Brazil Priced Up as Second Favourites for Russia 2018

The World Cup in Russia may still be nearly a year away but the bookmakers have already released their odds for the outright market and Brazil start as second favourites behind holders Germany. Can Tite’s side justify this market support?

Brazil Football via Twitter

Brazil sealed their qualification for the summer tournament back in March. As of August 2017, they are just one of three teams to have guaranteed a spot at the event which begins on June 14, 2018. Iran have also booked their place in Russia, whilst the hosts automatically qualify.

The Seleção sealed their place with a convincing 3-0 win over Paraguay, which completed a ninth consecutive win in their South American qualifying group. Goals from Marcelo, Phillipe Coutinho and Neymar made light work of their opposition to continue the side’s record as the only ever-present in the tournament since its inception.

It left second-placed Colombia nine points behind, with the top two meeting again at the beginning of September. Brazil also host Ecuador and travel to Bolivia in their remaining contests.

It’s been quite the turnaround for a side who were embarrassingly beaten 7-1 at the hands of Germany on home soil in 2014. Things got off to a terrible start and Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side found themselves 5-0 down at half time with a perplexed home contingent watching on in disbelief. The coach later described the defeat as the ‘worst day of his life’ and was relieved of his duties following a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in the third-place playoff. The ghosts of that hammering appear to have finally been laid to rest and the side lining up in Russia will be barely recognisable from the one which folded so easily in Belo Horizonte.

Dunga returned for a second ill-fated spell in the dugout. He may have been a hero on the pitch but he was unable to have the same effect during his second spell in charge and was sacked following a thoroughly underwhelming Copa America campaign that saw his side failed to make it past the group stages. He did lead them to ten wins on the bounce, stretching from September 2014 through to June 2015, overseeing his side score 23 goals in the process – but it all unravelled soon after he was shown the exit once again.

Champions League via Twitter

The first qualification match didn’t quite go to plan as Brazil slumped to a 2-0 loss in Chile, with second-half goals from Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez leaving them with an uphill battle – but home victories against Peru and Venezuela gave them hope. They haven’t lost in this group since that encounter in Santiago and their nine-match winning run has included eye-catching successes over Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

Impressively, they have managed to secure their passage without playing any of their home matches in Rio de Janeiro. There is an ongoing dispute surrounding unpaid bills and the Maracanã has rarely been used for sporting events since the Olympics were staged in 2016. Brazil’s final qualifying match will be played in São Paulo whilst previous clashes have been staged in Recife and Bahia.

Tite’s men could still have a big say on the group despite having comfortably sailed through the qualification campaign. They still have to oppose Colombia and Chile, who sit second and fourth respectively in the standings.

The latest FIFA rankings were published at the beginning of August, with Brazil restored to number one, knocking Germany off the top spot. Tite played down the news, admitting that it will mean nothing if the five-time world champions fall short of expectations in Russia. He insisted that his side must continue to work hard and not rest on their laurels. They cannot afford to lose momentum prior to a major tournament. The former Corinthians boss has overseen just a single defeat during his 11 game tenure and the players appear to be enjoying working under his tutelage.

Tite has been praised by many of the squad, including Neymar, who told the media: “He’s an excellent coach with great technical knowledge who respects every professional,” before adding: “I have an excellent relationship with him.”

It’s been a busy summer for the golden boy of Brazil, who swapped the Nou Camp for the Parc Des Princes for an eye-watering fee of $198million. Neymar has already made himself at home in the French capital, netting in both of his appearances in Ligue 1 so far and being instrumental in their immediate rise to the top of the table. The club have netted 11 times in their first three matches. He’s netted 55 goals in 72 appearances for his national side and is likely to play a pivotal role during Russia 2018. Pele holds the all-time record of 77 goals during his time representing the Seleção and Neymar appears determined to rewrite history.

Another Brazilian making the headlines this summer is Phillipe Coutinho, with the Liverpool playmaker heavily linked with a move to Neymar’s former employers Barcelona. Coutinho has lit up the Premier League with his deft touch and eye for the spectacular and has been courted by the Catalonian club for a number of the months. He missed the beginning of the English top-flight season through injury but there is still a possibility he may leave Anfield before the European transfer window slams shut on August 31.

The 2016 Samba Gold winner is a tremendous talent and can change games instantly and could join fellow Brazilian Paulinho at the Nou Camp following the 29-year-old’s recent transfer from Guangzhou Evergrande of the Chinese Super League. The former Spurs player divides opinion but new Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has shelled out $36 million for the new recruit and is hoping he can help his side regain their La Liga title after losing out to Real Madrid last season. Rafinha is another Brazilian at the club and the 24-year-old has worked his way into the starting XI over the last couple of seasons after spending time on loan at Celta Vigo.

