Brazil FIFA 2014 World Cup Team Guide

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IMay 21, 2014

Brazil FIFA 2014 World Cup Team Guide

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    Brazil will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer for the second time in their history, with pressure falling upon Luiz Felipe Scolari and his 23-man squad to banish the ghosts of their 1950 failure.

    The Selecao are widely tipped to claim the title on home soil following their success in the warm-up competition that is the Confederations Cup last summer. This time around, though, the opposition is greater in both quality and quantity.

    Big Phil won Brazil their last world title 12 years ago and is more aware than anybody of the challenges that lie ahead. He can only do so much, with the players also needing to show their worth when the pressure really begins to mount.

    Much attention is already turning to rising passions around the country as the event nears, and last summer, Brazil were able to harness that tension to their benefit. Doing so once again could be key to their chances of success.

    A sixth world title, though, is seen by many as the absolute minimum expectation.

Road to the Finals

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    Brazil qualified for the 2014 World Cup by virtue of being the host nation, so they have therefore had four years of largely noncompetitive action as preparation for the event.

    That said, it had appeared that things were going far from according to plan when coach Mano Menezes was sacked just 18 months ahead of the competition due to a poor showing at the 2011 Copa America and defeat in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games.

    The response under Scolari over the intervening time period has been nothing short of admirable, with Brazil coming together as a unit in just half a year to claim the Confederations Cup title with victories over Italy, Uruguay and Spain.

    After that success, they are many people's favourites for the World Cup this summer and will enter the tournament full of confidence in their own ability. The question is: Can they handle the intense pressure that awaits?


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    Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Gremio)

    Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (Roma), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Maxwell (Paris Saint-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli)

    Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Paulinho (Tottenham), Ramires (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Oscar (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Hernanes (Internazionale), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)

    Forwards: Fred (Fluminense), Neymar (Barcelona), Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg), Jo (Atletico Mineiro).

    Read a full player-by-player guide on Bleacher Report.

Manager Profile: Luiz Felipe Scolari

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    Prior to retaking the Brazil head coach position last year, Scolari's career had been in decline. Sacked as Palmeiras' manager after leading them toward an eventual relegation, there were many who wrote him off as backward after a series of disappointments.

    Scolari, though, has done magnificently thus far, winning the Confederations Cup and fostering a clearly wonderful spirit among his squad. The "Scolari Family" bond that took Brazil to world glory in 2002 is back.

    Spells at Chelsea and Palmeiras may have ended in disappointing fashion, but Scolari had previously done sterling work in taking Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 and fourth place at the 2006 World Cup. He clearly knows how to manage an international side.

    Scolari works on principles of trust and respect with his squad, basing his selection largely on how players have performed for him in the past rather than club form. He is an entertaining figure in press conferences and will be prominent in the media over the weeks ahead. Only a world title, though, will satisfy the demanding Brazilian public.

Star Man: Neymar

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    Brazil is a country that produces footballing icons like no other, churning out a seemingly incessant stream of players who capture the imagination with both their skill and charisma on the field.

    The latest in line to the throne is Barcelona forward Neymar—the man who in 2011 led Santos to their first Copa Libertadores title since the days of Pele and who lit up the Confederations Cup.

    In Spain, he is yet to hit the heights that he is clearly capable of.

    Neymar has appeared destined to reach the very highest level of football since he first burst onto the scene in 2009 and his performances last summer signalled his arrival at that level in the eyes of many. It is clear, though, that he is not yet on a par with the very best in the world.

    For his country, it is a different story. In a team centred around his innovation and creativity in attack, Neymar is perfectly at ease. He is the undisputed leading light of the side and thrives under that scrutiny. He craves the attention.

    His record of 30 goals in 47 international appearances while still only 22 has him on course to challenge the tallies of even Pele and Ronaldo over the course of his career, with his ration of two goals every three games exceptional.

    What would be sure to propel him to the status of Brazilian legend is if he were able to inspire success this summer, and that is very much the task now at hand for the young star.

1 to Watch: Bernard

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    In truth, there are few risks taken in Brazil's World Cup squad, with the majority of younger players already vastly experienced and widely respected throughout the game.

    The one younger talent who remains relatively unproven at the highest level is Shakhtar Donetsk's Bernard, and having beaten Lucas Moura to a squad place, he will need to justify his inclusion.

    Bernard shot to prominence as part of an Atletico Mineiro side that shone over the course of the 2012 and early 2013 seasons. Alongside veteran Ronaldinho, he helped inspire Galo to a second-place league finish before securing a famous Copa Libertadores title.

    Those successes were enough to earn him a move to Europe, with Shakhtar beating off Premier League opposition to claim his signature.

    A diminutive figure at just 5'5" tall, Bernard's acceleration and low centre of gravity make him a nightmare to defend against. Add in no shortage of skill and you have a potentially lethal combination.

    His first season in Ukraine has been far from ideal, with competition for places intense and recent off-the-pitch issues in the country proving a distraction. In his brief international career to date, though, he has made a real impact although largely as a substitute.

    He is highly unlikely to start for his country this summer, but he could be a match-winner from the bench against tiring defences.

World Cup Record

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    No team can compete with the might of Brazil when it comes to World Cup pedigree, with the Selecao having emerged victorious on an impressive five occasions.

    From their third triumph in four tournaments in 1970, though, they were forced to wait 24 years until Dunga's side could lift the trophy once more. That win was the cue for three consecutive final appearances, winning two.

    Brazil's last two tournaments have ended in disappointment at the quarterfinal stage. That result will not be tolerated this summer.

    Uruguay 1930: Group stage

    Italy 1934: Group stage

    France 1938: Third place

    Brazil 1950: Runner-up

    Switzerland 1954: Quarterfinals

    Sweden 1958: Champions

    Chile 1962: Champions

    England 1966: Group stage

    Mexico 1970: Champions

    Germany 1974: Fourth place

    Argentina 1978: Third place

    Spain 1982: Round 2

    Mexico 1986: Quarterfinals

    Italy 1990: Round of 16

    United States of America 1994: Champions

    France 1998: Runner-up

    South Korea and Japan 2002: Champions

    Germany 2006: Quarterfinals

    South Africa 2010: Quarterfinals

Group Fixtures

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    As far as the draw is concerned, Brazil will be more than content with the group that awaits them this summer in the knowledge that they face three good but beatable sides.

    Scolari's side will fear none of their opponents, but they will expect difficulty in overcoming all three which should prepare them well for challenges later in the competition.

    Perhaps a key to success will be a good start against Croatia in the tournament opener, with a win set to hand momentum for the remaining ties. They will hope to have a second-round place more or less assured prior to taking on Cameroon on Matchday 3.

    Brazil vs. Croatia

    June 12

    Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

    Brazil vs. Mexico

    June 17

    Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza

    Cameroon vs. Brazil

    June 23

    Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, Brasilia