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Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro);

Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell, Thiago Silva (both Paris St Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli);

Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires, Willian, Oscar (all Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City);

Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg)

I'm going to stick a fiver on Brazil to win and Fred as top goal scorer” - another one of my infamous statements that I'm hoping won't come back to haunt me.


Brazil's class of 2014 isn't up there with the classic sides of 1970 or 2002; they don't have a Pele, a Rivaldo, a Ronaldo. What they do have is a young rising star who they seem to be pinning all their hopes on – the poster boy of the 2014 World Cup, Neymar. But I'm baffled why everything seems to be rested on him. There's so much quality in this Brazil side, I don't think it all rests with the 22 year-old.

This team have got a lot going for them; firstly, they're playing in their own backyard which will make a huge difference – it always does. Secondly, the man in charge has a great track record with this nation – Big Phil Scolari put together that brilliant team in 2002 that won the World Cup and starred the likes of Ronaldo and Rivaldo. He's now looking to repeat that feat, and he's been bold with his selections, leaving the experience of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho out and opting for a refreshing, exciting team. The average age of this squad is 27.8, a whole year younger than their team eight years ago and almost two years younger than the team that went to South Africa; both of those campaigns ended disappointingly, so it's good to see that nations are learning from their mistakes. The decision to go for a slightly younger approach is a good one. I was, however, surprised to see the exclusion of 21 year-old Lucas Moura; he's looked impressive for PSG this season when he's had a chance, but he's only been selected for Big Phil's standby list.

Another thing I noticed about the squad is how many players play in the English leagues, a total of seven – the only nations with more representatives in the English leagues are France (9), Belgium (12) and, of course, England (23).

I believe Brazil have a real chance to win this. For me, it's whether they can live up to the weight of expectation that is on their shoulders. The headlines are all going to be about Neymar, who's been spoken about in the same breath as Ronaldo and Messi in the past (the less we talk about that, the better), but the pressure might just be too much for him, especially off the back of a disappointing first season in Barcelona. Despite this team being built around him, there's still plenty more to be excited about.

Brazil teams in the past have often been criticised for their lack defensive quality, but this side certainly aren't short of it. Thiago Silva, for me, is the best centre-back in the world at the moment, and alongside him is either David Luiz – who has his critics, but is a brilliant footballer – or Dante, who's won the lot at Bayern Munich. They also have one of the best full-backs in the world in Dani Alves. I expect them to be solid, especially with the impressive Fernandinho sitting in front of them.

That defensive unit will give the creative players who we all associate with Brazil licence to play free roles. Despite having a mixed season, I think Oscar will be a huge player for them; I've heard many Brazilians have been happy that he's been out of favour with Jose Mourinho in the last few months of the season. Then they've got the likes of Paulinho, Ramires and Willian whose intensity will be hard to contain, especially in the sweltering conditions.

Then there are the strikers – we know about Neymar and Hulk. But a player I think will be key is Fred – he's a somewhat unknown quantity playing his football for Fluminense, but he's a finisher and he's sure to get plenty of chances.

Star Player

Neymar? Na, I actually think that Oscar will be the player of the tournament for Brazil. Fred will score all the goals, but the young Chelsea playmaker will light up the tournament.

Predicted finish

Win the bloody thingI expect the yellow and green to get out of their group convincingly, but it's not going to be easy from there. They're likely to face either Spain or Netherlands in the round of 16, then someone from England's group. From then on, it's never easy but we might even see a Brazil v Argentina final at the Maracanã...

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