The last time the madness of the World Cup took Brazil by storm, the host nation lost 2-1 to arch rivals Uruguay in 1950 and the “Maracanazo” was declared as a national tragedy, one that continues to sting till date, and yet may provide the players the encouragement and act as a springboard to do away with the demons of the past.
Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-final stage in each of the two previous World Cups, but the arrival of the 2002 World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has helped to restore the confidence of a nation in a game they eat, sip and breathe. It isn’t everyday that a side takes the World Champions Spain to the cleaners, and Brazil’s 3-0 annihilation of the La Roja in the Confederations Cup last summer have elevated expectations in the soccer-crazy nation of Brazil. Beg your pardon. Football it is.
Let’s try and put ourselves in Scolari’s shoes and pick the Brazil XI to take on Croatia on Thursday evening.
Julio Cesar has bags of experience of playing in the biggest of games and will almost certainly be one of the first names on the team sheet. His time at Toronto FC helped him ease his way into match fitness in preparation for the World Cup.
Brazil have undoubtedly the strongest defence of all the nations competing for the World Cup. The centre-back partnership of Thiago Silva and David Luiz have a nice understanding and looked solid in the Confederations Cup. Luiz has shown more than often that he can be error-prone and a bit lackadaisical but Thiago Silva’s experience should come to the rescue.
Dani Alves’s bursts down the right will provide Brazil with an attacking edge but Alves does tend to leave gaps at the back in what has come to be known as the ‘Alves Avenue’. Marcelo too can be a defensive liability at times, although his driving overlaps down the left flank are another source of an attacking threat. If anything, opposition teams may identify the wings as a possible weakness that can be exploited.
Contd…..on next page…..