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Back Brazil to win! (+100)
The Selecao have a fantastic record in qualification this time around so back them to beat Chile by at least a two-goal margin on Thursday.
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Brazil’s most recent World Cup triumph was in 2002, but they almost did not make it to that tournament in Japan and South Korea.
The Selecao lost 3-1 to Bolivia in their penultimate qualifier and headed into the last round of fixtures with their fate undecided. A 3-0 victory over Venezuela ensured their progression to the first World Cup held in Asia, which they went on to win under the guidance of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Fast forward 20 years and Brazil have made light work of the South American section of qualification. They have played one fewer game than most of their continental rivals – their meeting with Argentina in September was abandoned after five minutes in bizarre circumstances – but still sit four points clear at the top of the table.
The gap separating them from Chile in the sixth, the highest position which does not bring with it an automatic qualification spot or a place in the play-offs, stands at 20 points. Tite’s side has won 12 and drawn three of their 15 matches to date. Caesars lists them as the favorites to win the World Cup in December.
Tite has already announced that he will step down after the tournament in Qatar. In many ways, he has done a fine job as Brazil’s boss. His team was beaten in the final of the 2021 Copa America, but they lifted that trophy on home soil two years earlier. He has reintroduced an attractive style of play that has long been associated with the national team.
However, like all Brazil managers, Tite will be judged on the World Cup first and foremost. He will be desperate to make up for a disappointing quarter-final exit at the hands of Belgium four years ago. Having already qualified for Qatar, Brazil at least have the luxury of being able to begin their preparations early.
Chile, on the other hand, are still fighting to be at the World Cup later this year.
It will not be easy for them to make it. La Roja is currently two points adrift of the play-off spot and a further point back from Uruguay in the final automatic qualification berth.
Neither of their final two matches will be easy: the trip to Brazil, who have never lost a World Cup qualifier on home soil, will be followed by a meeting with Uruguay in Santiago.
The chief problem for Chile has been one of regeneration. Under Jorge Sampaoli, the national team won its first Copa America in 99 years in 2015. Sampaoli departed after that triumph, but the same crop of players won an extra edition of the Copa, held in the United States, 12 months later.
Chile remains reliant on the class of 2015-16. Claudio Bravo (38), Gary Medel (34), Mauricio Isla (33), Arturo Vidal (34), Charles Aranguiz (32), and Alexis Sanchez (33) are all still in the squad. Adequate successors have not been found.
The most successful recent addition has been Ben Brereton Diaz, an Englishman with a Chilean mother. Chile are struggling to produce top-class prospects through their own youth system. That has hampered them on the road to the 2022 World Cup.
Whereas Chile may need to win to keep their automatic qualification hopes alive, the pressure is off Brazil. Tite could use his team’s final two qualifiers to take a look at some players he has not used much up to now.
Gabriel Martinelli has been called up for the first time after his impressive form for Arsenal in the Premier League top-four race. His club team-mate Gabriel Magalhaes could also make his senior debut, while Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is in line for his fifth appearance for the Selecao.
Tite will still want to win this match, though, and we should not expect him to make wholesale changes for Chile’s visit to Rio de Janeiro. The likes of Neymar, Marquinhos, and Casemiro are all set to start, so Martin Lasarte’s charges will be up against it from the start.
Avoiding defeat would be a good outcome for Chile, but Brazil will probably prove too strong for them. Nine of their 12 victories up to now have been by a two-goal margin or more. They are particularly strong at home, with that extraordinary record of having never lost a qualifier on their own soil. Against an aging Chile side, back Brazil to win in this one.
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|Brazil vs Chile Information|
|Teams||Brazil vs Chile|
|Location||Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|
|Time||Thursday 24 March 2022, 09.30 PM EST|
|How to watch||fuboTV|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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