If you ignore Brazil’s defeat away to Bolivia in a dead rubber fixture last November, Brazil will kick off this World Cup two years to the day since their last meaningful defeat (Paraguay 2-0).
With that kind of form it is astonishing that Brazil, even without the magic of the discarded Ronaldinho, don’t find themselves as favourites. That heavy burden is borne by Spain.
Only five of the Brazil team which crashed out to France in the quarters last time round have made the squad (Juan, Lucio, Kaka, Robinho and Gilberto Silva), a clear sign of the vigour with which manager Dunga has cleaned house since taking over after Germany 2006. Household names from the last few tournaments such as Dida, Cafu, Robert Carlos and Ronaldo have all been replaced by younger faces.
If there is a criticism of the current Brazil squad, it’ll be that the football isn’t free flowing enough to please the traditionalists. Dunga likes to play Melo and Gilberto Silva to stifle the opposition and while the results have not suffered in recent months, six goals in their five games going into the tournament may be indicative of the current style.
The draw has not been overly kind to Brazil, with Portugal and Ivory Coast clearly no pushovers, but Brazil are extremely reliable when it comes to navigating World Cup Group stages. They have topped their group in the last seven world cups, indeed in both 2002 and 2006 they romped to maximum points.
Should Brazil progress as expected, a Chile side that came just one point behind them in qualifying could well lie in wait. The likely quarter final would pit them against Italy before a potential semi-final showdown with Argentina or Germany.
Only fashionable Spain stand ahead of Brazil in the betting to lift the World Cup, and if Luis Fabiano and Kaka can supply the goals there’s little reason to doubt that Brazil won’t make the final for the fourth time in five tournaments.