London 2012 football: Brazil are favourites

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2012, 11:16 AM IST

Brendon Netto

Ever since the culmination of the 2002 World Cup, international football has witnessed a shift in power. It used to be that, when you thought of football, Brazil automatically came to mind. However, after winning the tournament in Korea and Japan, the Brazilian side that turned up at the 2006 World Cup was an aged one whose players were past their prime.

Spain’s dominance started to take shape at the Euros in 2008 and La Roja has gone on to rule the international stage like never before. Indeed, the Spanish side have won three consecutive major tournaments and is arguably the best national team of all-time. They have convincingly knocked Brazil off their perch as the superpower of world football and are firmly planted in top spot according to FIFA’s rankings. The latest edition of those rankings came as a shock to many to see the previously mighty Brazilians fall out of the top ten for the first time and occupy 11th place.

However, this year’s Olympics offers the ‘Samba Kings’ an opportunity to get back into rhythm and resurrect their status as the best footballing nation. Spain have certainly made the most of their golden generation that saw the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique emerge through the ranks and excel for their country.

However, Brazil appear to be on the verge of reaping the benefits from their latest generation of superstars and are rightly considered favourites to go home with the gold. In fact, some of these players have played together over the past two years. The national team was overhauled after the 2010 World Cup with only Robinho, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva and Ramires surviving in the aftermath of the tournament. The 2011 Copa America would prove to be a learning curve for the young side as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals.

The Olympics are the ideal preparation for the Selecao who will host the World Cup in two years’ time. The likes of Luis Fabiano, Ronaldinho, Robinho and Kaka have been replaced by Neymar, Ganso, Oscar and Lucas Moura among others. The list of youthful talent the Brazilians have at their disposal for Olympics is endless. Thiago Silva captains the side at the age of 27, the oldest in the squad. Spain’s oldest players are Adrian Lopez and Juan Mata at the age of 24. Their Olympic side do not possess the masterful passers the World Cup and European Championship winning team did. When you employ a possession-based style of play, it can be very effective if played to perfection but anything short of that leaves areas for the opposition to exploit. There’s no doubt that Spain have a tremendously talented side at this tournament but it must be said that the Brazilians have the edge in terms of overall skill and the ability to work as a unit.

Brazil steamrolled Egypt in the first half hour of their opening game to go 3-0 up but saw their lead pegged back to 3-2 following a tremendous second half showing from the Egyptians. Nevertheless, all the signs were there to suggest that Brazil are the strongest at the tournament and the two goals they conceded can be put down to complacency. In contrast, Spain went down 1-0 to Japan last night following Inigo Martinez’s sending off after 42 minutes. Brazil’s fierce attacking style is sure to continue to devastate even the best defences at the Olympics and revive a nation that has been the sleeping giant of international football over the past few years.