournament hosted by Brazil.
The hosts were demolished 7-1 by a rampaging Germany in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte, in what was possibly the most spectacular football encounter to ever take place at the World Cup. The Germans went on to win the tournament by defeating Argentina 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite Olympic and Copa America’s success in the interim, South America’s largest football nation has gone far too long without a World Cup trophy to brag about.
For football fans looking at the best sportsbook promotions ahead of the World Cup, qualifying form is a key source of information, and Brazil’s record in that department has been excellent.
Brazil qualified early in what is always a difficult CONMEBOL qualifying group. With their postponed match against Argentina still to be played, they sit atop the qualification standings with a six-point lead over Argentina, having gone undefeated throughout, and scoring 40 goals.
Huge victories over Uruguay (4-1), Chile, Paraguay (both 4-0), and Bolivia (5-0) showed the imperious form they are in under manager Tite, who has done a good job of establishing defensive discipline while attempting to harness the attacking flair that the nation is famous for, and that the public demands.
Efforts to give Brazil the structure it needs to succeed at the top level of the modern international game have met with some resistance in the past, but Tite has made great progress in this area since he took over the position of head coach, bringing balance and organization to the national set-up.
Brazil has an evident attacking threat in the last third, but they are also a solid defensive unit. Tite expects his players to take advantage of the open spaces in wide areas but also ensures that his squad play with a strong spine in the center, making them formidable opponents.
Brazil currently has one of the finest goalkeepers in the world in Alisson, and while the defense still relies on Thiago Silva and Dani Alves, these two players are defying their years to produce at an exceptional level.
Fabinho, Bruno Guimarães, a surprisingly efficient Fred, and a resurgent Philippe Coutinho are among a talented midfield, and despite his apparent problems with PSG, Neymar remains the spearhead of Brazil’s attack, as his eight goals in qualifying reveal.
Richarlison, Vinícius Jr, Raphinha, Rodrygo, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, and Antony, among others, provide an embarrassment of riches in terms of offensive talent, giving Tite a huge range of options to pick from.
Brazil’s effort to bring the World Cup back to South America will require them to get through a difficult group which includes Serbia, Switzerland, and Cameroon.
Brazil’s opening game on November 25 pits them against Serbia, who will no doubt present a tough challenge, having qualified ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to secure their spot in Qatar.
Next up will be the Swiss on November 28, a game that will bring back memories of their 1-1 draw on the first day of the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Brazil finish off their group games on December 3 against Cameroon, who have a number of world-class stars of their own, including Ajax’s André Onana.
Topping the group would give Brazil a potentially easier second-round game, most likely against Uruguay or Ghana, whereas finishing second could see them pitted against Portugal in the last 16. After that, however, things get tougher, whether they finish first or second, with the likes of Spain, England, France, Germany and Belgium all possible quarter-final and semi-final opponents.
Of course, World Cups rarely go according to form and the path to the final is always a difficult one. But this Brazilian team has the talent and organization to go all the way.