As we near the end of the domestic and continental season for club football in Europe, attention will increasingly start to turn to World Cup 2018 in Russia.
Other than the host nation (who look well below par), the first team to qualify for next year’s finals was Brazil,
who have swept aside their South American rivals after a sluggish start to qualification to secure their customary place in football’s international showpiece.
If anyone’s looking for a long-term home for a Sportingbet free bet, Brazil to win the World Cup in 2018 at 6/1 looks a pretty decent bet as things stand.
Although Brazil reached the semi-finals of World Cup 2014, it was ultimately a humiliating experience for the host nation in the wake of their 7-1 drubbing by eventual champions Germany.
Unconvincing throughout, failure to win the tournament on home soil was bad enough, but the manner of their defeat was such that some doubted whether Brazilian football would ever again be the force of old.
It certainly didn’t look terribly positive in the aftermath of those finals either, with
Dunga’s appointment as new manager in succession to Luiz Felipe Scolari leading to more indifferent form and another embarrassing exit when losing to Peru at the Copa América Centenario.
Exit Dunga and enter Tite (otherwise known as Adenor Leonardo Bacchi) as the new coach.
Tite, formerly in charge at Corinthians, has had an immediate positive impact, starting with a 3-0 win away to Ecuador and followed by victories against Colombia (2-1);
Bolivia (5-0), Venezuela (2-0); Argentina (3-0 – in the same Belo Horizonte stadium where they were thrashed by the Germans); Peru (2-0); Uruguay (4-1) and Paraguay (3-0).
Doubts as to whether Brazil would even qualify for Russia 2018 at the time of Tite’s appointment have been replaced by a genuine belief that they are on the right track to make amends for 2014.
Neymar remains the star turn of course, but whereas he seemed absolutely pivotal to their hopes three years ago, the Seleção are now a far more effective collective unit.
This might not be the greatest generation of players to don the famous gold shirts, but there is still some tremendous quality at Tite’s disposal.
The difference is that Tite has built a team ethic, rather than simply relying on moments of individual brilliance.
In the past, the prospect of playing a major tournament in Eastern Europe would have been seen as a negative factor for a South American team,
but numerous Brazilian players have plied their trade in Russia over the past decade or so and will be well accustomed to playing there.
There’s a long way to go yet until next year’s finals and much can change over the next 15 months but, for those who like to seek out a bit of early value,
Brazil look to be back in business and that spells danger for everyone else.