GROUP A
Brazil

60-second overview

In 2011, FourFourTwo speculated that Brazilian football was dead. They were so bad they were bringing Kleberson back – and losing to England. But hope reemerged for the Seleção at the 2013 Confederations Cup, when they destroyed Spain, led by a thrilling Neymar and an electric crowd. Now the former underdogs are favourites to lift the World Cup on July 13 at the Maracanã, the same place where they shockingly lost the 1950 edition. Can Brazil overcome the pressure and their lack of international experience? It depends a lot on coach “Big Phil” Scolari, who has rebuilt the team in the image of Bayern Munich, rather than a Brazil of old.

The dream

To repeat the dashing performances of the Confederations Cup and win the World Cup Final against Argentina: having Neymar as the star of a jogo bonito team, beating their biggest rival in Rio, and overcoming the trauma of the Maracanazo is what every Brazil fan yearns for. Bonus points for a Brazilian ‘Hand of God’, and if Botafogo’s Jefferson takes the No. 1 shirt, it will be even more iconic. As a black keeper, he’d be the perfect symbolic replacement for Barbosa, who endured racism because of the two goals he conceded to Uruguay back in 1950.

The nightmare

Anything less than the title is a nightmare for Brazilians, but the thought of losing the final at the Maracanã – or losing to Uruguay – makes Brazilians shudder double. Seeing Argentina emerge as champions and Messi hailed as the best player ever would also be awful, as would being scored against by the most hated man in Brazil, Spain’s Diego Costa. Seeing Germany play traditionally Brazilian-style football as Brazil plays German-style will hurt; having the tournament tainted by violent protests or bad organisation would be embarrassing. Neymar getting injured or Pele tipping them for glory – always a curse – can also be done without.

The Stats
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Player most likely to…

Kiss a fan in traffic: Fred

Brazil’s No. 9 was minding his own business when a beautiful brunette stopped her motorcycle next to his car. She begged for a kiss: he followed his instincts and scored. A friend filmed it all.

Player most likely to…

Wear bizarre hats: Dani Alves

After Brazil beat South Africa 5-0, the full-back took a swipe at Scolari’s predecessor. “Now people look at the bench and see a champion,” he said. Mano Menezes replied, deadpan: “I like his hats.” Everyone agreed.

Player most likely to…

Become Madonna’s toy boy: Hulk

Pop star Madonna loves World Cup sex symbols. The first Brazilian to get that honour was 1994 champion Rai. Zenit’s Hulk is the women’s favourite that could be adopted by the American.

Did you know?
Captain Thiago Silva had tuberculosis during his spell at Dinamo Kiev and doctors said in 2005 that his career was over. After one year of treatment, he moved to Fluminense.

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On home soil, Brazil are the team to beat this summer. Neymar’s going to own the skills on the pitch. Il joga bonito!