Brazil have emerged as the favourites to lift the trophy at the World Cup in Qatar this winter
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Brazil are etched into football history as five-time winners of the World Cup, but they have not held the famous trophy aloft since 2002. 

The Selecao have only made it past the quarter-finals in one of the last four World Cups and on the occasion that they did so, they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final on home soil 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 favourites to go all the way and add a sixth star above their badge. 

Brazil have emerged as the favourites to lift the trophy at the World Cup in Qatar this winter

Brazil have emerged as the favourites 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 over the next week, Sportsmail 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, when 13 of their 23-man squad played their club football in their homeland and none starred in the Premier League. 

20 years on, the shift is clear to see. 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

The Premier League representation runs all the way through the team. Ederson and Alisson battle for the no 1 shirt, Thiago Silva is still going strong in defence at 37 years old, Fabinho, Fred and Bruno Guimaraes can form a midfield three and Richarlison and Roberto Firmino offer options upfront.

There are also the English-based players who were not picked 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’s loan signing Arthur, Tottenham full-back Emerson Royal and Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho will hope for recalls. 

Attacking options galore 

Gone are the days of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, but Brazil have no shortage of attacking quality in their squad. No fewer than nine forwards were picked by Tite for the two friendlies this month. 

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

Neymar is guaranteed one of the spots out wide, but there is a selection dilemma for Tite on the other side 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

Rodrygo has scored once in five caps for Brazil

His Real Madrid team-mate Vinicius Junior is another option for Brazil in attack

Real Madrid pair Rodrygo (21 years old) and Vinicius Junior (22) are options out wide for Brazil

Vinicius Junior, Antony and Rodrygo are all still 22 years old 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 made this month’s squad as Tite wants to take a closer look at more fringe players. 

The Gunners star is still expected to be picked for the World Cup, but put it this way – Gareth Southgate would not have even contemplated 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 high chance that Tite will take advantage of that to pack his roster with attackers.  

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 forward to deliver a sixth world title. 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 match against Cameroon. 

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

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

Neymar suffered a fractured 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 more remembered for his theatrical play acting – it was revealed he spent a total of 14 minutes on the ground across Brazil’s five games. 

Brazil did win the Copa America in 2019 but Neymar missed the whole tournament through injury, so his personal quest for glory continues in earnest; particularly after defeat in the Copa America final on home soil last year.  

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

This might not be Neymar’s last World Cup – he will be 34 by the time the tournament comes around in 2026 – but he will surely not be at the same level if he does play in the USA, Canada and Mexico. 

Having started the season with 11 goals and eight assists in 11 matches for PSG, Brazil’s great hope is hitting form at just the right time. 

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

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

The battle for No 1 

No other manager in Qatar will be able to claim to have two better goalkeepers in their squad than Tite, who has the unenviable decision of picking between Alisson and Ederson for the No 1 shirt.

Both could easily stake a claim to be the best goalkeeper in the world and they have been crucial components of the Premier League’s two best teams over the last four years. 

Since 2018-19, one or other of the pair have 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

Alisson featured the most for Brazil in qualifying for the World Cup and has historically been preferred. The Liverpool shot-stopper has 55 caps compared to Ederson’s 18. 

At the Copa America last summer, Tite rotated between all three goalkeepers in his squad. Ederson played four games (including the quarter-final, semi-final and final), Alisson played twice and even third-choice Weverton was handed 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 sticks.  

A record-breaking qualifying campaign

Brazil perhaps owe their World Cup favourites tag to their remarkable qualifying campaign. 

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

They still had a home game against Argentina to play too. FIFA agreed to cancel that after the original fixture was suspended just five minutes in as Argentina walked off when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch demanding the isolation of four Argentine players accused of violating quarantine rules. 

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

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

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

Tite’s last hurrah?

The Brazilian manager’s position has historically not been great for job security. Between 1998 and 2016, six different coaches were given the role (including Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga twice) and the majority lasted 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 that he will step down after the World Cup. He will depart as the longest-serving manager in the country’s history. 

Tite inherited a squad that had just been knocked out of the group stages 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, having been in charge for six years

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

Being knocked out by Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals four years ago was undoubtedly disappointing, but Brazil then won the Copa America the following year and reached 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 in which he won the World Cup.

‘I’ve won everything in my career and all that’s 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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