Brazil Preview – Can Hosts Handle Extreme Expectations?

World Cup 2014

Outright Betting

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil start the tournaments as favourites and, in many eyes, rightly so. I take a look at their squad’s chances of more World Cup glory.

Since winning last year’s Confederations Cup in their homeland with an impressive record of five wins from five, including victories over Italy, Uruguay and a 3-0 pasting over reigning European Championship and World Cup holders in the final, Brazil have lost only once. That defeat came against Switzerland in their next game after their triumph in the warm-up event to this tournament but since then Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have won seven games in a row, although only Portugal and Chile could reasonably be considered to have offered the Brazilians a real threat of the sides faced over that period. Scolari’s men have also only conceded once in their last five, and face Panama and Serbia before they open the tournament against Croatia.

With 13 goals in his last 16 appearances for his country, including a hat-trick against South Africa in their last game, Neymar looks set to lead from the front with the weight of a nation on his slim shoulders and certainly has the talent to fulfill those expectations.

As tournament hosts, Brazil were the only side to qualify automatically.

Squad News
Scolari has largely stuck by the squad who lifted the Confederations Cup, omitting the likes of Liverpool duo Lucas Leiva and Phillippe Coutinho, Kaka, Lucas Moura, Robinho and Ronaldinho were also notable absentees but the suqad is certainly not shy of ability without them.

Goalkeepers: Júlio César (Toronto FC), Jéfferson (Botafogo), Victor (Grêmio).
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (Roma), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Maxwell (Paris Saint-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli).
Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Paulinho (Tottenham), Ramires, Oscar, Willian (All Chelsea), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Hernanes (Internazionale), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk).
Forwards: Fred (Fluminense), Neymar (Barcelona), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg), Jô (Atlético Mineiro).

Key Fixtures
The tournament opener against a highly capable Croatian side will offer huge pointers as to what can be expected from this team, should they pass that test it looks more than likely that Brazil would have far too much for a Mexican outfit who have been in turmoil throughout qualifying and regular African qualifiers Cameroon, who look well past their best.

12 June 2014, Brazil v Croatia, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 21:00
17 June 2014, Brazil v Mexico, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 20:00
23 June 2014, Cameroon v Brazil, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 21:00

Recommended Bets
The outright tournament favourites, Brazil are extremely short to top Group A and although that seems somewhat inevitable, the 4/9 price on the hosts reaching the quarter-finals is at least as likely and thus a better odds-on investment. The pick of the betting in Group A for me has to be the Straight Forecast Brazil 1st – Croatia 2nd @ 9/5 as they should have too much for the others.

Neymar will rightly have his backers @ 12/1 to finish as outright top goalscorer but the EVS shout on being the top scorer for his country looks a much safer punt.