Football

Brazil a World Cup favourite

Selecao return to top of Fifa rankings for first time in seven years

Brazil surged to the top of the Fifa world rankings for the first time in seven years yesterday, but Ronaldinho cautioned against unreasonable expectations of the team.

The Selecao's return to the summit was made all the sweeter by the fact that they replaced great rivals Argentina for the top spot.

Having become the first team to qualify for Russia 2018, Brazil are now seen by many as the favourites for the tournament.

The five-time World Cup winners have won all their nine matches since Tite took over from Dunga last June, and confidence in the camp is high.

Ronaldinho, though, cautioned against getting carried away by Brazil's impressive form.

He reflected back to the Selecao side he was a part of at World Cup 2006 that was also heavily fancied and featured other star names like Ronaldo, Kaka, Roberto Carlos and Cafu, but failed to get past the quarter-finals.

Said the 2002 World Cup winner: "During the World Cup it's going to be even more difficult.

"We have to support the team and not put too much pressure on them.

"I have been in this situation. 
 "In 2006 we had a very good team but we didn't perform as everybody had hoped.

"It's OK to create expectations but without too much pressure."

Brazil last led the Fifa rankings going into World Cup 2010, where they were eliminated by Holland in the quarter-finals.

In the worst result in the country's storied football history, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany at the 2014 World Cup semi-finals on home soil.

The nation was plunged into despair, but the good times seem to be back.

After the Selecao beat Uruguay 4-1 last month, former Manchester United and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan said: "Brazil have always had some of the best individual talents in football, yet I was impressed with how they defended and provided a secure base for Neymar's magic...

"(Tite's) only been in charge of Brazil since last June but he has a formidable and well-organised side with the individuals to win any match...

"They are in perfect shape just over a year ahead of the World Cup 2018 in Russia."

Brazil captain Neymar, meanwhile, believes that a focused Brazil are the best side in the world.

Speaking ahead of last week's 3-0 win over Paraguay that sealed their spot in Russia, the Barcelona attacker said: "There was never a dependency on Neymar.

FOCUSED

"This is Brazil. If focused, our team is the best...

"We are playing football. The players are not so different - it is the way of playing. Now everyone turns up."

His teammate Willian added that Brazil will turn up in Russia aiming to win their sixth World Cup.

"The way we are playing is being watched all over the world. People are saying that the champions are back," he said after the Selecao qualified for Russia 2018.

"I think this is really important, to play with confidence.

"But it is also important to keep humble, realistic, be conscious that we haven't won anything yet. And that our biggest aim is the World Cup." - WIRE SERVICES

FIFA RANKINGS (TOP 10)

1. Brazil

2. Argentina

3. Germany

4. Chile

5. Colombia

6. France

7. Belgium

8. Portugal

9. Switzerland

10. Spain

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