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A Premier League core and Neymar’s quest for glory. Meet the Brazil team targeting a sixth World Cup

Brazil are etched in football history as five-time World Cup winners, but they have not lifted the famous trophy since 2002.

The Selecao have progressed past the quarter-finals in just one of the last four World Cups, and on the occasion they did, they were thumped 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals at home in 2014.

But with less than two months to go until the start of this year’s tournament in Qatar, Brazil have emerged as the favorites to go all the way and add a sixth star to their badge.

Brazil have become favorites to lift the trophy at the World Cup in Qatar this winter
Brazil have become favorites to lift the trophy at the World Cup in Qatar this winter

Brazil have become favorites to lift the trophy at the World Cup in Qatar this winter

Tite’s side face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G and are expected to comfortably progress to the knockout stages.

Ahead of the Samba Boys’ friendlies against Ghana and Tunisia next week, Sports mail takes a look at what the current team has to offer.

A Premier League core

Times have changed since Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, with 13 of their 23-man squad playing their club football in their homeland and none starring in the Premier League.

20 years later, the change is clearly visible. Only three of the 26-man squad for this month’s friendlies play in Brazil, while 12 are on the books of English clubs. That is more representation than any other country.

Four members of the current squad arrived in the Premier League this summer – Manchester United pair Casemiro and Antony, West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta and Nottingham Forest full-back Renan Lodi.

Casemiro and Antony added to the Brazilian representation in the Premier League this summer
Casemiro and Antony added to the Brazilian representation in the Premier League this summer

Casemiro and Antony added to the Brazilian representation in the Premier League this summer

Premier League representation runs all the way through the team. Ederson and Alisson are battling for the No.1 shirt, Thiago Silva is still going strong in defense at 37, Fabinho, Fred and Bruno Guimaraes can form a midfield three, and Richarlison and Roberto Firmino offer options up front.

There are also the English-based players who were not selected this month but could still feature at the World Cup.

Arsenal’s three Gabriels – Jesus, Martinelli and Magalhaes – were surprise omissions from the squad, while Liverpool loanee Arthur, Tottenham full-back Emerson Royal and Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho will be hoping for recalls.

Attack options galore

The days of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo are over, but Brazil do not lack attacking quality in their squad. No fewer than nine strikers were selected by Tite for the two friendlies this month.

The battle for the No. 9 shirt alone is tough. Roberto Firmino, Matheus Cunha, Richarlison and Pedro will look to stake their claim this month in Gabriel Jesus’ surprise absence.

Neymar is guaranteed one of the places, but there is a selection dilemma for Tite at the other end thanks to the emergence of a host of young stars in recent years.

Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus was left out of the squad this month despite his electric club form
Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus was left out of the squad this month despite his electric club form

Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus was left out of the squad this month despite his electric club form

Rodrygo has scored once in five international matches for Brazil
Rodrygo has scored once in five international matches for Brazil
His Real Madrid teammate Vinicius Junior is another option for Brazil in attack
His Real Madrid teammate Vinicius Junior is another option for Brazil in attack

The Real Madrid couple Rodrygo (21) and Vinicius Junior (22) are out of options for Brazil

Vinicius Junior, Antony and Rodrygo are all still 22 or younger and offer plenty of exciting potential. Raphinha, who is only 25 himself, is seeing his star rise following his summer move to Barcelona.

It is a sign of the wealth of talent available that Jesus – who has four goals in his first seven league games for Arsenal – has not included this month’s squad as Tite wants to look at more fringe players.

The Gunners star is still expected to be selected for the World Cup, but put it this way – Gareth Southgate wouldn’t even have considered dropping Harry Kane two months before the tournament so he could give opportunities to Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford.

With FIFA increasing the squad capacity for Qatar from 23 to 26 players, there seems a pretty good chance that Tite will take advantage of that to pack his roster with strikers.

Neymar’s quest for glory

Ever since Neymar burst onto the scene as an exciting teenager at Santos, Brazil have pinned their hopes on the striker to deliver a sixth World Cup. So far he has not succeeded.

Neymar was the World Cup poster boy when Brazil hosted the tournament in 2014 and he got off to an electric start – scoring twice in the opening game against Croatia before adding two more goals in the final group game against Cameroon.

But disaster struck in the dying minutes of the quarter-final against Colombia when he suffered a fractured vertebra under a challenge from Juan Zaniga. He was missed more than anyone could have imagined in the semi-final when Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany.

