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FIFA World Cup 2018: Brazil bank on Neymar to break 16-year trophy wait

Brazil, who are slotted in Group E alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica, will be banking on Neymar to win the FIFA World Cup title for the first time since 2002, when they defeated Germany in the final.

football Updated: Jun 09, 2018 10:26 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
FIFA World Cup 2018,2018 FIFA World Cup,Brazil football team
Neymar will be the key for Brazil as they look to end their 16-year frustration and overcome their 1-7 loss to Germany in the semi-final in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.(Getty Images)

If there’s one team that desperately wants to lay their hands on the World Cup, it has to be Brazil. If not winning the trophy for close to 16 years isn’t frustrating enough, brushing off the 1-7 thrashing, with which they bowed out against Germany last time around, should motivate them to do well.

Slotted in Group E alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica, the five-time champions have enough ammunition to go the distance as well. With Neymar, Firminho and Gabriel Jesus upfront, Brazil look an attacking side and were in good shape in the qualifying campaign when they finished 10 points ahead of second-placed Uruguay while pumping in 41 goals in 18 games.

The Latin American giants were the first team to qualify for the World Cup. Though there were a few concerns regarding Neymar, his form in the first friendly against Croatia should come as a breather for any Brazilian fan.

The other team tipped to go through to the next round and cause a few upsets is Costa Rica. And they have history on their side. In the last edition, they beat both Italy and Uruguay while topping a group, which also had England. A lot will depend on their star custodian Keylor Navas who will have to continue his Real Madrid form.

Qualified in each edition of the World Cup.
Best: Champions
1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002
Qualifying route: Topped CONMEBOL qualifiers (W12 D5 L1)
Head coach
(L-R) Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Marcelo
GOALKEEPERS: Alisson, Cassio, Ederson
DEFENDERS: Danilo, Fagner, Marcelo, Filipe Luis, Miranda, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Geromel
MIDFIELDERS: Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, Fred, Philippe Coutinho, Willian
FORWARDS: Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa, Taison
Qualified four times.
Best: Quarter-finals
Qualifying route: Bye till Rd 4 in CONCACAF; Topped Gr B in Rd 4 (W5D1L0); 2nd in Rd 5 (W4 D4 L2)
Oscar Ramirez
Head coach
(L-R) Bryan Ruiz, Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell
GOALKEEPERS: Keylor Navas, Patrick Pemberton, Leonel Moreira
DEFENDERS: Cristian Gamboa, Ian Smith, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Oscar Duarte, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Francisco Calvo, Kendall Waston, Johnny Acosta
MIDFIELDERS: David Guzman, Yeltsin Tejeda, Celso Borges, Randall Azofeifa, Rodney Wallace, Cristian Bolanos, Bryan Ruiz
FORWARDS: Daniel Colindres, Joel Campbell, Johan Venegas, Marco Urena
Qualified 11 times including participations of Yugoslavia & Serbia and Montenegro.
Best: 4th place
1930, 1962
Qualifying route: UEFA Group D winners (W6 D3 L1)
Head coach
(L-R) Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic
GOALKEEPERS: Vladimir Stojkovic, Predrag Rajkovic, Marko Dmitrovic
DEFENDERS: Aleksandar Kolarov, Antonio Rukavina, Milan Rodic, Branislav Ivanovic, Uros Spajic, Milos Veljkovic, Dusko Tosic, Nikola Milenkovic
MIDFIELDERS: Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Marko Grujic, Dusan Tadic, Andrija Zivkovic, Filip Kostic, Nemanja Radonjic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Adem Ljajic
FORWARDS: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aleksandar Prijovic, Luka Jovic
Qualified 10 times
1934, 1938, 1954
Qualifying route: Rd 1 – 2nd in UEFA Gr B (W9 D0 L1); Rd 2 Bt N Ireland 1-0 aggr in playoffs
Head coach
(L-R) Valon Behrami, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka
GOALKEEPERS: Roman Buerki, Yvon Mvogo, Yann Sommer
DEFENDERS: Manuel Akanji, Johan Djourou, Nico Elvedi, Michael Lang, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Jacques-François Moubandje, Ricardo Rodriguez, Fabian Schaer
MIDFIELDERS: Valon Behrami, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Blerim Dzemaili, Gelson Fernandes, Remo Freuler, Denis Zakaria, Steven Zuber
FORWARDS: Josip Drmic, Breel Embolo, Mario Gavranovic, Haris Seferovic
Photos: AFP/Reuters/GettyImages | Graphics: HITESH MATHUR

The pressure will however be huge on Serbia given that they’re the lowest-ranked side in the group. But if they manage to go through, it’ll be the first time the country would qualify on their own as independent nation. In their previous 11 appearances, they’ve made it to two semi-final stages of a World Cup — 1930 and 1962 — albeit as part of Yugoslavia.

In 2006, they participated as Serbia and Montenegro. It will also be interesting to see how young guns like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Andrija Zivkovic, Marco Grujic perform given they were part of the under-20 side that lifted the World Cup in 2015. They also have Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Kolarov and Matija Nastasic to provide a good balance of youth and experience.

Chances are bleak for Switzerland although they’re currently ranked sixth in the world. They narrowly made it to the World Cup this year with a goalless draw to defend their 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in the play-offs and will bank on Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Stephen Lichsteiner to pull them through. However, a major issue is the lack of a lethal striker upfront.

First Published: Jun 09, 2018 10:26 IST