Heading into any World Cup you hear a lot of analyst list the favorites. Most of the time that group includes Germany, possibly the Netherlands, and almost always Brazil. With Brazil being the host nation in this edition of the World Cup, it is almost expected of them to win it all. But is this championship or bust mentality realistic for the Seleção.
This Brazilian squad is filled with some of the top stars in in football with David Luiz manning the defense and Neymar scoring on offense. On paper and based on potential they indeed look like the favorites, but as we saw in group D, the group of champions, the best on paper doesn’t always win.
In the four matches that Brazil has played they have seemed to be out of sync. At times they show flashes of brilliance and at other times they look like a team playing desperately. The only game in which the Brazilian side looked like a complete team was in their 4-1 victory over Cameroon.
In the opening match of the tournament against Croatia they did play like the better team, but it was in large part to some luck and bad officiating. In a game where they were favored against Mexico, they failed to even score a goal.
Most recently in the knockout round against Chile, they started the game off looking like a threat and disappeared in the second half. In a game where Chile was obliviously the better team, Julio Cesar and the crossbar saved the Brazilians from an embarrassing showing at the World Cup.
Their next opponent will truly test the Seleção. They face a Columbian squad with a potent scoring threat and a budding star of their own in James Rodriguez. They are leading the tournament in goals scored and James is currently in the lead for the Golden Boot award given to the top goal scorer.
Some of the issues that trouble this Brazilian team is their weak defense. Although Julio Cesar has had some phenomenal saves and David Luiz has shown why he played in the Premier League, opponents seam to be able to weave in and out of the defense and create some opportunities. The defense has the potential, but players like Oscar and Marcelo need to step up and play big.
Neymar is a special player and has not shied away from the spotlight delivering a goal in almost every game he plays, but he has also shown he has a lot of maturing to do on the pitch. He understands the pressure that is on him by the country and is leaving it all out on the pitch, but he also needs to understand that he cannot win a world cup alone.
When Neymar makes in into the box he tries to do too much and rarely makes the play until it is too late. He dives for balls leaving him vulnerable and defenders attack. In their last game against Chile he got tackled three consecutive times before the referees intervened. His teammates on offense have done little to help him, but if they want to keep up with an offensive juggernaut like Columbia Fred, Hulk, or even Jo need to step up and get the ball in the back of the net.