Brazil is arguably the most successful national team in world soccer. It is certainly the best at winning World Cups, having collected five of them in the history of the tournament. The players are a huge draw wherever they play around the world and the idea of joga bonito – “the beautiful game” – is one that was thought up specifically with Brazil in mind.
But something is very wrong at the moment. After crashing out of the last two World Cups at the quarterfinal stage, there is a real demand for the Seleção to be successful at the next tournament in 2026. But Brazil’s qualification campaign has turned chaotic in recent months, making fans in all corners of the world – including those online betting in Texas – think again about the team’s almost perennial position as World Cup favorite.
Is Brazil in crisis though? There is still a very long way to go before the South American qualifying stage finishes and there is still time to turn things around. But there do seem to be some concerning problems that need sorting out. Can those in charge – and on the field – manage that sooner rather than later?
Brazil has just lost its most recent World Cup qualifying game against archrivals Argentina at the Maracanã in Rio. That would be enough of a problem for many Brazilian fans but that is nowhere near the extent of the current situation. It was the first time that Brazil had ever lost a qualifying game at home – and its third World Cup defeat in a row. For context, that has never happened before.
The last time Brazil lost consecutive three games in all competitions was over 20 years ago – and the fans are not happy. There were disturbances in the stadium during that loss to Argentina and the discontent is growing. Since being knocked out of last year’s World Cup, Brazil have won three, tied one, and lost five. That is not a record that any Brazilian team can expect the fans to accept.
New Coach Needed
Usually, at this point the fans and the media would be clamoring for a new head coach. But part of the problem might be down to the fact that Brazil is currently playing for its second caretaker coach of the year. Fernando Diniz took over in July and has now only won two of his six games in charge.
Diniz is only filling in while Brazil wait for current Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. That deal has not actually been confirmed yet but Diniz’s appointment has not gone as planned either. He has been lauded as revolutionizing the club game, leading Fluminense to its first-ever Copa Libertadores title, but his bold tactics have not translated well on the international stage.
No Neymar, Some Problems
Brazil had to make do without many of its star players for the most recent international break. One in particular is a major loss. Neymar suffered a ruptured ACL during the defeat to Uruguay in October and is now set for a substantial period on the sidelines. Although he has his detractors, he is hugely important for Brazil – as a player and a central figure.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Vinicius Jr. was also missing for the Argentina game after tearing a hamstring in the previous game against Colombia. Brazil obviously still has almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talented players. But the absence of the very best of them is certainly having a detrimental effect.
Level of South American Soccer
Injuries to top players have also probably come at the worst time for Brazil. After dominating South American soccer, there seems to be something of a shift in the balance on the continent. There is no doubt, Brazil should still be winning most of its games, but some of the other nations have improved.
Playing Argentina is always tough – although losing to Lionel Messi and friends when they are also World champions is annoying for any Brazil fan. But Colombia and Uruguay are both looking impressive right now, with teams like Venezuela also showing that the overall standard of South American soccer has improved.
What Happens Now?
The good news for Brazil is that the South American World Cup qualifying campaign now takes ten months off. There will be some high-profile friendlies in that time. But, even though victories will be demanded, there will be less on the line and less pressure for Diniz. By the time the September game against Ecuador comes around, Carlo Ancelotti may well be the new head coach anyway.
That break in competitive games gives Brazil’s talismanic players the chance to get fully fit again. The next four qualifying games are also against some of the weakest teams in South America at the current time, so all is not lost for the Seleção.
Should Brazil Be Worried?
When it comes to qualifying for World Cup 2026, Brazil should not be too worried. With an expanded tournament, there are six South American nations progressing to the finals – and potentially another via an extra playoff round. It would be a huge shock if we were not to see those famous yellow jerseys at the World Cup.
But there will be questions over the quality of players coming through to the team. There are some very good players but a distinct lack of superstars emerging. At the moment, losing to Argentina at home will have many fans in despair. But there is plenty of time to turn things around. Brazil has not even always been very impressive at the start of qualifying campaigns, so some of this is nothing new.
Brazil fans should be secure in the knowledge that a return to form is just around the corner. But if there are a few more poor results next September, we may have to rethink our confidence in dismissing the idea of a crisis.