The Brazil national team is synonymous with the FIFA World Cup, their canary-yellow kits having graced some of the most iconic moments in the history of the global showpiece.
The Seleção have won the World Cup the most times (in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) with the best overall performance in the competition, boasting a record of 73 victories from 109 matches played, amassing 237 points, 124 goal difference and only 18 defeats.
The only country to be ever-present at FIFA World Cups arrive Qatar 2022 as No. 1 in the FIFA men’s world ranking, in search of a record-extending sixth title and their first in two decades.
Brazil are the top World Cup favorites of bookmakers after blitzing through the South American qualifiers with an unbeaten record in 17 matches.
From the Brazilian public, there is an expectation, rather than hope of World Cup success. Given they are the only nation to have won the World Cup in four different continents including Europe (Sweden 1958), South America (Chile 1962) – both times with Brazil’s all-time soccer genius Pelé –, twice in North America (Mexico 1970 and USA 1994), and Asia (Korea/Japan 2002).
Tottenham Hotspur forward Richarlison perfectly illustrates the pre-World Cup feeling amongst his compatriots: “There’s nothing better in the world than wearing the shirt of the Brazilian team. It’s this one that scares opponents, and now that the World Cup is coming, it gives butterflies in the stomach,” he told recently Globo.
There is good reason to be excited as ahead of the September 2022 international window, Tite’s men are unbeaten in the 13 matches since losing the 2021 Copa América Final to Argentina. They will kick off their Group G campaign against Serbia on November 24 before facing Switzerland and Cameroon subsequently.
In a game of fine margins, the best tactical plans and the best players in the world do not always guarantee a win. Adapting to situations is often key to achieving results when the expected problems arrive.
So what problems could Brazil encounter in their quest for immortality?
Last Chance Saloon
Realizing the dreams of more than 200 million football-passionate people is of course a nerve-wracking task. Knowing it would be your final opportunity to attain a life-long goal is sure to attract an added bit of pressure.
For many key players in the Brazil team, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a last chance for megastars to finally deliver that much-coveted sixth world title.
There is plenty of individual history to be made in Qatar.
Neymar (74), who has confirmed this would be his last tournament, is likely to have overtaken Pele (77) as Brazil’s all-time record goalscorer before the World Cup begins.
39-year-old Dani Alves could become the oldest Brazilian national team player should he make the squad. Elsewhere, veteran defender Thiago Silva will be 38 and looking to end his much-decorated career on a high.
The winter World Cup will also be the last tournament before manager Tite steps down after leading his country to the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals as well as the 2019 Copa América title.
There is so much riding on victory in Qatar for a number of iconic figures, can overwhelming pressure prove a factor?
Despite the possibility of a record-extending feat, the Seleção also have to deal with the pressure of getting knocked off their historic perch.
Italy and Germany are ‘only’ one World Cup triumph behind Brazil’s five, with four apiece as European nations lead the way with 12 World Cup triumphs to nine from South America. To make matters worse, six of the last eight World Cup trophies have gone to Europe.
After a run of three straight finals, Brazil have failed to win the World Cup in 20 years. Subsequently, they have not reached the World Cup semifinals since, with the sole appearance being that ill-fated 7-1 defeat to Germany – their biggest ever defeat at the World Cup and first home loss in a competitive match since 1975.
In truth, the national team’s popularity has waned in recent years where 51 per cent of Brazilians say the World Cup does not interest them, according to a recent poll from the Datafolha institute.
Brazil’s is a star-studded squad filled with intense competition for spots right from the goalkeeper to forward positions. While that is of course an enviable advantage, it could also prove the downfall of a team.
Tite’s squad will go to Qatar as one of the favorites, with an all-star roster of players including Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Casemiro and Fabinho, as well as two of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers in Alisson and Ederson. To win the World Cup will perhaps take a united and mentally strong group that is ready to work for one another and put egos aside, rather than one with the most star power.
Brazil no doubt have all the tools to go all the way in Qatar. However, balancing that level of expectation will certainly be the decisive factor for Tite.