Are Brazil on the path back to football greatness?

Brazil’s over-dependence on Neymar seems to be cooling and some of the hottest world talent is breaking through… but with a 36-year-old captain and 18 years without winning a World Cup, are the Selecao finally on their way back to greatness?

  • The Brazil national team is in a process of building for a new era of dominance 
  • Young starlets are coming through but some of the old guard remain 
  • Thiago Silva is still the defensive cornerstone and will be 38 by the World Cup
  • With a disjointed side and a reliance on Neymar, Sportsmail looks at what’s next 

In the not too distant past only one team seemed to dominate on the international stage.

The one nation who knew football like no other, played in their own beautiful variety by an endless array of stars.

Brazil were the team to beat and, to many, Brazil still remain ‘the’ team to beat when it comes to big World Cup competition.

But what of the men in the famous yellow shirt, who have not won football’s biggest prize of all for eighteen whole years, and counting.

Brazil are building for the future – the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is firmly in their sights

We don’t seem to hear – or speak – as much about the brilliant Brazilians as we once used to. Some of the biggest stars in the Premier League hail from the South American country, yet progress on the international stage has appeared minimum.

Has a new era been slowly building, or do we have a case of a disjointed team stuck in the awkward middle ground of aging stars and over-reliance on certain individuals? Sportsmail takes a deeper look…

Old reliable?

When it comes to iconic players Brazil basically wrote the script.

Some of the most storied names in world football history have worn the yellow shirt, with many giving service to the national team well into their twilight periods.

At present we see a similar kind of situation unfolding with Thiago Silva.

Thiago Silva (left) is idolised by team-mates and fans alike, though is now 36-years-old

For many, the imperious central defender has been synonymous with Brazil for what feels like forever.

After breaking onto the world football scene as a precociously talented youngster, Silva has been a mainstay in the Brazil ranks and simply never left.

Now 36, it does potentially pose some concern that the Selecao remain so reliant upon their defensive general.

Featuring alongside his former PSG team-mate Marquinhos, Silva has continued to fend off rivals for his central defensive position, even with the likes of Real Madrid starlet Eder Militao banging down the door.

Sometimes, of course, the old guard cannot be beaten. But are Brazil setting themselves up for a fall?

Silva has earned many plaudits since his summer move to Chelsea, though moments of last ditch, heart-on-sleeve defending have also been paired with humiliating howlers and a blatant susceptibility to raw pace.

Brazil have some big decisions to make on their captain, who will be 38 at the next World Cup

Silva will be 38 by the time the 2022 Qatar World Cup comes around. Brazil, perhaps more than most teams in the competition, will be craving their old trophy back.

The long-term plan with Silva therefore could bear much more impact than people think. Manager Tite has some big, big decisions to make. 

It’s never easy when a player in question is your captain and a bonafide national legend and sweetheart, but if a transition is to happen, it really ought to start now. 

The Neymar conundrum

For the last decade, one could not speak of Brazil without also mentioning – or at least immediately thinking about – Neymar.

The mercurial forward is Brazil and Brazil is Neymar. The PSG star man adores his country and has several tattoos injected beneath his skin to prove it.

During the 2014 World Cup on home soil an extraordinary amount of pressure was placed on the shoulders of Neymar, bordering on the ridiculous.

For some time now Brazil have had an issue with their persistent over-reliance upon Neymar

And it’s safe to say he, remarkably, took it in his stride. That is until an injury in the latter stages of the tournament saw both his and a nation’s dreams shattered. Brazil in turn were obliterated by Germany and haven’t really looked the same since.

What followed was several years of one of the world’s most famous footballing nations clinging to their talisman like a lost sailor to a life jacket.

Everything revolved around Neymar, with the team built around him and players selected depending on how they would boost his game, rather than purely on their own merit.

Results picked up and this worked for a while… until it simply stopped.

The spanner thrown into the cogs arrived in the form of Neymar’s injury record. Season upon season of knocks and niggles, keeping the forward out of key matches and often forcing a decision between club and country.

The injury record of the PSG superstar is a troubled one, meaning he misses large spells

Over the past few seasons it has not been uncommon to see Neymar missing large stretches of time for PSG, only to recover with perfect timing for national duty. Allegiances, it seems, have been decided.

Yet something strange happened during one of Neymar’s big omissions. Or rather, something that never used to be strange at all, but commonplace… Brazil won a trophy.

In 2019 Brazil were once again on hosting duty, this time with the Copa America. 

Neymar was out, after rupturing his ankle ligaments while playing in a controversial friendly for Brazil against Qatar. There was uproar, initially, with the golden boy set to miss the action once again.

And then there was calm. A calm of seeing how Tite was able to deploy his side in the absence of Neymar, playing high pressing football without sole focus on one particular star. 

Recent history tells us that Brazil took something more than a trophy from this tournament, a belief they can get back to their former glory without the reliance on one man.

A recent 5-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Bolivia in October said as much, and now both goals and responsibilities are shared. A sign of the future, perhaps?

In the absence of Neymar Brazil appeared somewhat more free, and won the Copa America

Fresh blood

As a country Brazil will never be short of football talent.

Each generation brings with it its gems, and the current crop of starlets coming through are as promising as ever. 

Given that Brazil is finally ceasing to wrestle with its Neymar conundrum, this can only bode well.

The Copa America final saw the likes of Everton Soares grab the limelight, while the tournament itself was the making of Richarlison as an established international in the yellow shirt. 

In Rodrygo Goes Brazil have one of the most exciting teenagers in world football 

At present, Brazil have a tantalising array of talent just waiting to impose themselves on the big stage.

In 19-year-old Rodrygo Goes, the Selecao has a player who it feels could even surpass the heights of Neymar and become the leading light of future eras.

Real Madrid did not so much as bat an eyelid when paying the best part of £50million to sign Rodrygo as a 17-year-old unknown from Santos. There is a buzz about the youngster, and Madrid simply could not pass up the opportunity.

Rodrygo was called up to the senior ranks for the first time in November, as Brazil suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to rivals Argentina in a friendly.

In that same side Brazil’s squad hummed with a wealth of exciting youngsters including Lyon’s Lucas Pacqueta and Atletico Madrid’s Renan Lodi; the latter widely seen as the long term successor to Marcelo.

In other squads Brazil have blooded Wesley Moraes, Gabriel Menino, Bruno Guimaraes and Santos prodigy Pedro. Not to mention another Real Madrid starlet in the form of Vinicius Jr. 

In recent years Richarlison has been offered the chance to establish himself in the yellow shirt

Silverware beckons?

Over the past couple of years Brazil have harbored the strange habit of never really appearing to play that well, yet picking up the results as they go along.

This, of course, is the sign of an elite side; which certainly bodes well.

In nine competitive games since crashing out of the 2018 Russia World Cup in the quarter finals against Belgium, Brazil have won eight and drawn one. It makes for impressive reading.

Within those collection of victories sits the victorious run to the Copa America final, yet since the Brazil squad have continued the momentum both professionally and what seems to be effortlessly, swatting aside teams in the World Cup qualification stage.

Brazil have the experience of Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, mixed with younger stars

Tite’s men sit atop of the qualification table with both a perfect win-streak and a healthy goal difference of eight. 

Rivals Argentina occupy second place with seven points, while Ecuador and Monday night’s opponents Uruguay have six.

Victory inside Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario would signal yet another step forward for the sleepwalking giant who very much appears to be coming out of his slumber.

Brazil have gone under the radar for many years, but perhaps no longer.

Tweaks and rejigs are still to be made though come December 2022, the famous World Cup trophy could be draped in familiar yellow cloth once again.




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