Neymar suffered a broken vertebra in the World Cup quarter-final against Colombia in 2014
Neymar suffered a broken vertebra in the World Cup quarter-final against Colombia in 2014

Neymar suffered a broken vertebra in the World Cup quarter-final against Colombia in 2014

In Russia four years later, the forward scored twice, but his tournament is perhaps remembered more for his theatrics – it was revealed he spent a total of 14 minutes on the ground in Brazil’s five games.

Brazil won the Copa America in 2019, but Neymar missed the entire tournament due to injury, so his personal quest for glory continues in earnest; especially after defeat in the Copa America final at home last year.

Without an international honor to his name, there will be questions as to whether he can be considered among Brazil’s greatest ever players.

This may not be Neymar’s last World Cup – he will be 34 when the tournament kicks off in 2026 – but he certainly won’t be at the same level playing in the US, Canada and Mexico.

After starting the season with 11 goals and eight assists in 11 games for PSG, the Brazilian’s big hope is to hit form at just the right time.

The 30-year-old is still in the hunt for a major international trophy and is in red-hot form
The 30-year-old is still in the hunt for a major international trophy and is in red-hot form

The 30-year-old is still in the hunt for a major international trophy and is in red-hot form

The battle for No. 1

No other manager in Qatar can claim to have two better goalkeepers in their squad than Tite, who has the enviable decision to choose between Alisson and Ederson for the No.1 shirt.

Both could easily lay claim to being the best goalkeeper in the world and have been crucial components of the Premier League’s top two teams over the last four years.

Since 2018-19, one or the other of the pair has won the English top-flight’s Golden Glove award, and last season they shared it with 20 clean sheets each.

Liverpool's Alisson and Manchester City's Ederson offer Brazil two world-class options in goal
Liverpool's Alisson and Manchester City's Ederson offer Brazil two world-class options in goal

Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson offer Brazil two world-class options in goal

Alisson played mostly for Brazil in the World Cup qualifiers and has historically been preferred. Liverpool’s shot stopper has 55 caps compared to Ederson’s 18.

At the Copa America last summer, Tite rotated between all three goalkeepers in his team. Ederson played four games (including the quarter-final, semi-final and final), Alisson played twice and even third-choice Weverton got the gloves in one group game.

Maybe it will even get to the point in Qatar that we will see a half-time substitution between the posts.

A record-breaking qualifying campaign

Brazil may owe their World Cup favorites tag to their remarkable qualifying campaign.

Tite’s side remained unbeaten in 17 games, winning 14 and drawing three to set a new record 45 points in South America qualifying. They scored 40 goals and scored four or more in a game on six occasions.

They still had a home game against Argentina to play as well. FIFA agreed to cancel it after the original match was suspended just five minutes after Argentina went off as Brazilian health officials entered the pitch and demanded the isolation of four Argentine players accused of breaching quarantine rules.

Ahead of their friendlies this month, Brazil are unbeaten in their last 13 games since losing the Copa America final to Argentina last year. It stands as their only defeat in 27 games since November 2019. No one travels to Qatar in better form.

Brazil were unbeaten in their 17 World Cup qualifiers, winning 14 and drawing three
Brazil were unbeaten in their 17 World Cup qualifiers, winning 14 and drawing three

Brazil were unbeaten in their 17 World Cup qualifiers, winning 14 and drawing three

Tite’s last hurray?

Historically, the Brazilian manager’s position has not been great for job security. Between 1998 and 2016, six different coaches were given the role (including Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga twice), with the majority lasting no more than two years in the role.

But Tite has gone against the grain. The 61-year-old has held the job since 2016, but has confirmed he will quit after the World Cup. He leaves as the longest-serving manager in the country’s history.

Tite has inherited a team that had just been knocked out of the group stage at the Copa America and has ushered in a new generation of Brazilian talent with relative success.

Tite, 61, will step down as manager after the World Cup after being in charge for six years
Tite, 61, will step down as manager after the World Cup after being in charge for six years

Tite, 61, will step down as manager after the World Cup after being in charge for six years

Being knocked out by Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals four years ago was undoubtedly disappointing, but Brazil went on to win the Copa America the following year and reach the final again in 2021.

Tite’s win percentage as boss currently stands at 75.7%, the best of any Selecao manager since Scolari’s first spell in the early 2000s when he won the World Cup.

“I have won everything in my career and the only thing left is the World Cup,” Tite told Brazilian broadcaster SporTV in February.

There would be no better way to go out.

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