World cup hosts Brazil faced all conquering Spain in the final of the Confederations cup at the revamped Maracana. The 22nd ranked team against the top dogs. Of course this means nothing, other than highlighting the irrelevance of FIFAs ranking system, because Brazil, albeit far from the finished article, still have a lot of ability crammed into those yellow and green shirts. And they proved it with a 3-0 victory, but are they ready to lift the World Cup trophy next year?
Because this isn’t the Selecao we we have come to expect. Brazils legacy from the 60’s and 70’s has left an expectation on the national side that still resonates today. Flair, skill and fluidity are not just expected but demanded by the Brazilian people and football fans worldwide. But not Scolari’s Brazil. This is an organised, drilled, even disciplined Brazil playing a system. A tactical system. But it would be unfair to say they are not still creative, just different. Modern.
Right from the outset of the final against Spain, Brazil pressed from the front denying the Spanish time and space, which admittedly they don’t usually need, but the sloppy World champions couldn’t deal with the hosts high tempo pressure. The Selecao also were not afraid to use there physicality either, which is something that’s not often said of the 5 times world champions. Now Brazil are a cohesive unit pressing without the ball backed up by the unexpected solidity of the Thiago Silva, David Luis partnership.
A settled squad with big Phil’s organisational nous is not all Brazil have to offer. They attack with pace and with players like Neymar and Oscar, can produce the traditional Brazilian brilliance from nothing. Fred is also hitting form at an international level just at the right time, and then there is Hulk. A battering ram of a forward who seems more like an old fashioned British center forward than a South American. Big, strong and physical willing to put a shift in. Not exactly Pele, but still an important role in the new look Brazil.
So a new, modern Brazil are ready to dominate the football world once again? Not quite. Though now they are probably one of the favourites to lift the World Cup along with Spain, Germany, and Argentina, and with home advantage it wouldn’t be that unprecedented, but work in progress they still are. A lack of real quality in depth to the squad is slightly concerning. Especially when looking at players available to Spain and Argentina. There may also be an over reliance on Neymar. Brazil do have world class players but Neymar may be the only one that can change a game on his own. A off day for Neymar could see an early exit for Brazil.