Under The Spotlight: Brazil eyeing sixth World Cup after topping FIFA rankings
Brazil have leapfrogged Belgium into top spot in the latest FIFA rankings and will now be targeting a sixth World Cup when they head to Qatar this winter.
It has been two decades since the Selecao last reigned supreme on the biggest stage in international football but heading into this year's edition, expectations seem elevated and Tite's men are among the frontrunners for the trophy.
Ahead of Friday's group stage draw, we assess Neymar and Co's chances.
South American supremacy
Brazil dominated CONMEBOL qualification, winning 14 of their 17 matches and pipping fellow qualifiers Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador to top spot.
In the process, they scored 40 goals and shipped only five times, while last year they finished runners-up in the Copa America, having also won the 2019 edition.
But losing to Lionel Messi's Argentina in the 2021 final at their own Maracana Stadium was deemed a failure by some and that brings us to their glaring problem — in recent years they have struggled to perform when it matters.
At the 2018 World Cup, Brazil came through a fairly comfortable group featuring Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica before overcoming Mexico in the last 16.
They then lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals however — for the third time in four World Cup appearances.
The Selecao were also infamously dismantled 7-1 by Germany on home soil in the 2014 semi-final and getting past what seems to be a mental block against the best nations is the only way Tite's side can even entertain the idea of lifting the trophy in Qatar.
The problem could emanate from the fact CONMEBOL qualifying is simply not strong enough and Brazil have faced only one European team since the 2018 World Cup, beating Czech Republic back in March 2019.
That lack of game time against the biggest and best is only going to set them back, although it has largely been out of their control with logistical issues getting in the way in the last couple of years.
It is hard to jump on the Brazil bandwagon so soon given their recent history but the squad in isolation is strong enough to challenge any team in world football.
At the back, they are loaded with experience, with Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and Marquinhos all playing at the top level, while they are blessed with fresh exuberance in the final third, with Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Gabriel Martinelli all improving in the last year or so.
In between are top midfield anchors in Fabinho and Casemiro, while Tite has the unenviable task of picking between Alisson and Ederson in goal.
However, all eyes will again be on Neymar, with the forward now 30 and time running out for him to make his mark on the international stage.
If he can improve significantly on his performances at the 2018 World Cup and Brazil can show a big-game mentality, the Selecao will be a match for any side in Qatar.