Brazil enter this year’s tournament with a weight of expectation as the host nation. They are the only country to have appeared in all 19 editions of the world showpiece, and as the record-holders with five World Cup victories, are the only side to win the trophy outside of their own continent, yet dramatically lost the final on home soil against Uruguay in 1950.
Qualification: Qualified as hosts
Previous World Cup appearances: 19
Best World Cup finish: Winners (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Current FIFA ranking: 4
Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari is no stranger to the big time, having the Selecao to World Cup victory in 2002. ‘Big Phil’ was also in charge of Portugal from 2003 to 2008, guiding them to the Euro 2004 final and fourth place in the 2006 World Cup.
Captain: A rock at the back for Brazil, skipper Thiago Silva has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world. A calm and composed centre-back, Silva is solid under the high ball and a masterful reader of play. He will no doubt be looking to lead the Selecao to victory on home soil.
Key player: Neymar da Silva Santos Junior will have the eyes of the world glued upon him as he takes centre stage at the World Cup in his native Brazil. At just 22, Barcelona’s record signing has progressed rapidly to become the focal figure in Brazil’s attack. Neymar has his nation’s hopes pinned squarely on his shoulders as Brazil go in search of their sixth World Cup title.
Having narrowly missed out on selection for South Africa 2010, Neymar will be looking to prove himself on the big stage. He is criticised for lacking big-match temperament, but he has an impressive goalscoring record at international level – 31 goals in 48 matches for the Selecao.
A two-time South American Footballer of the Year, he usually operates down the left of Brazil’s fluid 4-3-3 system, wreaking havoc among defenders who struggle against his relentless dribbling and energy-sapping runs. Joining an attacking force of Hulk, Fred and Jo, with an endless feed supplied by Oscar, Ramires, Paulinho and Fernandinho, Neymar is surrounded by a wealth of quality players who will all be urged on by an expectant and hysterical home crowd. How he deals with this pressure might be the only challenge that tests the 2014 World Cup poster boy.
Key fixture: Brazil will no doubt be looking for a solid start to the tournament in the opening game against Croatia in Sao Paulo.
12 June, 22:00 Brazil vs Croatia
17 June, 21:00 Brazil vs Mexico
23 June, 22:00 Cameroon vs Brazil
Don’t miss the current edition of KICKOFF magazine for 16 pages of World Cup analysis, plus TWO World Cup wall charts, so you can follow every game of the world showpiece.
Be sure to check out KickOff.com later today for profiles on the rest of the teams in Group A.