Brazil World Cup 2022 squad guide: More than enough quality to deliver the ‘Hex’


The five-time winners have incredible depth at their disposal this time around, with arguably the best squad heading to this World Cup. If their veteran manager Tite can continue to eke the best out of Neymar, and avoid any in-fighting, they could make it six.

The manager

After six years in charge of Brazil, Tite will walk away after the World Cup. He came close to leaving in 2018 after the 2-1 defeat to Belgium in the quarter-finals, confessing it was tough to get over it and go again. But he stayed on after consulting his nearest and dearest and guided Brazil to back-to-back Copa America finals, winning one against Peru in 2019 — their first in 12 years — and losing the other to Argentina in 2021. 

The 61-year-old has overseen a transition from one generation to another and Brazil’s football is in step with the latest tactical trends. Ultimately, his era will be judged on what happens in Qatar. 

Tite’s succession is already a source of debate in Brazil between traditionalists who back Brazilians like Flamengo’s Copa Libertadores-winning coach Dorival Junior and Gremio’s Renato and those who acknowledge the impact of Portuguese coaches like Jorge Jesus and, more recently, Abel Ferreira at Palmeiras. But the focus is currently on the here and now. 

The household name you haven’t heard of yet

You’re kidding, right? This Brazil squad is full of so many household names they’re practically family. One player flying under the radar is Danilo, the versatile hybrid right-back. The 31-year-old is charged with replacing the legendary Dani Alves, one of the best players of all time in his position and a leader who captained Brazil to Copa America glory in 2019. 

Danilo has quietly gone about winning everything. He was a member of the Santos team that won the Copa Libertadores at the start of the last decade alongside Neymar. Porto then signed him and his team-mate Alex Sandro, who is competing with Alex Telles for the left-back spot in Qatar. Danilo twice lifted the Champions League at Real Madrid and won the Premier League twice with Manchester City, who sent him to Juventus in exchange for Joao Cancelo. 

For a while, Juventus fans thought they got the bad end of the deal but Danilo has gradually won them over and is regarded as one of the team’s best performers over the last two years, captaining the side in the recent win over Inter Milan in the Derby d’Italia. Andrea Pirlo, in particular, really tapped into his tactical intelligence, creating hybrid roles for him in Juventus’ build-up play. 

Tite is now doing the same, moving Danilo next to Casemiro in midfield when Brazil are attacking, thereby enabling Fred or Lucas Paqueta to join a five-man forward line. 

Could a good World Cup make Danilo (almost) as big a star as Neymar? (Photo: Getty)


Perhaps only France can rival Brazil for quality and quantity. 

Goalkeeper used to be a problem position for Brazil. Moacir Barbosa was held up as the man who made an entire nation cry after the Maracanazo in 1950. But current goalkeeping coach Claudio Taffarel and Dida changed all that and Tite can call upon Alisson and Ederson. 

It’s a similar story all over the pitch, maybe with the exception of full-back. Let’s run through the team. If  Thiago Silva or Marquinhos are unavailable to play in central defence, a Champions League winner like Eder Militao can step in or, failing that, the reigning Serie A defender of the year, Gleison Bremer. 

Militao, incidentally, was a real handful from set plays at the Copa America in 2021. Expect Brazil to pose a threat from dead-ball situations again in Qatar. 

The Selecao looked a little short out wide at the last Copa with Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus taking turns on the flanks and Everton Cebolinha, one of the heroes of 2019, providing the width. Now Tite is spoilt for choice with Vinicius Junior, Raphinha, Rodrygo and Antony.  

After casting around for a striker ever since Ronaldo’s retirement, Richarlison has established himself as Brazil’s No 9. He was unflappable and decisive in the 2019 Copa America final and hasn’t looked back.  



Brazil haven’t faced a team from Europe since a friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague more than three years ago. 

The pandemic and the UEFA Nations League got in the way so there’s some trepidation about how Brazil will perform in encounters against the top sides from Europe. It’s a relative unknown — perhaps an overblown one — but Brazil don’t have a reference point to match Argentina’s evisceration of Italy in the Finalissima at Wembley. 

Personnel-wise, the left-back role seems up for grabs. Renan Lodi’s mistake cost Brazil in the 2021 Copa America final, Alex Sandro is in decline and Tite used the last friendlies in September to learn more about Alex Telles who is now on loan at Sevilla from Manchester United.  

Another concern is Neymar’s durability. He missed the 7-1 against Germany in 2014 after the Colombia full-back, Juan Camilo Zuniga, smashed into his back and fractured a lumbar vertebra. Neymar was also absent for the 2019 Copa America with a ruptured ankle ligament. It didn’t stop Brazil winning the competition but Tite felt it was a grind. 

It remains to be seen whether Neymar’s public backing of Jair Bolsonaro in the recent Brazilian elections has a divisive effect. 

Will Neymar’s backing of Bolsonaro prove divisive in the Brazil camp? (Photo: Getty)

Local knowledge

When Brazil get their World Cup under way in Lusail on November 24, expect to hear the fans singing “Mil gol” about Pele scoring 1,000 goals. Its last disparaging line is about white lines and Diego Maradona. From song lyrics we turn to the language of football itself: Tite has his own lexicon and Brazilians have been compiling a list of Tites or Tite-isms which include treinabilidade — trainability.  

Expectations back home

It’s been 20 years since the most successful team in the history of this competition won the World Cup. Too long for a country whose national identity is wrapped up in the canary colours of the Selecao. 

Brazilians are demanding the Hex, a sixth title (not a curse) in Qatar, and this generation of fans hope there is a similar redemptive arc to what Brazil experienced in the past. The 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014 brooked comparison with the Maracanazo in 1950, when Brazil lost the decisive final game against Uruguay at home. Eight years later, Pele and Garrincha were triumphant in Sweden. 

The same amount of time has elapsed between the humiliation suffered in Belo Horizonte and Qatar. It’s a tournament that will decide whether or not Tite and Neymar have a place in Brazil’s pantheon of World Cup greats.

Read more: See the rest of The Athletic’s World Cup 2022 squad guides

(Main graphic — photos: Getty Images/design: Sam Richardson)


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