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For more analysis, lineup projections and predictions, head to our World Cup preview hub, bookmark it, and return as all 32 team previews a...

World Cup 2018 team preview: Brazil is as battle-tested and machine-like as ever

For more analysis, lineup projections and predictions, head to our World Cup preview hub, bookmark it, and return as all 32 team previews and eight group previews roll in.

Outlook
Odds to win Group E: 80%
Odds to advance: 96.2%
Odds to win World Cup: 20%
Elo rank: 1
Yahoo Sports power rank: 2

Our writers say: The Selecao were expected to win the Hexacampeao – their sixth World Cup title – on home soil four years ago. You may remember seven reasons why that didn’t quite go to plan. But the demons of Belo Horizonte have been exorcized, and Brazil was the only South American team to cruise through qualification. — Ryan Bailey

(Odds via BetOnline, converted to percentages – and therefore slightly exaggerated)

Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus lead a fearsome Brazil attack into the 2018 World Cup. (Getty)

Basics
World Cup appearance: 21st
Best World Cup finish: Champion (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
2014 finish: Lost in the semifinals to Germany
Qualifying: Finished first in South America
Schedule: Switzerland (Sunday, June 17, 2 p.m., FS1), Costa Rica (Friday, June 22, 8 a.m., FS1), Serbia (Wednesday, June 27, 2 p.m., Fox/FS1)

Squad
Manager: Tite
Captain: Rotation
Top players: Neymar (F), Marcelo (D), Casemiro (M), Gabriel Jesus (F), Joao Miranda (D)
Full 23-man squad

Breakdown
Why they’ll win games: Brazil swept through CONMEBOL qualifying like no team has since 2000-01 Argentina. Tite has built a machine, with world-class talent fitting snugly into a defined system. That machine has scored 42 goals and allowed five over the past two years, mostly against World Cup opposition. The defense, anchored by Miranda, can seem impermeable at times. And unlike the 2014 Selecao, this iteration isn’t utterly reliant on Neymar. The dazzling winger is simply one eye-catching piece of a beautiful attacking puzzle.

Why they’ll lose games: Tite has been tinkering a bit. That isn’t inherently bad. But it is a bit strange, given how consistently excellent his team was throughout qualifying. And there have been a few unfortunate bumps in the road in recent months. Dani Alves, Brazil’s starting right back, will miss the World Cup due to injury. Neymar’s fractured metatarsal should be fully healed come mid-June, but there’s a doomsday scenario where re-injury turns Brazil’s 2018 campaign into 2014 all over again.

How they’ll play: Few teams have ever married attacking flair with defensive solidity like the Brazilians do. Casemiro will sit in front of the back four and behind two more attack-minded central midfielders. His presence gives protection and security at the back, especially in transition. It also gives the front five, and even the ever-eager fullbacks, freedom to do their thing going forward.

Projected lineup (4-1-4-1): Alisson; Fagner, Marquinhos, Joao Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro; Willian, Paulinho, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar; Gabriel Jesus.

With Alves out, either Fagner or Danilo could start at right back. At center back, Thiago Silva started in two March friendlies, but the spot was Marquinhos’ throughout qualifying. In midfield, Renato Augusto was also a fixture throughout 2016 and 2017, with either Coutinho or Willian on the right. But Coutinho could play central, with Willian wide right, against inferior group foes.

Rooting Guide
What makes them unique: Since Tite took over, 16 different players have worn the captain’s armband for Brazil. The rotation policy began as a clever ploy to avoid stripping Neymar – who had received criticism in the role – of the captaincy. Now it’s a unique, symbolic way of fostering shared responsibility throughout the squad.

Why to root for them: Because there was so much heartache in 2014. Way, way too much for many of those players to bear responsibility for. To see them undo all of it on July 15 in Moscow would be special. Oh, and they’ll entertain you in the process.

Why to root against them: Because you’ll be accused of glory hunting, and rightly so.

If you’re going to watch one game … None of the three really standout above the rest, so don’t wait; pick the first one against Switzerland.