For every positive World Cup thought from a Brazilian fan, there will be a nightmare over Neymar or failing fullbacks – here are 5 ways it can all go wrong
5 – An early sending off to a key player
Losing an important element of the starting lineup in any match could turn out to be crucial, let alone if it happens in the knockout phases against a heavyweight opponent. Brazil completely outclassed the Netherlands in the first half of the quarter-final in the 2010 edition, but a reckless challenge from Felipe Melo on Dutch star Arjen Robben was the clear turning point that cost his team the game.
4 – The defensive contribution of the two fullbacks
Marcelo had a frustrating performance against Germany in the blackout of 2014 in Belo Horizonte, as he was driven by his passion to throw himself into the attack and get his moment of glory. However, we all know that this didn’t end up too well.
Despite that, the Real Madrid star remains one of the best in the world. But the main source of concern for Brazil fans this time around is Manchester City’s Danilo. The right-back is not a starter at his club and has shown defensive flaws so many times. Could you imagine France’s lethal duo of Ousmane Dembelé and Kylian Mbappé testing Danilo and Marcelo throughout 90 minutes?
3 – A Neymar injury
Brazil cannot afford Neymar getting injured, or for that matter even suspended ahead of a decisive knockout phase fixture, because he is…well, Neymar. The last time he missed out against Germany in 2014, the national team treated his absence as if it was his funeral.
There was too much concentration on who was missing rather than focus on who they were playing. Add to that, the fact that Neymar is a top-three player in the world, and arguably the best performer at the international level. Losing a player of such quality is never good news for any team.
2 – Meeting Germany in the Round of 16
This Brazilian side is looking extremely solid, as the gap in terms of technical quality with the Germans has been reduced and is maybe non-existent now. However, the reigning champions remain the most difficult opponent and the one team that Brazilians do not want to meet so early on in the competition.
Germany is capable of eliminating Brazil, just as much as Brazil is capable of doing it. A direct confrontation in the round of 16, if any of the two sides failed to top their respective group, would be a nightmare, and would increase the likelihood of an early elimination.
1 – Cracking under pressure
Brazil has had a lot of technical deficits in recent years, but it always seemed like Brazil’s number one opponent was Brazil itself. No matter how big the gap between two teams, it does not explain conceding seven goals in one game. Algeria, with less reputable defenders than Brazil, was able to hold Germany to a draw for 90 minutes, thanks to a very organized set-up and a very motivated, concentrated side that fought for every single ball.
If Brazil does not prove to the world that they have improved in this regard, and have learnt how to deal in a calmer way with conceding early goals, then nothing can save the five-times world champions.