After a long period of global dominance, it's been 17 years since Brazil won the world football's biggest and most coveted prize.
The Seleção remains the most successful side in the competition's history but the balance of power has shifted in the favour of Europe's major forces.
🕊 Healing & growing from 2014
For Brazil, World Cup 2010 was a painful experience that will probably leave scars for generations to come. On home soil, they were dumped out of the tournament 7-1 by eventual champions Germany on the darkest day in Brazilian football history.
The scars still remain, but Tite's team has started the rebuilding phase in pretty impressive fashion. They won the Copa América earlier this year, returning back to basics with strong, defence-first football. It may not be the typical Brazilian way and it's certainly not the most stylish football the country has ever produced, but winning is winning and it's a habit that they've become well accustomed to for many years. They only conceded one goal at the entire tournament and it's that stubbornness that tends to win trophies.
The utter dominance that they enjoyed between 1994 and 2002, owing much to the star attacking quality of Ronaldo, Rivaldo & Ronaldinho, was balanced out by the defensive solidity of legendary fullback Cafu, midfield general Dunga and "the invisible wall" Gilberto Silva. Football is about balance and if Brazil is to succeed at World Cup 2022 and beyond, that delicate balance has to be struck once more.
💺 Europe in the driving seat
Europe has taken over since Brazil's last win, sweeping gold at the tournament in each of its last four editions. Seven of the last eight finalists in World Cups have been teams from Europe, the only exception being Messi's Argentina that fell to Germany on Brazilian soil five years ago.
2006 was remembered for the controversy of Zidane's headbutt as France lost to Italy on penalties. Spain won the first-ever African-hosted World Cup in 2010 as they edged the Netherlands after extra time in Johannesburg's Soccer City Kalabash stadium. Brazil's Maracanã played host to Argentina vs Germany, a clash settled by an injury-time winner from Mario Götze. France swept all before them in 2018 when they vanquished a heroic Croatia team 4-2, with one of the goals courtesy of the then-19-year-old Kylian Mbappé; it was the first time a teenager had scored in a World Cup final since Brazil's Pelé, some 60 years back. There is enough talent in Mbappé's boots for the phenomenal striker to spearhead France to their own era of domination if he wants it enough.
The signs for the current Brazil crop are promising, but it's very much a work in progress before they can be considered world-beaters again. With five titles under their belt and an appearance at every single World Cup tournament in history, a return to power for Brazil would be a popular outcome around the globe.
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