In 2014, it's World Cup victory or disappointment for Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Brazil have suffered deflating quarterfinal defeats in the last two tournaments, but expectations remain through the roof. No country in the world has more passion for the beautiful game, and when you combine that illustrious history with an abundance of talent surging through the roster and a significant advantage as hosts, there is only one acceptable outcome:
Lifting the World Cup trophy for a record sixth time.
Still, midfielder Willian believes the presence of the devoted-but-demanding Brazilian faithful will provide more emotional boost than nerve-wracking pressure, as reported by Reuters.com's Tatiana Ramil:
I like to think that playing at home will be beneficial to Brazil, that the support of fans and family will give us a boost like it did in the Confederations Cup.
I think the pressure will be on our opponents, who will have to face Brazil at home with the support of the home crowd.
While that's probably true, Selecao remain the team with easily the most pressure over the next month. Let's take a closer look at the squad responsible for living up to those lofty expectations.
|GK||Julio Cesar||Toronto FC (On Loan from QPR)|
|DEF||Thiago Silva||Paris St. Germain|
|DEF||Maxwell||Paris St. Germain|
|DEF||Filipe Luis*||Atletico Madrid|
|MID||Luiz Gustavo||VfL Wolfsburg|
|FW||Hulk||Zenit St. Petersburg|
|FW||Alan Kardec*||Sao Paulo|
If nothing else, Brazil will be incredibly exciting on the attack.
Neymar, who is fresh off tallying 15 goals and 11 assists across all competition in his first season with Barcelona, is one of the most spectacular talents in the world. As he made clear during Brazil's 2013 romp through the Confederations Cup, the 22-year-old's creativity, skill and deadly pace give him the potential to take over games.
No matter where he lines up, his ability to create will be crucial because in a very un-Brazil-like fashion, there is no dominant, experienced striker up front. While talented, Jo and Fred aren't exactly the most reliable pair of front men.
That said, not many teams will score more goals than Brazil, who poured in 2.8 per match during the Confederations Cup. Dangerous playmakers like Hulk, Oscar, Paulinho and Bernard will join Neymar interchangeably throughout the attacking midfield, while the speed of holding midfielders Fernandinho and Willian make Selecao absolutely explosive on the counterattack.
A lack of World Cup experience won't matter much. The speed and technical ability surging through this roster means there is potential for fireworks every time Scolari's bunch take the pitch in front of the home crowd.
|Thur, June 12||Croatia||W, 3-1|
|Tue, June 17||Mexico||W, 2-1|
|Mon, June 23||Cameroon||W, 2-0|
|9 Points, First in Group|
The draw couldn't have gone much better for the World Cup favorites.
Mexico fell apart during World Cup qualification, losing three of their last four CONCACAF meetings and needing a playoff win over New Zealand just to book a ticket here. They have looked better since the hiring of Miguel Herrera, but a serious injury to Luis Montes had El Tri looking stale against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Croatia took a similar path, faltering in Europe before winning a playoff against tiny Iceland. They are also under new leadership.
How many points will Brazil tally in group play?
Cameroon was solid in World Cup qualifying, but Les Lions Indomptables haven't made it out of the group stage since 1990.
This sets up perfectly for Brazil. Selecao are extremely talented and capable of hoisting the trophy in Rio de Janeiro. But they are fairly young in spots and haven't played a competitive match in a year, as they didn't have to qualify. This draw gives them an opportunity to get rid of the nerves, adjust to the non-friendly pace and find a cohesive rhythm without much chance of slipping up.
Using the first three matches to get in form will be crucial, too, because one of Spain, Netherlands and Chile will likely be waiting in the Round of 16.