As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 26 days to the big kick-off it is the turn of Brazil.


It's four years since Brazil crumbled on home soil to a rampant Germany in the most spectacular defeat ever seen in a World Cup; and if it only feels like yesterday to you, spare a thought for the Samba Boys, for whom the scars remain very deep and very raw.

They've lived with it every day since.

Current coach Tite recently described that semi-final embarrassment as "a ghost... it’s present, people still talk about it, but the more you talk about it, the less this ghost disappears."

Their 1-0 March friendly win against Die Mannschaft in Berlin had added significance then, and was heralded as an important step forward in a four-year healing process.

This is a new Brazil, with some of the values of old.

Felipe Scolari was a haunted man in the dugout for the hammering at the hands of the Germans and although the collapse was shocking, defeat had been coming.

Brazil looked ponderous, lacking pace and invention, were far too reliant on Neymar and when their star man suffered a back injury in the quarter-final win against Colombia, the cracks became chasms.

The only possible way to full exorcise the Rio humiliation is to go all the way in Russia and this bunch could well do just that.

Dunga took over from Scolari and lasted two years before elimination from the group stages of the Copa America for the first time in 19 years saw him get the axe.

Enter Tite, who liberated the creative players at his disposal and steered Brazil to qualification with a minimum of fuss. They were the first country to qualify for Russia and did so playing with the fluid, attractive style so demanded of them.

Six Premier League players have been included in the squad - Manchester City quartet Ederson, Danilo, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus, along with Chelsea's Willian and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino - with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Marcelo, Casemiro, Thiago Silva and Roma keeper Allisson beefing up the pedigree and star appeal.

Neymar is included too of course, though PSG's golden goose comes into this one under a cloud. The attacker hasn't played since February after having surgery on a broken metatarsal in his right foot.

That is not the headache it would have been last time out. There's a potency and solidity to Tite's Brazil that means they look far better equipped for life without Neymar, which takes the pressure off the 26-year-old and might mean his manager uses him more cautiously in the early group games.

They're sited in Group E alongside Switzerland Serbia, Costa Rica so they'll make the knockout stages with or without the €222m man. And after that, would anybody fancy going up against Brazil? 

The Samba Boys have got their mojo back. 

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Manchester City), Cassio (Corinthians).

Defenders: Danilo (Manchester City), Fagner (Corinthians), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Thiago Silva, Marquinhos (both Paris St-Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan) Pedro Geromel (Gremio).

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Douglas Costa (Juventus).

Forwards: Neymar Jr (Paris St-Germain), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player.