World Cup 2014 Preview: Can Brazil handle the pressure?

 

The Sports Network

Never before has a host nation been under such pressure to lift the World Cup, yet it is hard to argue that not many host nations have been able to field such a strong side as the one that Brazil will trot out to open the tournament on June 12 against Croatia.

For starters, Brazil's man on the sideline, Scolari, already knows a thing or two about winning soccer's ultimate prize, having guided Brazil to its last World Cup triumph in 2002.

And Scolari figures to have an excellent chance at capturing a second World Cup with a loaded team that is led by 22-year-old forward Neymar, who figures to be one of the faces of the tournament.

The Barcelona man is viewed as the future of the Brazilian national team, and he made quite an introduction for himself at last summer's Confederations Cup, scoring four goals in the tournament and helping Brazil to a 3-0 win over Spain in the final, which earned him recognition as the best player in the competition.

Experienced attacking players like Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho were each left off the team in favor of players like Fred and Hulk who will join Neymar up top.

Scolari has a plethora of options in midfield with creative players like Chelsea trio Ramires, Oscar and Willian, while Inter Milan's Hernanes is another offensive option.

Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho and Fernandinho give the middle of the pitch some toughness for Brazil, so there is definitely balance in the side.

In the back, experienced goalkeeper Julio Cesar will anchor a group that includes David Luiz, Thiago Silva and Dante as options in the middle, while full backs Dani Alves and Marcelo give the team plenty going forward in two- way roles.

The talent is undeniable, and the draw also figures to favor the Brazilians, who will take part in Group A along with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

Those three teams don't figure to trouble Brazil too much, but things could get interesting in the second round, where the team figures to come up against Spain, the Netherlands or Chile.

And maybe at that point we will find out what this team is really made of and how it handles a bit of adversity.

As the host nation, Brazil didn't have to go through the tough CONMEBOL qualifying campaign, and in the Confederations Cup, Scolari's side had little trouble in any of its five tournament games.

In the World Cup, Brazil is likely to have at least one or two anxious moments that will test the character of the team, and which could ultimately determine whether or not this team is able to live up to expectations.

Brazil hosted the World Cup once before, in 1950, and that team was also expected to win the trophy, only to be upset by Uruguay in the final.

It is a match that is still talked about in Brazil today, 64 years later, so you can bet that every member of this team knows how much is at stake.

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