Brazil was the first team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after chalking up an unassailable lead at the top of the CONMEBOL qualifying group. The Selecao have had a glittering array of stars over the years with the likes of Pele, Cafu, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho all gracing the world stage with their presence. Brazil can start to look forward to Russia 2018 but which players are likely to have the biggest impact next summer?
Which Players Can Help Guide Brazil to World Cup Glory?
Brazil is the only nation to have participated in every single World Cup since its inception in 1930 but haven’t been victorious since 2002 and will be aiming to end their drought in Russia. Many of the world’s most iconic, richest, and talented footballers will all be competing for top honors but Brazil boasts a squad full of superstars who are enjoying life under coach Tite.
It’s fair to say that Paulinho hasn’t always impressed but he is enjoying playing for Barcelona and was instrumental in his side’s 6-1 demolition of Eibar recently. The 29-year-old has never been prolific and has never reached double figures in a season. He netted eight times for Corinthians back in 2011 and has never surpassed that total. However, he has shone at international level recently, netting five times in nine outings, including firing an eye-catching first career hat-trick against Uruguay in March 2017.
He started in Tite’s first game in charge and has never looked back. Paulinho may have struggled at Spurs but he has been transformed at international level and dominates the midfield. He looks set to play a very important role at the World Cup.
Real Madrid’s Casemiro is one of the breakthrough stars of the last 18 months and has been compared to Claude Makelele. N’Golo Kante is considered one of the best defensive midfielders and Casemiro plays a similar role offering a shield to the back four and keeping things neat and tidy in the center of the park. He’s played five times during the Qualification period and they’ve conceded just two goals in those contests.
This season alone he has averaged three crucial interceptions per game in La Liga and made 9 important tackles during the club’s opening UEFA Champions League game. You might not notice his presence at first but Brazil are certainly a better side with him in the starting XI.
3. Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus is one of the stars of the last couple of years and is on course to become a household name. He has been nominated for the Golden Boy award following his lightning start for Manchester City in the Premier League. The 20-year-old has scored four times in 328 minutes for his club whilst netting five times in eight appearances on the national stage. All of his goals came in 2016 as he helped Brazil gather momentum and Tite cannot afford to leave him out of the squad if he can maintain his current strike rate.
2. Neymar Jr.
Neymar’s name was splashed all over the tabloids during the summer months as he made the big-money move from Barcelona to PSG. He is set to come up against former team-mates and strike partners Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez this summer and he’ll be determined to get the better of them in Russia. Neymar is a match-winner and Brazil’s talisman and he’ll be aiming to guide his side to World Cup success.
As of September 21st, the Selecao are third favorites behind Germany and France, priced at 13/2 with Betway to triumph in Russia, and the 25-year-old could make all the difference. He’s netted four times in his first five games for PSG but he’s working at a 50% strike rate during the World Cup qualification period with six goals in 12 matches. Brazil may have had a forgettable World Cup 2014 but he still managed to score four times, including hitting doubles against Croatia and Cameroon and is always likely to show up in the big matches.
1. Phillipe Coutinho
Coutinho was another player who was subject of transfer speculation in summer 2017 but eventually ended up staying at Liverpool. He took out his frustrations with a superb strike against Ecuador at the start of September. He didn’t feature in the World Cup 2014 but will be determined to impress the Brazilian fans in Russia and he’s scored four times in 11 appearances during the qualification campaign, as well as hitting three in three during their unsuccessful Copa America 2016.
He is comfortable on the ball and his range of passing can open up any defense. Despite missing several weeks due to injury last season, he still netted 13 times and claimed 7 assists for Liverpool. He is certain to play a key role for Tite’s men once again.
Brazil’s squad is packed full of exciting talent who will be aiming to make an impression on the world stage. Tite’s men will be looking to bounce back from the 2014 debacle in style and look set to captivate football fans all around the world in summer 2018.