With Neymar back from a foot injury and a cast of capable stars and sound defenders around him, Brazil has the looks of a World Cup champion again, four years after semifinal embarrassment on home soil.
It's been four years since Brazil's calamitous 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany at the World Cup it hosts, but Brazil looks as though it is returning to its menacing best ahead of this summer's tournament.
Tite's arrival in 2016 signalled the beginning of a new dawn for the Canarinho after two years floundering on the wayside under former manager Dunga. The Brazilian boss has restored the nation's swagger and enabled the squads attacking stars to express themselves freely.
Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho are the poster boys for the style of football many expect Brazil to bring to Russia, and all eyes will be on the PSG star's fitness battle throughout each stage of the competition.
Many expect Brazil to make a statement this time around following the disappointment of 2014, and it is being tipped as one of the favorites to win the World Cup - a title that has eluded the five-time champions for 16 years.
How They Qualified
Brazil steamrolled through its South American counterparts on their way to Russia as it became the first team to qualify for the summer's tournament aside from the hosts. Throughout the qualifiers, Brazil earned 12 wins and suffered just one defeat–which came against Chile in its first match.
The arrival of Tite in 2016 transformed Brazil and restored the attacking impetus that was lost under Dunga's tenure, as the Seleção scored 30 goals in their final 12 qualifiers, compared to the 11 they notched in the first six.
The thrilling qualifying campaign saw a plethora of attacking talent on show, as Gabriel Jesus scored seven goals, with Neymar and Paulinho both netting six each to establish a dominant 10-point lead over second-place side Uruguay.
Group Stage Games
Brazil was drawn into Group E and has its first game scheduled against Switzerland on June 17, in what is the toughest game on paper at this stage.
The Canarinho will have a burning desire to redeem themselves after their last World Cup display, and they are expected to go all guns blazing against the Swiss as they will be desperate to top their group to set up a clash with the runner up of Group F in the last 16.
The clash against Serbia on June 27 will see Tite's side pitted against a defensively astute setup, which is controlled by veterans Aleksandar Kolarov, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic. Serbia is expected to fight it out for second place with Switzerland.
While Brazil is the firm favorites to top the group, Costa Rica should not be underestimated when the two sides meet in Saint Petersburg on June 22, as the Ticos could emerge as a surprise package once more after making it to the quarterfinals last time out.
Possible Route to the Final
Brazil is expected to top its group, and if it does, it would match up with the runner up from Group F in the last 16–a group of potential opponents that contains Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
Should everything pan out as most expect, Brazil will avoid an early revenge clash with the Germans and likely match up with Mexico–although Sweden and South Korea are not to be underestimated, either. The run-in from there to the final is not smooth sailing, as the quarterfinal stage could then throw up a clash against Belgium, who has yet to prove its stars are capable of gelling in a major tournament but boasts the quality to top any team in the world.
A win there could set up a mouth-watering clash with fellow tournament favorite France, which is backed by a frightening amount of depth across the squad and will be eyeing the trophy after falling at the final hurdle in Euro 2016 on its home soil.
If Brazil does make it to the final, Spain or Germany are the most likely to be waiting. Simply hearing the latter's name should prove motivation enough.
p>Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Man City), Cassio (Corinthians)
Defenders: Danilo (Man City), Fagner (Corinthians), Thiago Silva (PSG), Miranda (Inter), Marquinhos (PSG), Pedro Geromel (Gremio), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Paulinho (Barcelona), Fernandinho (Man City), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Fred (Shakhtar), Willian (Chelsea)
Forwards: Neymar (PSG), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Douglas Costa (Juventus), Taison (Shakhtar)
(4-3-3): Alisson; Marcelo, Marquinhos, Silva, Miranda; Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho; Coutinho, Neymar, Jesus
Its hard to look past Brazil when assessing which two nations are destined to line up at the final in Moscow on July 15, as the abundance of talent throughout the ranks ensures it can answer any number of questions posed by the opposition.
Tite has his side firing on all cylinders after a run of 20 games with just one defeat since he took over. In that time, Brazil has scored 44 goals in that time, averaging over two goals a game with its manager at the helm and an indication that the Seleção are back to their free-scoring ways.
A strong spine including the likes of Alisson, Marquinhos, Casemiro and Neymar makes Brazil tick, with the Real Madrid midfield star key in setting the tempo for which the rest of the team uses to springboard into attack.
Question marks will linger over the match fitness of Neymar in the early goings of the tournament–though he looked just fine in scoring upon his return vs. Croatia on June 3, as Brazil can ill-afford to lose its star man like it did in 2014. The rest of the squad is more balanced and capable, but the forward lifts his game to another level in the national shirt and provides difference-making potential that few other nations in the world possess.
You would expect Brazil to at least make the semifinal, where a likely encounter with France would be the make-or-break moment. Victory against Les Bleus would see Brazil marked as favorites against presumed fellow finalists in Spain or Germany.