12-June Croatia (9pm GMT Sao Paulo)
17-June Mexico (8pm GMT Fortaleza)
23-June Cameroon (9pm GMT Brasilia)
Brazil are the most successful World Cup team in history and tournament favourites. Sam Lewis takes a closer look at the hosts.
Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari
‘Felipao’ – or ‘Big Phil’ in English – is heading to the 2014 World Cup in his second stint in charge of the Selecao after bringing Brazil their last triumph in 2002. Tasked with taking the gold to an expectant home nation, Scolari was also hired to return the famous Brazilian flair to the side’s performances after stuttering tenures under Mano Menezes and 1994 World Cup winner Dunga. The 2013 Confederations Cup win was a good start, but the real work is yet to be done.
Why they could be dangerous
A quick glance through the attacking talent at Brazil’s disposal should quieten doubts over the side’s ability to go all the way. Star striker Neymar leads a talented crew including Willian, Oscar and perhaps the most solid defensive foundation Brazil have ever had in a cast-iron back five of Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo. While the names don’t jump off the page with the regularity that vintage Brazil squads once did, the Selecao are more than capable of causing damage.
The world on his shoulders: Neymar
Who else? The poster boy for ‘Joga Bonito’ and Brazilian football as a whole has been seemingly groomed for this tournament since earning the inevitable Pele comparisons during his time at Santos. A blockbuster move to Barcelona in the summer of 2013 hasn’t quite provided the fireworks many expected when he left his homeland, but Neymar’s role as the central figure in Brazil’s exciting young side means that if the 22-year-old performs as hoped, Brazil will be a force.
Did you know?
Brazil haven’t made it past the quarter-final stage since winning the tournament in 2002, losing in the last eight in 2006 and exiting at the round of 16 stage in 2010. The Selecao dropped to their lowest FIFA world ranking ever in June 2013 – 22nd – before winning the Confederations Cup. Can Scolari repeat the trick after famously rescuing Brazil 12 years ago?
Country legend: Pele
The man with three World Cups to his name is the appropriate footballing face of a nation that has won five. Pele is arguably the most complete footballer in history and by far its greatest goal-scorer with over 1,000 professional strikes on his resume. Pele won the World Cup as a stunning 17-year-old prodigy in 1958, repeating the trick in 1962 before being the centrepiece of the tournament’s most famous team in 1970.
After the famous failure of the notorious ‘magic square’ in World Cup 2006 and the oft-criticised defensive showings from Dunga’s Brazil in 2010, Brazil have operated in the 4-2-3-1 formation since. Premier League pair Ramires and Fernandinho will most likely anchor the midfield, while Neymar and any combination of Hulk, Oscar, Willian or Lucas Moura cause chaos behind a classic centre-forward like Fred.
…Croatia P2 W1 D1 L0 F2 A1
…Mexico P38 W22 D6 L10 F71 A36
…Cameroon P5 W3 D1 L1 F8 A2
Population: 198.7 million
World Cup appearances: 19
Best finish: Winners, Sweden 1958, Chile 1962, Mexico 1970, USA 1994 and Japan/South Korea 2002.
Famous for: Winning the World Cup more than anyone, with five victories from their World Cup appearances in four different continents. They have also appeared in every single tournament – the only country to do so.
Top Division: Serie A
How they got to the World Cup: As hosts, Brazil qualified automatically for the tournament.
FIFA World Ranking: 4
Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – lost in the Round of 16, 2-1 to the Netherlands.
Continental Honours: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 World Champions and 1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007 Copa America winners.
Most Capped Player: Cafu (142 caps)
Leading International Scorer: Pele (77 goals)
Nickname: A Selecao