Brazilliant! - Little Boy Blue's World Cup Countdown

Last updated : 03 June 2010 By Little Boy Blue

They are everybody's favourite 'other' team, the side we all want to see turn on the style and set the World Cup alight and, having won the thing five times previously, they tend to deliver the goods on the big stage.  I don't expect Brazil of 2010 to be any different. 


There is something special about those yellow jerseys.  A heightened level of expectancy accompanies every performance and they seldom disappoint.  Back in my plooky youth, long before the bulk of their players plied their trade in Europe, before satellite television had us tuning in to all sorts of exotic leagues, there was a mystique attached to Brazil, we knew the names, we were aware of the reputations but we seldom saw them play.  I'll never forget the excitement I felt when going to Hampden to see them meet Scotland just prior to their 1966 World Cup campaign.  Scotland were good value for their 1-1 draw but, in retrospect, it was probably the first sign that the team which had won the 1958 and 1962 competitions was beginning to run out of steam.


Reading up on the current squad, it has been suggested that they lack the flair of the Brazil of old but I've yet to see too much evidence of any such shortcoming.  In Group G alongside Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea, it would be a major upset if Brazil failed to come out of it as group winners, setting up a second round meeting with Switzerland or Chile and possibly lining up a mouth-watering quarter-final against Holland.  With the wonderful skills of the Portuguese and the Ivorians, plus the unknown quantity of the Koreans, it really is a group to savour and I'm banking on some classic matches to add to my DVD collection. 


From their 3-1 defeat from Hungary in 1966, the great game against England and the 1970 final against Italy, the gubbing of Scotland in 1982, the slaughter of Northern Ireland and Poland and the epic clash with France in 1986, the second half goal-fest against Holland in 1994, the wonderfully entertaining meeting with Brian Laudrup and Denmark in 1998 and Ronaldinho's chip over Seaman in 2002, I've overdosed on Brazil's World Cup action over the years.


Pele, Garrincha, Rivelino, Zico, Socrates, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho.  I've drooled over their talents long into the wee small hours, hoping against hope that Rangers and Scotland might unearth a comparable talent sometime in the future (dream on!), and I've no doubt Kaka, Robinho and company will be equally explosive over these next few weeks.


While they never fail to catch the eye going forward, defensive frailties tend to be Brazil's achilles heel but, with Inter Milan's Julio Cesar reliable between the sticks and his club mate Lucio mopping up anything coming through the middle, they look a lot safer these days.  Mind you, it will be very interesting to see how they handle Didier Drogba and Christiano Ronaldo in South Africa.


Opening up against North Korea on June 15 effectively gives Dunga's team an additional warm-up game before getting down to the serious business against the Ivory Coast and Portugal.  With something sure to give when their main rivals meet in the opening match, Brazil will be in the driving seat from the outset and it will be fascinating to see how the others go about playing catch-up.


I'd love to see Portugal's future hanging in the balance when they line up against Brazil on June 25, with the Ivory Coast looking to rack up the goals against North Korea.  Failure to win the group would have the runners-up on a collision course with Spain so topping the table is a must to steer clear of the European Champions, making sure every team fires on all cylinders throughout the group fixtures.


For what its worth, I fancy Brazil to win World Cup number six in Johannesburg on July 11 but, with results elsewhere unlikely to go strictly to form, the route to the final is less than crystal clear.  But assuming they were to face Holland in the last eight, a semi-final clash with England or France could be the next item on the agenda, with Italy and Argentina contesting the other semi.


Maybe its time for me to check out the fixed odds coupons!!!


Tomorrow:  ENGLAND EXPECTS…  Well, do you want England to win it?