Kaká is the biggest star on a confident team that overwhelms foes with its talent and counterattacking ability.
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Through April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Brazil. Click here for the full archive.
Captain Lúcio, a survivor from the 2002 World Cup-winning team, is a combative and classy center back who is a symbol of the commitment that coach Dunga seeks from his men. The Inter Milan player spreads through the ranks the conviction that the team will prevail.
Behind him, goalkeeper Júlio César was outstanding in qualification -- athletic, quick off his line to snuff out danger and so full of confidence he seemed to fill up the goal.Right back Maicon is one of the team's weapons to break down tight defenses, charging forward with skill and awesome power. The team's tactical system was altered to give him freedom to make his runs from deep, with an extra midfielder brought in on the right side to provide cover.
More than anything, though, this is Kaká's team. Overburdened with marking responsibilities in '06, this World Cup should be his definitive statement as an international player. The side is built around his capacity to organize the counterattack with pace, intelligence and the kind of technical ability that makes everything look easy.
And up front, Luís Fabiano established himself as a world-class center forward during qualifying. Powerful, mobile and an uncomplicated finisher, he scored nine goals and was also the top scorer in Brazil's title-winning Confederations Cup campaign last summer.
What to watch for
Notwithstanding the '08 Summer Olympics, Brazil has won everything in its grasp since Dunga took over with a mission to renew the side and implement a firm team-over-stars philosophy. Winner of the '07 Copa América and the '09 Confederations Cup, as well as being South America's top team in qualification, the Seleção goes to South Africa with high hopes of World Cup title No. 6.
Confidence is high, and the Brazilians believe in what they're doing. With physical and mental strength, solid depth and world-class players in key positions, it'll take a mighty effort to stop them. They're particularly dangerous on the counterattack, and have a range of options from set pieces, with excellent delivery into the penalty area and a phalanx of giant players attacking the ball in the air.
There have been more spectacular Brazil teams but few as efficient. In qualification, it scored more goals and conceded fewer than anyone else.
A possible weak point is a lack of a traditional strength: imaginative passing from midfield. Dunga's Brazil goes for giant, defensive-minded players in this zone -- and it has left the team with problems against cautious opponents who are wary of leaving themselves open to the counterattack. Four times in qualification, Brazil was held 0-0 at home.
Key match in group stage
June 20 vs. Ivory Coast. Brazil won't want to depend on a result against a dangerous Portugal team in the last game to make the knockout stage. A win against Ivory Coast, considered by many the best side from Africa, should ensure that Brazil meets Portugal with its second-round place in the bag.
Celebrity scouting report: Anderson Varejao*
I believe we're still the favorites to win the World Cup. The good thing is that the team could be down 2-0, but it has so much talent and such a good bench that players can get in there and really change the game. ... They're all great players on their clubs, and then when they get together with the national team, they know how to help each other and they know what they have to do to win. ... Brazil is the best team in the group. The most important thing is going to be for everyone to get focused, because when you play in a competition like that, you've got to be really focused. Otherwise, you can lose to a bad team and complicate your situation in the competition. ... Second place is nothing. You have to win. If you don't win, everyone in Brazil is going to be talking about how bad it was.
*The Cleveland Cavaliers forward-center is from Santa Teresa, Brazil. As told to Nicki Jhabvala.