After their quarter-final defeat to the Netherlands four years
ago, coach Dunga was replaced by Mano Menezes who re-shaped the team
and gave debuts to young, agile players such as Neymar, Oscar,
Fernandinho and Paulinho.
In turn Menezes made way for old favorite Luiz Felipe Scolari in
December 2012 and the man who guided Brazil to their fifth World Cup
triumph in 2002 has since added both steel and guile to the
undoubted flair in the squad.
Crucially he rallied fans behind the team and, in just six months,
turned Menezes's callow group of youngsters into one capable of
The way they waltzed through the Confederations Cup last year,
defeating Uruguay and Italy on the road to a 3-0 final drubbing of
world champions Spain, was unforgettable and instilled a belief in
the side missing for the best part of a decade.
Brazil have won seven games in a row and 13 of their last 14, and
fans no longer wonder whether they can win the competition, they are
The worry, however, is whether they have peaked too early.
No team have won the World Cup after lifting the Confederations Cup
a year previously. Brazil won the dress rehearsal tournament in 2005
and 2009 but a year later suffered crushing disappointment.
Another pertinent question is how will they respond to the pressure
of playing the World Cup at home in front of passionate fans
desperate for success.
While every member of the 23-man squad has European experience few
will have encountered the expectation about to be heaped on their
"It's different," said Juninho, the former Vasco da Gama, Atletico
Madrid and Middlesbrough midfielder who took home a World Cup
winner's medal in 2002. "There's much more pressure. Representing
your country is more important."
The only other time Brazil hosted the World Cup was in 1950 when the
home side lost out in the final match to Uruguay.
[to top of second column]
That defeat scarred the nation and the enormous pressure to finally
lift the trophy at the Maracana could be an issue if the team start
slowly in their opener against Croatia and anxious supporters get on
So far, at least, the players do not appear overawed.
The good run has left them brimming with confidence and with good
reason — they scored 25 goals in the last seven games, conceding
only two. Five of the seven teams they faced had qualified for the
"We've ended this preparation phase perfectly," Thiago Silva said
after the team's last friendly, a 5-0 drubbing of South Africa in
"We were unbeaten in winning the Confederations Cup, we did what
Felipao asked of us in this match and I am certain we'll do a great
job in the World Cup."
That confidence is not misplaced, but it must be accompanied by
humility if there is to be no repeat of 2006 when, delirious with
the form of the Four Rs (Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto
Carlos), Brazil thought the tournament would be a walk in the park.
Instead they crashed out in the quarter-finals to France.
Scolari has repeatedly and boldly declared Brazil will win the World
Cup and seven of the UK and Ireland's biggest bookmakers make them
The feeling at home is the tournament is theirs to lose.
A nation expects.
(Editing by Martyn Herman and Mike
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.