TWENTY years have passed since Brazil last hoisted the World Cup trophy. Many of those named in the national team squad heading to Qatar later this month will have been too young to remember Cafu lifting aloft the title in South Korea. For the five-times winning nation, it’s almost unthinkable.

While Ronaldo Nazario, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho were putting on a clinic in the 2002 World Cup, a significant portion of the current selection would have been in primary school, if not nappies.

It's been a long wait for the record-winning Seleção Canarinho to add to their five-title tally with a near miss as host nation in 2014 with an embarrassing 7-1 semi-final exit to Germany followed by a quarter-final defeat to Belgium in Russia in 2018.

But this year it could all change.

A revamped squad packed with the same enviable Samba flair is heading to Qatar under the guidance of head coach Adenot Leonardo Bacchi – known as Tite – with huge expectation.

The Brazilians enter the competition as the number one ranked national team in the FIFA rankings and come off the back of a record South American qualifying campaign with 14 wins, three draws and no defeats. Add into the mix they scored 40 and conceded five and it suggests the Selecao are onto something.

However, this is a majorly changed squad for the Qatar finals with just three players included who represented the country in 2014 – Neymar, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves.

Nine of those included this year do have World Cup experience from Russia four years ago but that leaves 15 players experiencing the tournament for the first-time this winter.

Experienced heads Alves, 39, and captain Silva, 38, will be called upon to use their knowledge of international tournament football to aid the starlets in the national pool.

Interestingly, despite the influx of youngsters in the squad the average age of the team stands at 27.8 – the average age of the winning World Cup teams since 1994 has been 27.75. The numbers check out for Brazil.

But there’s far more substance to a realistic World Cup title bid than a numbers quirk for Tite and his Brazil hopefuls. This is a squad packed with world-class talent.

In fact, perhaps that’s best demonstrated by the headline players missing the tournament with Roberto Firmino overlooked for the squad and Arsenal defender Gabriel also not making the cut. The effortlessly technically brilliant Philippe Coutinho isn’t on the plane through injury – but Brazil still boast an embarrassment of talent in their ranks.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar will be expected to play a starring role should Brazil achieve anything close to their World Cup dreams. At the other end of the park Brazil have two of the best goalkeepers on the planet with Alisson Becker and Ederson competing for the starting spot.

There’s plenty more Premier League talent in the squad with Manchester United summer signing Casemiro in midfield alongside team-mate Fred – with Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes, West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta and Liverpool’s Fabinho also selected.

The aforementioned Thiago Silva is a key cog in the Brazil defence, and in the frontline Antony and Richarlison join Gabirl Martinelli in the squad.

Further investigation of the 26-man squad makes Brazil an even scarier prospect with elite Real Madrid trio Eder Militao, Rodrygo and Vinicisu Junior joining fellow La Liga standouts Raphina and Alex Telles on the plane.

And it’s not just on the pitch that Brazil have the necessary quality to make a serious run for glory. In Tite, Brazil have a vastly experienced coach who has developed the squad since taking charge in 2016. The 61-year-old has managed the transition of Brazil’s senior squad with aplomb and has crafted a serious force to be reckoned with at Qatar.

On paper, Brazil should make it out the group stage at a canter over Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon which would set up a tie with likely Group H qualifiers Portugal or Uruguay.

It's a case of if not now, when for Brazil. Twenty years is too long for the country to have gone without World acclaim – and if they don’t achieve it this year, they might just have only themselves to blame.


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