Firmino and Jesus to alleviate Neymar pressure
Brazil have an embarrassment of riches in their squad heading into the 2018 World Cup. The Selecao have failed to win the tournament since 2002, failing spectacularly on home soil last time out. Brazil were humbled by Germany in the semi-finals of the competition, suffering a 7-1 hammering at the hands of Joachim Low’s men. The result was the end of Luiz Felipe Scolari in his second spell in charge of the national side, failing to recapture the glory of their triumph 12 years previously.
However, under Tite, the Selecao have the quality to bounce back with a vengeance and win their fifth crown. A lot can happen between now and the start of the competition, although as it stands Brazil are the leading contenders for the trophy. However, for the best prices and to gain value in prospective punts it’s worth monitoring FootballTips world cup guide for the information. The health of Neymar could be deciding factor, with the 26-year-old still working his way back from a foot injury. As a result, Brazil’s odds could rise and fall based on his fitness ahead of the tournament.
Neymar sustained the ailment during PSG’s 3-0 win over Marseille, which forced him to undergo foot surgery. The diagnosis after the successful operation was him for to return in three months. He has been walking without crutches and could return before the end of the campaign or at least in the Selecao’s warm-up matches. However, there’s a real danger that Neymar could be short of match fitness ahead of the tournament. The last competitive game he will have played, if he does not turn out for PSG before the end of the term, will have been on February 28th. That will give Tite cause for concern, although talent alone could be able to carry him through.
Fortunately for Brazil and Tite, Roberto Firmino looks to be in prime form. The 26-year-old scored twice in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Roma in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final. He has notched 15 goals in the Premier League over the course of the season, his best return in England. Firmino’s link-up play has been crucial to Liverpool’s success, allowing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to thrive alongside him. That same ability to being able to hold up against defenders and bring the creative players into the game will stand Brazil in good stead. Neymar and Gabriel Jesus have the express pace to play in the Salah and Mane roles, arguably to a higher standard. Firmino has an excellent relationship with Philippe Coutinho - look for the duo to connect on the field several times during the tournament to devastating effect. Liverpool’s deep run in the Champions League may give Tite a few sleepless nights as the forward could be worn down or suffer an injury in the remaining matches of the campaign.
Gabriel Jesus has not kicked on to the high level expected of him at Manchester City this season. However, he did set a very high standard, scoring seven goals in 10 appearances last term. Jesus suffered a knee injury that limited his action for three months, although he still has 15 goals on the season from 38 appearances in all competitions. The 21-year-old will be competing at his first World Cup and will not have the scars of his side’s failure on home soil in the last tournament. With the attention on Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho, Jesus could well thrive under-the-radar to drive the Selecao towards the crown. It’s comforting for Tite to have quality options alongside Neymar should the forward failed to find his peak form after his return from injury.