Compared to their group from 2010, Brazil have a much easier road to the round of 16. They will have to face Croatia, Cameroon and Mexico in Group A, definitely a simpler task from Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. If Brazil wishes to win their sixth World Cup title, group play might not be too hard, but the level of competition quickly rises soon after that. Let’s take a look at potential opponents for the Brazilians if they are to make it back to the final, which would be the first time since 2002.
Croatia will probably be Brazil’s toughest opponent in its group. The Croatians will be a big first test for Scolari’s Selecao squad, as they have some big-name players who are on prestigious club teams in Europe. Luka Modric, the Real Madrid attacking midfielder and most recent UEFA Champions League champion, has been playing tremendously well recently. His ability to read the game on the pitch combined with his speed and vision with the ball could trouble Brazil’s defensive midfielders and center backs. Modric, Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic could give the Brazilians some major issues if they all show up to play. The Croatian defense, led by their captain Darijo Srna, is athletic and fast, matching up perfectly for what Brazil’s attacking players thrive off of. Look for this to be the best match in Group A, as it’ll be the perfect start to the World Cup come June 12th. I think it’ll be a pretty dead even game, but the home field advantage will carry the Brazilians to a one goal victory over a very competitive Croatia squad.
Round of 16
It seems as though the Brazilians are going to come out on top from their group stage. Their next opponent would be the second place team from Group B, which will probably consist of either Holland or Chile. The Dutch struggled in their last Euro Cup, but look for them to come back to the World Cup stage with a vengeance. I’m not saying that this team is returning to the finale, but I do see them giving Spain a difficult time and ultimately beating a decent Chile team to place second in Group B. We’d have ourselves a rematch from the 2010 tournament, but this time the Brazilians have a much better roster and are playing with more confidence.
My one concern for the Dutch is their defense, where Neymar, Oscar, Hulk and Fred could easily exploit their back four. This would be a great game to watch – especially being at such an early stage of the playoffs – but, unless Felipe Melo comes back on the pitch to score an own-goal and kick Nigel de Jong on the chest, I don’t see the Brazilians losing this match. Onward to the quarterfinals.
If my predictions continue to be right, their next opponent would either be the second place team from Group D or the first place team from Group C. If I had to guess, I’d put my money on those two teams being Colombia and England. I know the English have been pinned as a team that doesn’t really show up during the World Cup, but ultimately I do think that they look better than Uruguay and Costa Rica in their group. Roster wise, they have one of the best teams in the tournament, and I do think they are ready to return to the quarterfinals led by their key players Daniel Sturridge and renowned captain Steven Gerrard.
This would be another rematch for Brazil, as they beat England in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal by a score of 2-1. The two sides have played a couple of friendlies in the last year or so and the English side got the better of Scolari’s Selecao once, while it was a dead-lock the second time around. This time, there wouldn’t be legends like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Michael Owen and David Beckham on the pitch, but eventually I do think that England’s back four will struggle – as we’ve seen in some of their recent friendly matches – and Neymar could have a field day against Glen Johnson. Remember, too, that Sturridge and Frank Lampard were once teammates with David Luiz, so he’ll likely have the upper hand in their matchup. In their road to potential World Cup glory, I see the Brazilians handing the English side a 2-0 loss.
If these predictions hold true, the next likely opponent for Scolari’s Selecao would probably be the powerhouse squad that Germany is taking to the World Cup. In what would probably be Brazil’s toughest test yet, the Germans could cause some serious problems for the hosts. From top to bottom, Germany has one of the best teams in the cup and are easily one of the favorites, so this would be a treat of a match to witness. They arguably have the best goalkeeper in the world with Manuel Neuer and one of the most complete midfields with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira.
There have been rumors that this German squad is depleting quickly and aren’t going to be as good as everyone says; I don’t believe that one single bit because they have some of the best players in the world and their main weakness is the same as Brazil’s, their target forward. I think it’ll come down to which midfield can cause more turnovers that lead to goals in transition. This match could easily be a finale in terms of each squad’s caliber, but I believe that this tournament will be the Neymar show again (building off a remarkable Confederations Cup performance last summer), so look for the Brazilians to return back to the final stage in the World Cup.
World Cup Finals
Rematch of last summer? A Spain versus Brazil showdown is what a lot of people are hoping for and it would truly be an amazing game to watch. What I believe to be the best two teams in the World would give fans the best match-up yet. The Spanish side were rattled last year when the Brazilians played with their high defensive line and started their pressure with their wingers and forwards. Look for Oscar and Luiz Gustavo to cause problems for Spain’s midfielders, because both are very good defenders in the middle of the park and are more youthful compared to the aging Xavi and Iniesta.
It’s probably not going to be the same 3-0 thrashing that the Brazilians handed the Spanish side one year ago, but if it comes down to this finale, I believe that Scolari’s side will have the upper hand once again and will eventually be crowned champions for the sixth time in World Cup history.