Only the real competition of the World Cup and the best teams on the planet will let us know for sure how good this Brazil side is. But the signs are strong
Brazil ended the World Cup qualifying campaign in some style, after hammering Chile with a scoreline of 3-0 in São Paulo. Having topped the CONMEBOL table with a gap of 10 points over second-placed Uruguay, there is no doubt that the Seleção is the strongest side in South America. But how will TIte’s men fare when colliding with the European giants?
While the main fear among fans relates to the fact that the team has yet to be tested against Europe’s elite, oddly enough, the scenario was the complete opposite in 2013. Scolari’s side had made it to the World Cup as the host nation, and did not compete in an official game between 2011 and 2013, leaving Brazil solely rely on the Confederations Cup to test itself – while the rest of Latin America was gaining lots of experience by competing in the most difficult qualifying phase in the world.
It was a tournament where Brazil cruised its way to victory against, at that time, European Championship finalists Spain and Italy. The only serious problem that Scolari had faced, was the semi-final clash against Uruguay, which was eventually decided by a late Paulinho header from a well-executed corner kick, by Neymar.
It seemed that Brazil was comfortable heading into 2014, having outplayed what they thought were the strongest two European countries. However, the World Cup was quick to become a reality check for the five-time World Champions. The likes of Chile and Colombia almost eliminated Brazil on home soil in the knockout phase. Brazil was able to cover its weaknesses and progress forward, marching into the semifinal against Germany, where the historical wipeout took place.
For all its deficits, the essential reason that Brazil succumbed in such a manner against the Germans, was psychological more than anything else. Sure, the Nationalmannschaft was technically extremely superior. They could have outplayed Scolari’s team without any problem throughout the 90 minutes, resulting in a low-score victory – just like against Algeria or even the United States of America, for that matter.
It all leads to believe that when Brazil reached the semi-final phase, the damage had already been done, with Chile and Colombia getting the best out of the Amarelinha, leaving a dead-side without Thiago Silva and Neymar, waiting for someone to deliver the final blow that would officially signal the end of the dream.
For all these reasons, the positive results achieved against European giants in 2013, was in practice an illusion that hided the amount of struggle that Brazil would face against South American national teams. This time, the scenario is the complete opposite, as Tite’s men have achieved some eye-catching results, beating Messi’s Argentina 3-0, crushing Uruguay 4-1 in their eternal fortress in Montevideo, and even finally breaking the Chilean curse and outplaying them throughout Thursday’s game, which resulted in a 3-0 victory.
In both cases, entering the World Cup while having tested yourself against teams of one specific continent is never a reassuring sign, but that is a problem that all the 32 participating nations will have to deal with. On the other hand, it is almost more encouraging to enter the tournament in Russia, while acknowledging that you’re the best side in your continent.
Tite’s Brazil is still far from being the perfect side, but there is no doubt that the 56-year old tactician has managed to make Brazil great again. The fans henceforth, believe in the country’s hopes of honoring the yellow shirt, come Russia in 2018.