Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sports | By Johanna Francis

Full team profile and players to watch out for

Full team profile and players to watch out for

His Brazil teammate Alisson believes the Paris Saint-Germain star is now ready to take the World Cup by storm and play a key role for the Group E favourites after making a full recovery.

Despite the quality they boast within their ranks, Brazil were hit by the injury to veteran defender Dani Alves who was eventually ruled out of the competition.

Costa Rica, meanwhile, were the surprise package four years ago, taking seven points from Italy, Uruguay and England, before losing in a penalty shootout to the Netherlands in the quarter finals. Neymar would go on to shine at the 2014 World Cup, but he had to be stretchered off the pitch after a horror tackle by Colombia's Juan Zuniga in the quarterfinals left him with a fractured vertebra in his spine.

Brazil had endured trying times in the qualifying campaign and faced the risk of not qualifying before former coach Dunga was sacked. "He has fully recovered", goalkeeper Alisson told reporters. In addition to the "Family Room" and the "Friends Room", which are visibly marked with signs on the wall, an area for the players' kids also was created.

Tite's side go into the tournament off the back of warm-up wins over Croatia and Austria.

Firmino's all-round game is perhaps more in keeping with Brazil's footballing ethos, but what this current side really calls out for is a pure goalscorer and Jesus more than fits the bill.

The Selecao were in a parlous state when he took the reins, still haunted by the spectre of the harrowing 7-1 semi-final loss to Germany and hamstrung by a lack of vision from on high. He will be hoping to turn the tables around this time as he is expected to start on the left-wing with Gabriel Jesus and Willian expected to join him to form a formidable front three. Four-time champion Italy will be watching from home for the first time since 1958, its streak of 14 consecutive appearances ended by a playoff loss to Sweden.

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Toni Kroos will be among the first names on Loew's team sheet. The distribution and transition in midfield, a trio of Casemiro, Fernandinho and Paulhino, Tite's preferred choices against stronger opposition, were non-existent.

One of his successors in goals, Dida, also celebrated an incredible career for Brazil, and also wore the No. 1 jersey for his nation at the biggest football tournament in the world. He's putting defenders on their backsides just like he does when he's at his best.

Neymar is now level with Romario and behind only Ronaldo (62) and Pele (77) in Brazil's all-time record scoring charts.

He will be given the responsibility to lead Brazil's defence along with Miranda.

But Neymar got his goal when he latched onto Willian's pass and stunning footwork saw him slot in after 63 minutes.

Brazil will have its base in Sochi despite playing no games near the Black Sea resort.

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