What comes next in this sequence: 4, 8, 24, 8, ?
It’s 4, right? No, of course it isn’t. Roberto Carlos pulled his socks up at the wrong moment and Brazil didn’t win the 2006 World Cup. We don’t know what comes next, but all connected with the Seleção will hope it’s 20. The sequence – as I’m sure you knew anyway, you heritage fan you – is the number of years between Brazilian World Cup wins since their first triumph in 1958.
They also won it in 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Since then: nada. Zilch. Bugger all. Not even a final. They’re overdue.
This the last chance for Thiago Silva to win a World Cup, probably Casemiro and Neymar too. Tite’s side are favourites to win Qatar 2022 – but they were also favourites in 1982, 1986, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014, so I’m not sure what the moral of this particular story is.
Their attacking options are such that the magnificent Vinicius Jr is not a guaranteed starter. Tite needs to choose between him or Fred, which isn’t the obvious duh-cision you might expect. If he picks Vinicius, Casemiro will be the only watercarrier in town, and Brazil have generally preferred pragmatism since Tele Santana’s idealists failed to win the World Cup in 1982 and 1986.
Brazil have been banging in the goals of late, even with a relatively pragmatic system – but then so have Serbia, who tick most of the dark-horse boxes. This is a really awkward first game for Brazil. Serbia qualified ahead of Portugal and also have serious options in attack, including Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic. They won’t fear Brazil; they don’t fear anyone. This could be a cracker.
Kick off 7pm GMT, 4pm in Rio de Janeiro, 8pm in Belgrade.