Friday, May 07, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Brazil

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: 19th overall, 15th consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost to France in quarterfinals
Best performance: Five-time champion (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)

By any chosen metric, Brazil has to be considered a heavy favorite in this year's event. They have goaltending, strong defense, great speed and creativity up front, and some huge names all over the team.

Coach Dunga won the Cup as a captain on the 1994 team that beat Italy in the United States. He does well with this group because he understands how to put them in a position to succeed. It's not always easy to manage a high-profile team full of superstars, but Dunga appears to have done that very well, steering Brazil through a pretty easy qualifying run and trying to assure they will play their best in this tournament.

Motivation shouldn't be an issue, as Brazil's effort to defend their 2002 title was met with a quarterfinal defeat, marking the first time since 1990 that Brazil went out before the final round.

Brazil's spare players are good enough to play as front-line players on many national teams. Most countries would be lucky to have players like Luisao on defense and Adriano up front, but they're two examples of guys who will have trouble getting serious minutes on the Brazilian team this summer.

Why? Because Dunga can put Kaka, Elano, and Gilberto Silva on the midfield, Robinho and Luis Fabiano up front, and Lucio and Maicon on defense.

In South American qualifying, Brazil led the group in goals scored and allowed fewer goals than anyone. They had an 11-match unbeaten streak in qualifying that was only snapped when they lost a meaningless match to Bolivia.

Oh, and they have a pretty favorable group draw. North Korea shouldn't be much of a challenge, and while Ivory Coast and Portugal could scare Brazil, neither team can match their depth and skill across the pitch.

Things are setting up quite nicely for Brazil. That doesn't mean it will be a breeze, but they're positioned as a favorite going in, and while the tournament is thought to be a wide-open one by some, it will take an upset to take out Brazil anytime before the semifinals.

June 15 vs. North Korea (Johannesburg -- Ellis Park)
June 20 vs. Ivory Coast (Johannesburg -- Soccer City)
June 25 vs. Portugal (Durban)

No comments: