Football

Brazil rightly favourites for World Cup glory

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At the Arena de Sao Paulo at 5pm on June 12, Brazil host Croatia in the first of 64 games which will captivate audiences worldwide - for one month football will be king and the nation of Brazil plan to make one hell of a noise in the process.

This is the first of a 32 part guide to all teams competing for the coveted trophy and what better way to begin than the host nation, and the most successful team in the competition's history, Brazil.

Bookies currently have Brazil at the head of the betting with most offering 3/1 for the hosts to make it a unprecedented sixth title, and not without good reason. No doubt they will be eager to announce themselves back on the big stage after going out at the quarter final stage with a poor showing against France in 2006 and 2-1 to eventual finalists Holland in 2010. And with it being on home soil the players under Luiz Felipe Scolari will have huge pressure to perform with the never-ending conveyor belt of talent rolling out the new blood, a nation is expectant.

Much has been made of the new poster boy of Brazilian football who many hope will inspire and dazzle all before him, like so many others before him, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and Rivaldo et al. Junior da Silva Santos Neymar will have the weight of the nation on him from the start. His much scrutinised transfer to Barcelona last summer perhaps has hampered him from flourishing as much as was expected, but no doubt the rigours of Europe will have prepared him well for the tournament, and 15 goals in 41 games is not to be sniffed at.

Brazil as a whole are more solid but less spectacular than previous sides, but they have made massive inroads since the two previous tournaments - the diversity in the team has increased and it seems like they heading back to their free flowing ways.

Players such as Oscar, Bernard, Hernanes, Hulk and, of course, Neymar are all expected to carry the baton of flair, while added steel in midfield and defence will give them the backbone to stay in front. Captain Thiago Silva, Dante of Bayern, Fernandinho and David Luiz, who offers a considerable goal threat, will be the spine of the side.

It remains to be seen whether this Brazil side will follow the ideals of the old and go for the throat with a relentless attacking attitude i.e the 18 goal World Cup winning campaign of 2002 or 19 goals in arguably the greatest side ever in 1970.  Or perhaps they will adopt a slightly more conservative approach, but fans will be hoping they let the reins off and provide the entertainment that we know they can.

I believe that Brazil are favourites for a reason and their price is well justified at 3/1, however the regular punter will possibly be more interested in other nations at longer odds.

Probable finish: Final

Star man: Neymar. Much is expected after a below par season and he is eager to deliver.

Spring a surprise: Paulinho, had a good Confederations Cup last year perhaps should have got player of tournament. Enjoyed a steady first season in England and much will depend if he can displace Fernandinho.

Something to prove: Hulk has not settled in Russia - it probably wasn't the best move for him, while he is often criticised for his predictable style of play and over-reliance on power. Needs a good tournament to rebuild reputation and maybe earn a move elsewhere.

Who should have been on the plane: Filipe Luis and Miranda. Horribly unlucky to not be on the plane after a staggering season at Atletico and were stalwarts in an impressive and resolute back line only conceding 25 goals in 38 games.

Best value bets:

Team top scorer: Fred 3/1 (Bet365)

Tournament goals: 14 10/1 (Skybet)                   

Player of tournament: Neymar 8/1 (William Hill)

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Topics:
World Cup
Football

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