World Rankings: First
Best World Cup finish: Five Wins (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Previous appearances: 18 (1930, 1934, 1938, and every cup between 1950-2006)
Coach: Carlos Bledorn Verri (Dunga)
Kaka: Brazil have several star players, but none shine so brightly as Kaka. Brazil’s best player right now, this 28-year-old midfielder will be heavily called upon to set up the offence for the highest ranked soccer team at the World Cup.
The 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year has a lot riding on his shoulders, considering coach Dunga’s strategy of running virtually Brazil’s entire offence through Kaka. For Brazil to make it six championships, Kaka must stay healthy and up his level of play.
Luis Fabiano: This centre-forward led his team in goals for the qualifiers, and will be counted on again to find the back of the net at the World Cup. He is the team’s best scoring option.
Julio Cesar: Brazil’s not all about offence this year, and goalkeeper Julio Cesar is a perfect example of that. He’s fresh off backstopping Inter Milan to a Champions League Title, so playing in his first World Cup should not be too big of a concern.
Talent, flair, finesse … and defence? Soccer fans tend to associate Brazil with entertaining, offence-driven football, but this year’s team has a more rounded makeup than previous installments.
Sure, Kaka and Fabiano will make fans cheer with their fancy footwork and brilliant plays, but head coach Dunga has another idea in mind. Drawing from his own World Cup win in 1994, the 2010 version will continue to play as beautifully as the nation desires, but not at the expense of some hard-nosed defence.
Lucio leads the way at fullback. The centre-defender is full of experience with 91 caps. Surrounded by a formidable back end, Lucio also has the luxury of sharing the load with several defensively-gifted midfielders.
And if having a capable offence coupled with one of the best defences in the world isn’t enough, goalkeeper Julio Cesar should thrive in net to round out another deep Brazilian team.
Brazil has a history of struggling against teams who sit back and defend, preferring to outperform their opponent with superior style and talent.
Though they make up for this deficiency by having a strong defence of their own, Dunga’s decision to leave some major firepower off the team will be the biggest source of criticism if Brazil were not to win it all.
The most notable exception is Ronaldinho. One of Brazil’s all-time greatest players, Dunga opted for more youth up front, and felt Ronaldhino’s drop in play warrants his decision credible.
Brazilian fans may miss the great dribbling and scoring touch of Ronaldinho, but will have to wait and see if Dunga’s plan to exclude him is the right decision.
It’s championship or bust for Brazil once again.
Coming into the tournament as the highest ranked team, Brazil carries with them heavy expectations.
The only nation with five World Cup titles to their name, Brazil would love to strengthen its claim as the greatest soccer nation in the world — but the road to the trophy starts off a little rocky.
Their group consists of two challenging nations — Portugal and Ivory Coast — that may cause headaches for Brazil. Fortunately for the South American nation, the path to the second round is easier with the injury of Ivory Coast’s best player, Didier Drogba.
Brazil won back in 2002, but was knocked out by France in a disappointing quarterfinal matchup in 2006.
This time around, Brazil can take advantage of the momentum they have generated heading into the World Cup this year. They clinched first place among all South American nations in the CONMEBOL qualifications, including a convincing 3-1 won over rival Argentina.
Brazilian soccer has always been about playing football in style, but this year its defence will be relied upon to make up for the lack of offensive flair showcased in World Cups in recent history.