Brazil are on the hunt for World Cup number six - but haven't won football's biggest prize in 20 years. Cafu tells us which player holds the key to success
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It's almost impossible to imagine a World Cup without Brazil.
They are the only country to have played in every tournament since it began in 1930. And are the most successful nation, having lifted football's most prestigious trophy five times.
However, it has been 20 years since they or any South American nation won the World Cup. Despite their name being synonymous with winning football, they will travel to Qatar perhaps more in hope than expectation.
New kid on the block
Ever since a precocious 18-year-old Neymar burst onto the scene back in 2010, Brazil's hopes have rested squarely on his shoulders. He scored four times, helping the host nation to the quarter-finals in 2014. His tournament ended with a back injury that ruled him out of Brazil's next game. La Seleçao suffered their most humiliating defeat in footballing history, losing 7-1 at home to Germany.
Fast forward four years, Neymar's tournament preparations were again marred as the PSG forward arrived at the World Cup with injury concerns and Brazil were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in 2018.
At this year's games, Neymar will be 30-years old and is one of the squad's veterans. The focus will most likely be on an upcoming superstar, 21-year-old Vinicius Jr.
The Real Madrid forward has experienced a breakthrough year in Spain. His extraordinary displays have helped them win LaLiga and could help them win the Champions League at the end of the month.
One man who knows all about making it to the very top is Cafu. The former Brazilian full-back is the only man to have played in three World Cup Finals. Cafu told Football Now that Vinicius Jr is one to watch.
World Cup Winners' View
Cafu's only defeat in a World Cup Final came back in 1998 when Brazil slumped to a 3-0 defeat to host nation France. Football Now's World Cup pundit Frank Leboeuf was part of that team that kept Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Bebeto all at bay. He has some advice for the other teams in Group G about how they should approach the challenge of taking on the boys from Brazil.
"The only way of beating Brazil is thinking that you can. What we did in 1998 was the aggressiveness of the football that we put in. We were strong. We never gave up. We had Petit, Vieira, Deschamps, and Boghossian in the middle of the park. Those guys were dogs, ready to bite you. And we knew (Brazil) were a little bit sloppy, lazy in corner kicks. They are better defensively now with Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, but they can lose concentration at some point. And that's what Switzerland has to do, as they did against France in the European Championships (last Summer). Then maybe they have a chance to win against them."
Group G Dates, (Local) Times and Locations
Thursday, November 24th
13:00 Switzerland v Cameroon - Al Janoub Stadium
22:00 Brazil v Serbia - Lusail Stadium
Monday, November 28th
13:00 Cameroon v Serbia - Al Janoub Stadium
19:00 Brazil v Switzerland - Stadium 974
Friday, December 2nd
22:00 Cameroon v Brazil - Lusail Stadium
22:00 Serbia v Switzerland - Stadium 974
Serbia's desire for progress
It's not just Switzerland looking to derail the Brazilians. Serbia has experience in shocking a footballing heavyweight after beating Germany in 2010. Surprisingly they finished top of their World Cup qualifying group, above Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal that sealed that win in Lisbon. This season, the striker has scored 43 league goals for UK club Fulham, earning them the top spot in the Championship and a swift return to the Premier League. The other goalscorer that night in Portugal was Dusan Tadic, and if the Ajax man is on his game, Serbia has everything to play for.
A change of record for Song?
Cameroon brings back memories of the 1990 World Cup for those of a certain age. They stunned the footballing world with their star man, 38-year-old veteran striker Roger Milla. Diego Maradona and the Argentine team were beaten in the first game before the 'super sub' Roger Milla helped see off Romania and Colombia to the quarter-finals. They were within seven minutes of making the last four until Gary Lineker saved England with two late penalties.
Since then, it's been a tale of diminishing returns for the indomitable Lions. They've managed just one win in their subsequent 15 matches, never making it past the group stages.
However, hope springs eternal, and after dramatically eliminating Algeria, Rigobert Song's side will be looking to make positive headlines in Qatar.
Brazil will, of course, be the team to beat but perhaps the other nations in Group G can become the story of the early stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.