Could Brazil really miss out on the World Cup in 2026

Could Brazil really miss out on the World Cup in 2026

Could Brazil really miss out on the World Cup in 2026? Where the Selecao has gone wrong as injuries to Neymar and Vinicius Jr pile on the pressure ahead of a huge clash with old foes Argentina

Brazil does not play many big games outside of tournaments. This is not a team that understands the concept of desperation or having a game labelled as a “must-win.” Things aren’t supposed to get this intense or nervous until the World Cup or Copa America knockout stages. But here we are, in mid-November, in a World Cup qualifying campaign just under three years away, and the Selecao are sweating.

Prior to Tuesday’s clash with the defending champions at the Maracana, the five-time champions have won only two of their first five qualifiers.

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Could Brazil really miss out on the World Cup in 2026? Where the Selecao has gone wrong as injuries to Neymar and Vinicius Jr pile on the pressure ahead of a huge clash with old foes Argentina

Although world rankings do not always reflect this, CONMEBOL qualifying is widely regarded as the most competitive. A three-year slog with each team playing 18 matches and only four automatic spots in the tournament at the end. However, things have changed in the run-up to 2026, with the expanded 48-team tournament now allowing six South American teams to qualify, with a seventh advancing to an intercontinental play-off.

Despite this, Brazil finds itself in a precarious position as the first third of the season comes to a close. They are currently fifth in the standings, having won only two of their first five games, ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash with old rivals Argentina. If they lose and other results go their way, their international break out of the automatic qualification slots could be over.

Argentina beats Brazil 1-0 in cagey 2026 World Cup qualifier

That would be unbecoming of a Brazil squad full of European stars as well as a number of youngsters who will join that group in the not-too-distant future. And, unlike recent Selecao sides, the starting XI has few obvious holes.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where things have gone so wrong for a team that is expected to win every World Cup by their own fans, regardless of their own or their opponents’ strengths. Qualification is more of an assumption than a requirement. These games should essentially be a series of warm-ups for the big event. How did they arrive at this point, then?

It all begins in the dugout.

Tite was always going to step down after the World Cup in 2022. In February of that year, Brazil’s manager announced that the tournament in Qatar would be his final act as manager of the Selecao. But it wasn’t a memorable send-off.

Brazil never really impressed, narrowly winning two of their group games before falling to Cameroon in a dead-rubber third. And, despite dispatching South Korea in the last 16, they couldn’t complain about their quarter-final exit to Croatia, even if it took penalties to secure the victory.

Tite resigned as promised, leaving the national team without a permanent head coach. Ramon Menezes took over as interim manager, but after a loss to Senegal on neutral ground, he was relieved of his duties. A subsequent poll of the Brazilian public revealed that Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti was the preferred candidate. Instead, they hired Fernando Diniz, a manager who had bounced around Brazilian football and had never managed a team for more than two years, on an interim basis. This appointment was far from convincing.

As it has turned out. Diniz has won two of his five matches in charge while also managing Fluminense, with whom he has won the Copa Libertadores. Diniz, a tough disciplinarian who believes in positional tiki-taka, seemed an odd fit from the start. As a result, despite having some of the best attacking talent in the world, the team has only scored eight goals in five games.

Experience may be on its way. Football Federation president Ednaldo Rodrigues, who previously held the position on an interim basis, claimed in July that Ancelotti has already agreed to take over the team for the 2024 Copa America — a claim Ancelotti has refused to confirm. Continuity, which is essential in international management, is absent. For more information visit  

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