Predicting a Route to World Cup Glory for Brazil

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJune 9, 2014

Predicting a Route to World Cup Glory for Brazil

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    Andre Penner/Associated Press

    Pressure is a fact of life when you pull on the shirt of the Brazil national team, with no country's supporters more expectant than the hordes of fans that the Selecao attract to every game.

    Never is that truer than at a World Cup, with the five-time champions always expected to challenge for the title. On home soil, meanwhile, that expectation will be increased dramatically.

    If Brazil are to reach the final and claim success, though, there are a number of stages they will need to overcome first. It will be far from straightforward.

    Hypothetically, then, who will Brazil face in the coming weeks if they are to achieve their ultimate aim?

Group Stage

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    Andre Penner/Associated Press

    The group stage should, in theory, be a formality for tournament favourites Brazil. While Mexico, Cameroon and Croatia are all good sides, none are exceptional, and the hosts certainly have no reason to fear any of the three.

    Opening the tournament well on June 12 will be key to a comfortable ride through the first round, with a win set to calm nerves and relieve any pressure felt by the players heading into the competition.

    Cameroon are unlikely to offer much of a threat, while Brazil also have a strong record against Mexico over the past few years that will see them approach that game in high spirits.

    It will be a major shock if any of the three sides can overcome the Selecao on home soil and disrupt Brazil's World Cup party before it has even begun.

Last 16: Chile

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    Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

    Predicting the outcome of Group B at the World Cup is far from straightforward, with Spain, the Netherlands and Chile all planning on progression to the latter stages. Australia, it is fair to say, are underdogs in the pool.

    Spain will be most people's favourites to top the group given their record in international tournaments over recent years. Louis van Gaal's Netherlands or Chile would then be in a battle to seal second spot and a likely fixture with Brazil.

    Given that the current generation of the Netherlands player is still relatively inexperienced, the high-pressure game of Chile could take La Roja into the knockout rounds—especially given their familiarity with the conditions in South America.

    It is fair to say Brazil would fear Chile more than the Dutch, or possibly even Spain, and Jorge Sampaoli's side would like nothing more than to be the side to ruin the hosts' party.

Quarter-Final: Colombia

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    The reward for overcoming Chile in the last 16 would be a clash between the winners of Group C and the runner-up of Group D. On paper, that would likely mean either Colombia (Group C) or one of Italy, England and Uruguay (Group D).

    Another who will benefit from their familiarity with conditions, it is hard to look past the Colombians to advance if they do indeed top their group. Italy, England and Uruguay are good sides, but none appear anything special ahead of the tournament.

    Los Cafeteros are another side that Brazil would doubtless prefer to avoid at the tournament with their combination of pace, power and skill potentially unsettling to Brazil's occasionally fragile defensive setup.

    It would doubtless be a game to remember, though, with both sides willing to attack in numbers as their primary game plan.

Semi-Final: France

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Once you reach the semi-final stage, the list of potential opponents becomes large.

    However, if France and Germany are considered most likely to top Groups E and G, with South Korea (or Russia) and Nigeria strong candidates for second place in Groups F and H, a France vs. Germany quarter-final would seem a decent bet.

    In that case, while recent tournament form would suggest a German success, it is difficult to look past Les Bleus, who have a far less taxing route to that stage with easier group opponents and less oppressive venues.

    After their dismal tournament in 2010, a semi-final berth would be a great result for France, but they would love to shock Brazil once more to reach a third World Cup final in the past five tournaments.

Final: Argentina

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    Eduardo Di Baia/Associated Press

    In the final itself, the two outstanding candidates to emerge from the other half of the draw are without doubt Argentina and Spain. An all-South American clash with the former, though, is undoubtedly the dream storyline.

    Argentina could not wish for an easier route to the latter stages with minimal travel disruption, no games in the humid north-east and probably the most straightforward group in the competition. If they do not reach the semi-finals at a minimum, it will be a surprise.

    A Superclassico das Americas final, though, would be a mouthwatering proposition and would serve up a Neymar vs. Messi encounter for those who love battles of personalities.

    It would be the perfect script for the final, to be held in one of football's most iconic stadiums, the Maracana.