With less than 100 days to go until the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, we turn the spotlight on Brazil, the only team to have taken part in every edition of the tournament and the only one to have lifted the coveted trophy five times.
Currently under the stewardship of Tite, Brazil are heavily-fancied to be crowned world champions again this December. That said, nothing is guaranteed in football and the South American giants will need to leave no stone unturned and be at their best if they are to claim a sixth title.
While we have singled out three defensive players for this piece, including two centre-backs, and just a single forward, that is not to suggest they will be heading into the World Cup with a “reactive mentality”.
We have only focused more on defensive players because of Tite’s selection headache in the forward areas – the type of problem that any coach would love to have – with Philippe Coutinho, Raphinha, Richarlison, Gabriel Jesus, Antony and many others to choose from.
Tite rotated his squad considerably in Brazil’s unbeaten qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022, their most successful since the round-robin format was first introduced.
These are five players well worth following as the South Americans attempt to reclaim their position at the summit of world football.
Neymar – Position: Forward
All of the Brazilian’s immense talent was put on display at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The go-to technical player for Brazil since the Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign, Neymar has become even more important for his country over recent years, with his blistering start to the season for PSG emphasising just how good of a player he is.
Neymar may be used as more of a playmaker for Brazil in Qatar, but he will be given the freedom to operate anywhere in the attacking third and play alongside a young, passionate forward, whoever that may be.
Thiago Silva – Position: Centre-back
There is every reason to suggest that Thiago Silva will be the only player in Tite’s team other than Neymar to have represented A Seleção at both the Brazil and Russia World Cups. The 37-year-old is still arguably one of the best centre-backs in the world; he is excellent on the ball, possesses great strength and reads the game extremely well, quickly closing off spaces in the back line.
During his time at Chelsea, he has won the Uefa Champions League, the Uefa Super Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup, quickly becoming a fans’ favourite.
He has even won the plaudits of John Terry, a centre-back who knows a thing or two about winning trophies with the Blues: “I absolutely love him. To play so well at his age in the best league in the world is incredible. I wish I could have played like him. He does everything so well without taking any risks while keeping things simple.”
Marquinhos – Position: Defender
A former PSG teammate and long-standing defensive partner of Thiago Silva in the Brazilian national team, the 28-year-old centre-back is in his prime, having gained a wealth of experience in Europe’s top leagues over the past nine years while also keeping himself in tip-top shape.
Marquinhos is extremely agile, allowing him to cover a lot of ground — vital against teams that like to play high up the pitch. He is also comfortable on the ball and has got a fantastic leap, making up for his lack of height. Having starred regularly for Brazil for many years, he is now seen as a true a leader on the pitch.
Casemiro – Position: Defensive midfielder
Once a trialist at Real Castilla, the holding midfielder became a stalwart of the Brazilian national team nine years ago while still an unknown quantity at the highest level. Casemiro won five Champions Leagues, three Fifa Club World Cups and many other titles during his time with Real Madrid before signing for Manchester United in August.
Casemiro breaks up play extremely well and gets his team moving forwards, playing quick, purposeful balls in transition. He is also key in sustaining meaningful attacks, both for club and country. However, his technical mastery is not the only reason he is one of the first names on Brazil’s teamsheet.
Last June, just days after Real Madrid ended their epic Champions League campaign with a victory over Liverpool in the final, the holding midfielder was selected for Brazil’s friendlies in Asia. Tite did not plan to take any of the players who had featured in the Champions League final, but he simply could not leave out Casemiro, given his utmost professionalism and excellent physical condition.
Lucas Paqueta – Position: Attacking midfielder
Paqueta scored the only goal in Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Colombia in November 2021, confirming his side’s place at Qatar 2022.
At the end of the game in Sao Paulo, the attacking midfielder received a warm embrace from his coach: “When I gave him a hug, I said: ‘You’re a left-footed playmaker, a midfielder.’ I was just messing with him, because he sometimes plays as a No 9 for his club, right? (laughs) And he said he would play wherever I need him [to play].”
The Flamengo academy graduate is a key player for both his club and country. Possessing all the skills required for effective build-up and attacking play, his place in the Brazil starting line-up is more or less guaranteed. He developed an excellent understanding with Neymar in particular during the Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign, registering many goals and assists along the way. – SuperSport