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Brazil dream of ending World Cup drought with a vibrant return squad to write its own history

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2 years of World Cup history, five titles but none in two decades. It doesn’t take a math whiz to determine that Brazil is due.

The current break between triumphs is the longest since that between Pelé’s last, in 1970, and the Selecao victory in the United States in 1994. That gap, however, still included the top four finishes in 1974 and 1978, as well as the brilliant team. from 1982, perhaps the greatest not to have won the tournament.

Since Cafu lifted the trophy in Yokohama 20 years ago, Brazil have only reached one semi-final and, in hindsight, would probably have preferred to skip that one. For the first time in generations, a Brazilian World Cup triumph is beyond the living memory of some of its players, like Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr and Gabriel Martinelli then still in diapers.

“The fact that we won in 2002 is a great inspiration to all of us,” Thiago Silva, who, on the other hand, was of smoking age, said yesterday. “In our training center there are images of the team of 2002 and also of all the other teams that have made football history. This gives us the confidence and the motivation to write our own history.

That Brazil come to Qatar as favorites doesn’t mean much, but there seems to be substance to a status they acquire almost by default. Brazil have lost just once in 28 games since the start of 2020 – last year’s Copa America final against Argentina – and look at the in-form team of the planet, even more after that Lionel Messi & Co were upset by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

Neymar remains Brazil’s biggest star but is now part of the senior squad, along with Thiago Silva

/ Reuters

The result was probably as loudly acclaimed in Rio as it was in Riyadh, but came with a caveat, with Tite himself having expressed doubts about the increasingly insular nature of continental international football which has left his Brazilian side without much exposure to teams beyond South America since the last Worlds. Cup.

There is, for now, serenity surrounding Tite’s squad at this tournament, fueled by the unprecedented stability of his coaching position, the first Brazil manager not to deliver a World Cup and to don’t lose your job before the start of the next one.

“It’s a paradigm shift, it’s not common,” he said. “Brazil has a deep passion for football, but it’s a change that gives me time to fully implement my ideas and, therefore, I have a better chance of succeeding. Maybe I have luck – other great managers might be here.”

On paper they are mostly a hardened and experienced squad, but on the touch there is a new dynamism, offered by a young cabal of forwards – Martinelli, 21, Rodrygo, 21, Vinicius, 22 Antony, 22, Richarlison, 25, Raphinha, 25, Gabriel Jesus, a 26-year-old baby – almost all of whom are playing at a World Cup for the first time. Together they offer the appeal of being a return to the Brazilian side of fun, flavor and flair, after the disappointments of more functional outfits in recent tournaments. At 30, Neymar is still the star, but also now the oldest among them.

The young attackers offer the appeal of being a Brazilian returning team full of fun, flavor and flair

“The best part of it is that he has no vanity,” Silva said yesterday, an assertion that raises eyebrows. “The team welcomed the youngsters with open arms. In my opinion, they will help Neymar, because they can share the responsibilities. Our forwards are great in one-on-one situations, and that can open space for Neymar between the lines, where he’s deadly.

It won’t be as easy as in previous tournaments for Brazil to unite behind Neymar, the messiah figure on which hopes of the last two World Cups rested almost solely. During a hard-fought and nation-dividing presidential election campaign, the Paris Saint-Germain striker threw his support behind far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Many Brazilians feel betrayed and will find it difficult to give the same support to their former idol.

Bolsonaro, who was eventually ousted by former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last month, has also taken on the iconic yellow national jersey as a political symbol, tarnishing it so much that the club’s blue change stripe he team sold out faster when the new kits were released earlier this year.

Brazilian election cycles always culminate in World Cup years, but this unique winter tournament means that, unusually, the outcome is already known. The hope is that a victory here will prove the beginning of a national healing process.

“I can tell the fans that they can believe in us because from inside we have no worries and we are ready to deliver a great World Cup,” Silva added. “Of course the title is a long way off, but it doesn’t cost anything to dream that we can win.”


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