Brazil Football via Twitter

Another emerging talent is Gabriel Jesus, who is likely to be called up to the World Cup 2018 squad. The former Palmeiras man scored five goals in six appearances during the qualifiers including firing a brace against Ecuador in September 2016 as he announced his arrival on the international scene. He also found the net against Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. The 20-year-old was also an integral part of his country’s Olympic squad, netting three times at the 2016 tournament.

Following a big-money move to Manchester City, he netted seven times in ten matches before an injury curtailed his season. He is a natural finisher who will surely relish linking up with the likes of Neymar and Coutinho on the biggest stage of all. He’s been backed by Brazilian legend Cafu who recently told the media: “If Gabriel Jesus maintains his form for Brazil, I believe he’ll be up there with Romario and Ronaldo as an all-time great.”
There is plenty of expectation surrounding the attacking talent and it’s important that his progression is managed correctly.

Other players who look set to feature in Russia include the ageless Dani Alves, who continues to bring energy and class to the team and Chelsea’s Willian who continues to impress in West London, with workrate and an eye for a spectacular finish. He will certainly have plenty of competition when it comes to set pieces next summer. Roberto Firmino, Felipe Luis and Marquinhos have all been competing at the highest level and provide an exhaustive list of possibilities for Tite.

The latest squad announced at the beginning of August excludes David Luiz, who many Brazilian fans still hold partly responsible for their demise at the World Cup 2014 and Alex Sandro but does feature Gremio star Luan, who was part of the successful Olympic squad. Liverpool and Spartak Moscow are rumoured to be battling for the signature of the talented striker who has impressed this season in Brazilian Serie A.

Ederson and Allison will battle for a position in goal whilst Real Madrid’s breakout star Casemiro has also been included in the 23-man squad.

It’s a hugely talented squad and Tite’s men appear to be playing with plenty of confidence. They can go into their remaining qualifying matches with the pressure off and even field slightly more experimental lineups to test the water ahead of next summer’s showdown in Russia. Brazil are currently second favourites behind Germany in the betting and are priced at 7/1 for success. That price is likely to change when the draw is made at the start of December with each side discovering their group opposition for the first time. If you are backing them for success as they search for their sixth World Cup success, there are a number of welcome bonuses and new offers for new customers ahead of the event including a free £30 bet with William Hill. More markets are set to follow in the next few months, including the competition’s top goalscorer and which sides will crash out prior to the round of 16.

City Watch via Twitter

One of Brazil’s major market rivals appear to be Argentina, who are priced up at 9/1 for success in Russia. The beaten finalists of 2014 haven’t had the smoothest of qualifying campaigns and recently dispensed with lacklustre head coach Edgardo Bauza. La Albiceleste beat Brazil in a recent friendly encounter but were convincingly beaten during their last competitive meeting in November 2016 thanks to goals from the aforementioned trio of Phillipe Coutinho, Neymar and Paulinho.

Jorge Sampaoli has been drafted in following a successful stint at La Liga outfit Sevilla and he is tasked with improving the vastly underperforming side who currently sit fifth in the qualification standings. It is far from a lost cause as they lie just a point behind Chile and Uruguay but they cannot afford any more slip-ups otherwise their place at the World Cup will be far from guaranteed. They face a difficult game away from home against Uruguay at the beginning of September before hosting Venezuela just a couple of days later.

Sampaoli has some of the world’s best players at his disposal but moulding them into a cohesive unit appears to be the biggest challenge as his predecessors will attest to. The new coach has dropped Juventus powerhouse Gonzalo Higuain from his squad and will be hoping Lionel Messi can finally shine on the international stage after a series of underwhelming tournaments (by his high standards).

Brazil will also be wary of 2010 winners Spain, who are always strong competition and Euro 2016 runners-up France, who have a similarly talented squad which included Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and one of Europe’s hottest talents in the shape of Kylian Mbappe. Germany continue to go from strength to strength and wrapped up the 2017 Confederations Cup with an under-strength squad and Joachim Low’s side look set to provide Brazil’s biggest competition at the tournament.

Tite has been a revelation since taking over from Dunga and his side can see out the remainder of their qualifying matches with the knowledge that they’ve already booked their place on the plane next summer. They have been priced up prominently in the market and this is a hugely exciting time for Brazilian football. They’ve suffered the crippling lows of losing 7-1 on home turf and it’s time the Seleção bounced back in 2018. The likes of Neymar, Coutinho and the impressive Gabriel Jesus will be forces to be reckoned with and, coupled with unknown quantities such as Luan, they should be hard to stop.

Brazil have shown their quality over the past 12 months and it’s important to keep the momentum going ahead of any major tournament. It may be fewer than four years since the previous World Cup but this genuinely feels like a new era for Brazilian football and there is absolutely no reason why they cannot upset the favourites Germany and justify all of the early market support.


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