If Brazil and the World Cup are synonymous, it’s down to many fitting reasons, two of which stand out. The Samba nation are the most successful in World Cup history (five titles) and are the only country to have attended every edition of the showpiece. This term again, they have qualified for next year’s tournament in Qatar, the first to do so from South America.
In the early hours of Friday, Tite’s boys sweated to beat Colombia 1-0 in Sao Paulo, courtesy of Lucas Paqueta’s goal following a Neymar assist. It was their 12th game of the marathon CONMEBOL qualifying series, amassing 34 points, only one drawn game and no defeat with 6 games to spare. That is surely an ‘A’ performance from an unrepentant World Cup attendant.
For Brazil though, qualification has barely ever been the barometer. It is nothing short of laying hands on the most prestigious piece of gold plated silverware in the world of sports. This resolve is bolstered by the twin reason of two direct rivals winning 4 titles each (Germany and Italy) and a palpable fallen standards of the national team. If their slumber were to continue, their unequalled honour would be threatened.
The team has undergone such a transformation since the apocalypse of their home World Cup in 2014. Another failure in Russia four years later dealt their renaissance a blow, remarkably injuring renewed aura that had taken leave of them. The swashbuckling form with which they have earned a ticket to Qatar is a definitive statement of intent. They want to end the long wait after legendary Ronaldo’s heroics won them their last title 20 years ago.
However, that form may just mask teething bottlenecks going forward. The team’s difficulty to come from behind against strong opposition is worrying. It is all the more manifest against Europe’s elite. It’s a test of character a championship winning side must excel at. The Neymar dependence may have alleviated per the records but his storied petulance sees no end in sight. The Colombia game saw its latest episode, with the starman facing off with the referee and picking arguments with opponents.
Overall, the make-up of the team is great in quality. There is a good blend of experience and youth. Arguably, Brazil have the best goalkeeping pair anywhere in the world, in Alisson and Ederson, with the impressive Weverton of Palmeiras backing up. Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Casemiro, Neymar and Coutinho provide experience while Vinicius, Antony of Ajax and Leeds United sensation Raphinha offer exuberance.
Winning the World Cup is serious business. It is especially so when you no longer send shivers down the spine of anyone. Past glory is past glory. Others have emerged and fallen giants have awoken. The search for the 6th star has been long and winding. There is definitely a star in Qatar to adorn a suitor. Tragedy for Brazil is, co-suitors seem to have discovered a treasure the woman adores, even if they respond to her call after Brazil do.
Yours in the beautiful game: Rossoneri