When the FIFA World Cup Finals kick off in Brazil this summer, a weight of expectation will fall upon the side that hasn’t rested on the shoulders of any host nation team since France ’98, and possibly even earlier. Over the long history of World Cup football, one in three tournaments has seen the host nation claim the top prize, becoming champions – just like England back in 1966. The question is, can Brazil pull it off?
Under world-class manager Scolari, Brazil have emerged once again as a pre-eminent force in world football. Expect Neymar to be the star man in the outfit – the prodigious goal-scorer is amongst the youngest players worldwide to rank amongst the absolute cream of the footballing crop. We certainly wouldn’t bet against him taking home the Golden Boot after this summer’s tournament.
Home advantage almost invariably counts for something in football. For starters, you’ve got the majority of the fans behind you; tens and tens of thousands of enraptured Latin Americans in full voice will surely put a spring in the step of Scolari’s men. And then there’s the environment.
The biggest change in environmental factors any Premier League side might have to face would be, for example, a trip up north to chilly Newcastle for the relatively sun-kissed Southampton; meaning a probable temperature difference of a few degrees Celsius. In Brazil meanwhile, players will find themselves competing against the fiercest possible competition with temperatures well up into the thirties. Expect England to be particularly hard hit – Hodgson’s outfit will even have to brave the choking humidity of the rainforest in Manau – whilst to the Brazilian squad, playing in the heat is second nature.
If everything seems to be going too readily Brazil’s way at this stage, fear not – there’s enough quality in this World Cup tournament to ensure that no prizes will be nailed on from the word go. Reigning champs Spain remain a threat, albeit a less potent threat than four years ago, whilst Germany and Belgium are also tipped to mount serious challenges. We can also expect strong showings from South American sides Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil are the bookmakers’ favourites to become World Cup champions this summer, with many offering odds of 3/1 against. The host nation will be the team to beat, but they’ll have to play their socks off to win it.