The canary yellow jerseys are iconic. The singular names of greatness read like a who’s who of international soccer: Pelé, Zico, Garrincha, Cafu, Didi, Rivaldo, and, of course, Ronaldo. Brazil has lifted the Jules Rimet trophy as World Cup champions a record five times, and oddsmakers have made the South American powerhouse the favorite to do so next month in Qatar.
This version of the Seleção, however, will arrive in the Middle East with a lower profile than years past. The talent is still abundant across the pitch, starting with Neymar pulling the strings, Casemiro in midfield, steely veteran Thiago Silva in central defense, and Alisson between the sticks.
But the side accustomed to being on soccer’s highest pedestal has not won its biggest prize in nearly a generation, with the last title coming in 2002 thanks to Ronaldo’s second-half brace. The pressure to win, and to win with style — “jogo bonito” — remains stratospheric with Brazil’s passionate fan base, and the scars of the 7-1 demolition by Germany in the 2014 semifinals in Belo Horizonte are still fresh. The quiet run-up to this winter World Cup, therefore, may serve the Seleção well in their bid for a sixth title.
Straightforward qualifying means little drama
Brazil’s coach, Tite, has spoken out on systemic prejudice against Black managers in the country.
📝 Full story: https://t.co/rVIj1D6pVU pic.twitter.com/gD9lCMSEoW
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 9, 2021
World Cup qualifying in South America is the most pure of any continental process. All 10 countries face each other home-and-away, and the top four advance. Brazil has historically gotten everyone’s best punch during qualifying and usually dished out more punishment than it’s absorbed.
This qualifying cycle was no different, as the Seleção topped the table in impressive fashion, winning 14 of 17 matches while conceding only five goals. Its home qualifier against arch rival Argentina in September 2021 was not played due to COVID-19 concerns, but both sides punched their ticket to Qatar comfortably as the only countries to accumulate more than 30 points in qualifying.
Tite is back on the touchline for a second World Cup after guiding Brazil to the quarterfinals in Russia four years ago and exiting after a crushing loss to Belgium. He won the 2019 Copa America and has 57 wins and just five losses in 76 matches while in charge of the Seleção. Tite announced in February he would be stepping down following the World Cup; whether that galvanizes the squad is to be determined.
Tite, who will move past Dunga into third place on Brazil’s all-time wins list with his next victory and needs five wins to overtake Carlos Alberto Parreira for second, was the first gaffer to oversee an entire qualifying cycle since Dunga ahead of the 2010 World Cup. That stability could serve as a useful shield against the media should the Seleção struggle out of the blocks in Group G — a group that includes Switzerland, Serbia, and Cameroon, and one they are expected to top.
FanDuel is offering the longest odds on Brazil to win the group at -220, followed by Caesars Sportsbook at -225. Interestingly, BetMGM has a yes/no option of -1400/+600 on Brazil reaching the knockout round, but there is more value in picking a group stage exit there at +700.
For those willing to guess the number of points Brazil will rack up in group play, BetMGM edges out FanDuel for value at nine points, +225 to +220, with the latter expecting the Seleção to sweep. FanDuel is offering +230 for seven points compared to +200 at BetMGM, and the spread widens at six points with +470 for the former and +400 for the latter.
Those who want to put a wager down on a 1-2 finish of Brazil and Switzerland can get the best play at Caesars for +200, while a Brazil-Serbia pick is also tops there at +225. In terms of individual matches, Brazil is a solid favorite across the board for its Nov. 24 group opener versus Serbia, ranging from -215 on the Kambi platform to -250 at FanDuel.
Expect an all-out attack offensively
Santos has fallen and has not risen since Neymar left. Barça has fallen and has not risen since Neymar left. It’s sad that the fans don’t realize how fast PSG will fall after Neymar’s departure.
Heart and soul, man, heart and soul. pic.twitter.com/NIQ7fSEdVb
— Caroline Dove (@CarolineDove5) October 27, 2022
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Tite said, “There will be opportunities for all (the forwards),” which means Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Jesus, Raphinha, and Richarlison are all expected to have meaningful roles. Brazil will likely have a lion’s share of possession regardless of opponent, which will lead to its 4-2-3-1 set-up often morphing into a 3-2-4-1 with Alex Telles being given freedom to join Casemiro as a double pivot in the midfield.
This is the third World Cup for Neymar, who helped the Seleção reached the semifinals as hosts in 2014 with four goals and two assists before being injured in the quarterfinals, in addition to the two goals he scored in Russia. With 75 goals in international play, he needs two to tie the legendary Pelé atop Brazil’s all-time scoring list, and oddsmakers look to be bracing for that inevitability in Golden Boot and top goal-scorer sports wagering markets.
Neymar, who has bagged 13 goals in 17 matches across all competitions with Paris-Saint German, is a +1700 option for both the Golden Boot and top goal-scorer on the Kambi platform powering Barstool Sportsbook and BetRivers, while PointsBet is offering +1400 for top goal-scorer and Caesars +1200 for the Golden Boot. Those looking to back Neymar’s playmaking skills can also take a flyer on him at +1100 to lead the tournament in assists.
Neymar’s brilliance has left oddsmakers trying to sort his teammates as potential dark horses for Golden Boot and top scorer honors. Tottenham Hotspur forward Richarlison, who is expected to lead the line, is rated as a +3400 option for those awards by FanDuel, but a far more modest +2000 at DraftKings.
Gabriel Jesus, whose move to Arsenal from Manchester City has helped put the Gunners atop the Premier League table, has a more narrow range from +3500 at DraftKings to +3000 at Kambi. Real Madrid winger Vinicius Junior is also on the board as a potential sleeper option at +3000 on the Kambi platform and +2900 at FanDuel. DraftKings is also offering a +2800 option for Brazil to win the World Cup with Neymar as the top goal-scorer.
Among major books, only PointsBet is currently offering a Golden Glove market for the best goalkeeper, with Alisson a +500 option.
So how do the Seleção rate to win it all?
Brazil have only lost ONE game when Casemiro and Fred both play:
◉ Goals: 41
◉ Conceded: 5
◉ Clean sheets: 15
Erik’s taking a leaf out of Tite’s book. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/tJDSPlZWRF
— Squawka (@Squawka) August 19, 2022
Brazil is the consensus favorite to win the World Cup, with +450 the best available play at FanDuel and PointsBet and +400 practically everywhere else. Where the markets get interesting are for those willing to risk picking against Neymar and company t0 lift the Jules Rimet trophy in the final. DraftKings is offering +900 for the Seleção to lose the championship match, with BetMGM a distant second at +700.
DraftKings is also tops for those envisioning a semifinal exit at +600, though the market is tighter for this play with BetMGM and Caesars both +550, and Kambi and FanDuel right behind at +500. The most common price for a quarterfinal exit is +275, and the same value can be grabbed at BetRivers and Barstool for a round of 16 elimination.
The Seleçao’s path to the title has the potential for a few mouth-watering matchups in the knockout round. A Neymar versus Cristiano Ronaldo (not to be confused with O Feñomeno) showdown against Portugal could take place in the round of 16, as could a continental grudge match versus Uruguay. With sides from Groups E and F potential quarterfinal opponents, Germany, Spain, and Belgium could all loom in the round of eight.
Those willing to risk a few dollars on Brazil making its first group stage exit since 1966 are best served on the Kambi platform at +750, though BetMGM (+700) and FanDuel (+650) also offer decent value.
Photo: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY