Sports

Former hero Ronaldo backs Brazil to end 16-year wait in Russia

Former hero Ronaldo backs Brazil to end 16-year wait in Russia

The days of Seleção Samba are long gone.

Ronaldo helped his team win two out of Brazil's five World Cup titles; he did not play a single game in the 1994 tournament that Brazil won in USA.

On Sunday, those in a bitterly divided land may put their differences to one side and finally unite in order to get behind a team reimagined under Tite and with a genuine chance of going all the way in Russian Federation.

After cruising to the semifinal of the 2014 World Cup, they were embarrassed on their home soil by Germany, falling 7-1 after the German side scored four goals in six minutes in the first half. Some of the members from that team have survived, and are keen to exorcise those demons.

"The concentration and competitiveness of the team was laudable", Brazil coach Tite told reporters.

Since turning into an ever-present for Zinedine Zidane in La Liga, Casemiro has developed into one of the world's best holding midfield players and Brazil have benefitted for it. They have three excellent defensive midfielders in Real Madrid's Casemiro, Barcelona star Paulinho and PL victor Fernandinho with Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho playing the attacking midfielder role.

The South American nation unleashed their full attacking might against Austria on Sunday as the feared quartet of Neymar, Willian, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus start together for the first time.

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Jesus is Brazil's leading scorer under Tite's management, ahead of Neymar, who got his name on the scoresheet in the 63rd minute.

Despite the quality they boast within their ranks, Brazil were hit by the injury to veteran defender Dani Alves who was eventually ruled out of the competition. Silva's PSG colleague Marquinhos would be forgiven if he feels gutted: he played the majority of the games under Tite as the Brazilians kept 16 clean sheets in 21 occasions. The Manchester City striker once again started ahead of Firmino and this time, capped off his evening with a well-taken goal. He returned to the pitch in Brazil's friendly against Croatia last week and scored the only goal of the game.

The current squad indeed has shades of previous champions in their ranks. He even led the national team to a Gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. All of the skill possessed by different players in Europe is in this Brazil line-up.

Brazil have a very well balanced side with no real weaknesses.

If there were any complaints with previous Brazil sides, this one may have the same too.

Before Thursday's kickoff, Federation Internationale de Football Association will focus on choosing the host of the 2026 World Cup between a joint bid featuring the United States, Canada and Mexico and underdogs Morocco.

They go into both the clash and the tournament as the favourites.