Are Brazil still the team to beat in South Africa?

Brazil head into the World Cup 2010 in South Africa among the favourites, they’re not the top team in this one according to the majority of bookmakers but they’re still heavily fancied.

In the current World Cup betting market Spain are priced at around 4/1, Brazil 5/1 and England 6/1, so the bookmakers (these prices vary slightly) can’t see a lot of difference between Brazil and Spain, and indeed England. I’ve had a look through their chosen 23 man squad and I have to be honest – this Brazil side does not strike me as possessing the same quality we’ve seen in previous tournaments.

Over the years the goalkeeping position has often been considered the weakest for the five time winners but this time around they got Internazionale’s Julio Cesar and Spurs stopper Heurelho Gomes.  Both of these guys are world class, Roma’s Doni is the third man but Cesar will probably be the number one, so perhaps that old stereotype has come to an end.

In defence it is an entirely different story, Maicon sticks out as a quality individual, as does Dani Alves but aside from that I honestly think we’re looking at a group of players who are past their best.  Left-back Gilberto is 34-years-old (remember his brief spell at Spurs in 2008? Didn’t really set the world on fire if I remember rightly) and plays his football in his homeland, Benfica’s Luisao has never struck me as a quality player, neither has Lucio in all honesty, and aside from Maicon and Alves I doubt any of Brazil’s defence would get into the England or Spain sides.  However, with their ability to retain the ball in midfield Brazil won’t be spending too much time defending but I am a little surprised Chelsea’s Alex has been overlooked.

The South American giants’ midfield is the area that has surprised me the most.  Felipe Melo is a decent holding midfielder, Kaka is of course a footballing superstar but he’s had a difficult campaign with Real Madrid by his own standards, I don’t know a great deal about 23-year-old Benfica man Ramires but aside from that it does strike me as a relatively poor unit.  Manchester United flop Kleberson (now with Flamengo) has been included, as has Julio Baptiste and former Manchester City man Elano, now at Galatasary.  Kleberson, Baptiste and Elano are all reasonable players – but do they rank up there with Brazilian stars of the past?  For me, they don’t.  Another surprise in Dunga’s selection is former Arsenal man Gilberto Silva, I always rated Silva but he is now 33 and plays for Panathinaikos and it is probably pretty safe to say he isn’t the player he once was (although admittedly, I didn’t catch a great deal of the Greek side’s European exploits this season).

The frontline is a different matter and as always Brazil have some quality strikers to call upon.  Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano has an amazing goalscoring record on the international stage, Robinho has a load of tricks in his box, Grafite isn’t your typical Samba star but having seen quite a bit of him over the last few years with Wolfsburg I rate him very highly, while Villarreal man Nilmar is a tenacious attacker with bags of energy.

The omission of AC Milan forward Ronaldinho came as a surprise, but considering who is heading to South Africa instead it now amazes me he missed out.  As always their attack is strong and Robinho and Kaka both perhaps have something to prove so they will be dangerous, but you have to question their strength in other areas.  Of course, writing Brazil off is ridiculous and I would never go as far as to say that, but this time around I think this is a very beatable Brazilian side and I’ll be watching their group games with Portugal and the Ivory Coast with great interest to see if the weaknesses my optimistic English eyes have seen are actually there!

Written By Betfair Blogger Gareth Freeman

Article title: Are Brazil still the team to beat in South Africa?

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