All eyes on Brazil
The last time the World Cup was played in Brazil in 1950 the hosts were denied what many thought would have been a routine victory by Uruguay’s Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia who scored in a 2-1 upset triumph.
This time around Brazilians will be hoping that coach Luiz Felipe Scolari can repeat his 2002 gift to the football-crazed nation. He has several terrific players from which to draw and nothing but a sixth title will satisfy the home fans. Such is the strength of the team that the likes of Kaka and Robinho could not break into the final 23 players named.
Scolari also has the required major tournament know-how, the players are talented and well-drilled, a passionate home crowd will surely inspire the team again, as they did at the Confederations Cup in the summer, and even the iconic yellow jerseys can intimidate the opposition.
There aren’t many weaknesses in the squad, but the paucity of centre-forward options is a potential concern. First-choice Fred was injured earlier in the season and Diego Costa opted to represent Spain, so former Manchester City and Everton striker Jo could play a part.
Neymar is pivotal to Brazil. Full of energy and deft touches, and able to dribble at incredible speed, he is the player most capable of changing a game for Scolari’s side. The 22-year-old World Cup poster boy – who joined Barcelona last summer for £48.6m – appears unfazed by the public expectation, scoring 13 times in his last 16 caps.
One player to look out for is 21-year-old Bernard who Scolari says “has joy in his legs”. Direct, quick, and a bundle of energy, the 5ft 5in winger made his full debut for Brazil in September and scored his first goal against Honduras in November. Once considered too small for professional football, Shakhtar Donetsk paid £21.5m for him last summer.
Reappointed in November 2012, World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has recovered from a poor start to his second spell in charge to shape Brazil into
a side he is “100 percent sure… will be the champion” this summer.
The 65-year-old led Portugal to the Euro 2004 final, 2006 World Cup semi-finals and last eight at Euro 2008 between his spells as Brazil boss.
Brazil are the only nation to have played at every World Cup, winning the competition a record five times, the last being in 2002. They are currently ranked fourth in the world.
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC, on loan from QPR), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro).
Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell, Thiago Silva (both Paris St-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli).
Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires, Willian, Oscar (all Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City).
Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg).