Do Brazil Deserve to Be Favourites for 2014 World Cup?

Tony MabertContributor IOctober 29, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Neymar of Brazil and Marcelo #6 celebrate the goal by Leandro Damiao #9 while Alex Sandro looks on during the Men's Football Semi Final match between Korea and Brazil, on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Old Trafford on August 7, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Right now, a little more than 18 months before the big kick-off in Sao Paulo on June 12 2014, Brazil are the bookies' favourites to win the next World Cup.

The hosts of the 20th installment of the greatest footballing show on earth are priced as low as 3/1 to lift the trophy, according to Oddschecker, and extend their record haul to six championships.

But do the Seleccao really warrant such a status, or should another nation be the front-runners right now?

Brazil are the greatest footballing nation in the game's history, having won five World Cups and eight South American championships, but their current incarnation are not the world-beaters they have been in the past.

Their comparatively lowly place of 14th in the latest FIFA world rankings can in part be explained by their lack of competitive fixtures—as hosts they do not have to qualify for 2014—but their recent record at major tournaments is nothing to write home about. 

They made no secret of their desire to win gold at the London Olympics, but came up short against Mexico in the final of the Under-23 tournament last summer.

At last year's Copa America they went out on penalties after they could not break down an obdurate Paraguay side who stifled their way to the final. In that shootout in La Plata, Argentina, all four Brazilians who took spot-kicks failed to convert.

The previous year's World Cup also ended in the last eight, with two goals from Wesley Sneijder seeing Netherlands come from behind to win 2-1 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on a match which saw Felipe Melo get sent off for Dunga's side. That match marked the end of the international careers of both the combustible midfielder and the unpopular coach.

Many countries, even some of the world's top national sides, would consider such a recent record to be decent, but not Brazil. 

Mano Menezes was brought in to replace Dunga with the task of re-establishing some of the fabled samba swagger into the Seleccao in time for them to host the World Cup for a second time. The first time they entertained the world's best teams, in 1950, they were stunned in the final by neighbouring Uruguay in one of history's big World Cup shocks. Home advantage can only carry you so far.

With some of the brightest young attacking talents in world football—Neymar, Oscar, Lucas Moura, Ganso, Leandro Damiao et al—plus established world stars such as Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Marcelo, Hulk and Ramires, the football fans among Brazil's near 200 million inhabitants (i.e. all of them) will have high hopes of avoiding such heartbreak this time around.

However, there are plenty of other sides who will be rocking up next year with genuine belief in their prospects of victory in the final at the newly rebuilt Maracana. 

Reigning champions Spain have won each of their last three major tournaments, while Germany's dynamic young side will also harbour ambitions of becoming the first European side to win a World Cup in the Americas.

Brazil's neighbours Argentina—who boast reigning Ballon d'Or Lionel Messi among their own clutch of some of the world's most exciting attacking players—and South American champions Uruguay have plenty of reason to think they can make the short journey home after recording what would be a third World Cup triumph for each of them.

But Brazil were the last nation to win back-to-back World Cups—50 years ago—and the fact no European side has ever brought the World Cup back with them across the Atlantic means that history counts against Spain. The closest any side from the Old World came to achieving that feat was Italy when they lost to Brazil on penalties in the 1994 final in Pasadena. 

There are fears in Germany that, under head coach Joachim Loew, their national side has already peaked or is not be defensively minded enough to negotiate a full campaign.

Argentina have flattered to deceive at tournaments in recent years as they failed to fully harness the gifts of Messi, and Uruguay cannot keep punching above their weight forever.

Brazil have not truly been the attacking force packed with flair of their reputation since the 1980s, and the deference to a more pragmatic approach over the last decade has not been a success. Menezes has a year-and-a-half of non-competitive football (save for next year's Confederations Cup) in which to instil a winning game plan and mentality among his players which will do justice to their undoubted talent.

If he can, he will have his name set alongside the other heroes of the world's most football mad country. If he can't, he will be consigned to the ranks of those who have tried and failed to match the incredibly high standards set by Brazil teams of the past.

Do you think Brazil are correctly pegged as favourites to win the 2014 World Cup? Vote in our poll and have your say below.