No less than 14 of the Selecao’s 23-man squad claimed domestic championships, while two others won continental titles – and three more are on the hunt
On Monday Brazil began in earnest their preparations for the World Cup. The Selecao will spend the first week of their pre-World Cup agenda at their glittering Granja Comary training complex in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, before heading to England ahead of the Brasil Global Tour clash with Liverpool.
With most of the players having now arrived, the returning Neymar took most of the attention on Day 1, which saw Technical Coordinator Edu Gaspar address the media, stressing how much focus was being placed on the PSG star’s recovery following a foot injury that has had him sidelined since February.
Neymar, of course, is the star individual of the Brazil team that heads to Russia in search of an unprecedented sixth world title, but the key to the Selecao’s resurgence under coach Tite has been the success of the team as a whole – illustrated in Mach as Brazil saw off Germany in Berlin without their talisman.
Tite begins his work with the squad this week safe in the knowledge that almost every player in his squad arrives following standout seasons for their respective club sides.
After a tricky first season with Roma that saw him spend the majority of the campaign watching on from the bench, goalkeeper Alisson is now revered as perhaps the world’s finest. His remarkable performances this past season have drawn intense speculation linking him with what would be a world-record transfer for a goalkeeper, with the likes of Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester United and Liverpool all said to be showing interest.
And Alisson is not alone in living the finest phase of his career to date. Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino had the season of his life, firing the Reds to a UEFA Champions League final with 10 goals in Europe’s elite club competition, as well as providing an impressive number of assists for his colleagues. That he remains a substitute for Brazil is evidence enough of the wealth of talent on which Tite can draw.
Firmino is one of three players who will miss the week at Granja, primed to join the squad in England later this month after competing in the UEFA Champions League final. He’ll be facing off against compatriots Marcelo and Casemiro. The former’s ability to step forward from left-back and infiltrate the midfield has been vital to his side’s attacking play, while the latter has perhaps not hit the highs of recent seasons but remains vital to the balance of perhaps the best central midfield around.
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Casemiro’s reserve in the Brazil side, Fernandinho, has been one of the standout performers in England’s Premier League, which his Manchester City side conquered with a record 100 points. His club and international colleague Ederson has emerged as a genuine contender to Alisson for the tag of the world’s best goalkeeper and his ability to initiate attacks from the back has been vital to Pep Guardiola’s success at City this season.
Chelsea’s Willian has also put in some eye-catching performances in England this season and his fine performances saw him named Player of the Season by his colleagues after a campaign that saw the Blues win England’s FA Cup. He was the first player in Tite’s Brazil to lose his first-team place, but is now well in contention to reclaim a spot in the Selecao’s starting Xi.
Shakhtar’s Fred, meanwhile, arrives off the back of a breakthrough campaign which has seen him linked with one top European club after another. Since being freed from his defensive midfield role, the former Internacional man starred throughout his side’s Champions League campaign and is destined for a mega-money move this European summer.
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Philippe Coutinho also arrives at Granja in form, after coming through a transitional period in the second-half of the season following his move from Liverpool to Barcelona. The attacking midfielder also joins the squad in excellent physical shape, having rarely completed a full 90 minutes in Spain, meaning he will not be suffering the same level of fatigue as some his Brazil colleagues arriving off the back of long and gruelling seasons.
Douglas Costa, too, has impressed following a transfer, recapturing his form as a major player for Juventus in Italy. His fine form secured a return to Tite’s Brazil squad and he can now count himself among the first reserves in Russia.
He joins the squad as a league champion, as do a whole host of others: Paulinho and Coutinho took La Liga with Barca; Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson won the Premier League; Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Neymar reigned in France; Filipe Luis returned from injury to win the UEFA Europa League; Taison and Fred won the Ukranian title with Shakhtar.
Meanwhile, Brazil-based Pedro Geromel arrives a Copa Libertadores champion and Corinthians duo Cassio and Fagner were Brazilian league winners.