It’s a battle of top three teams in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying on Thursday as Brazil welcome Ecuador to the Maracana for their fifth match of the campaign. Brazil are in first with a perfect 4-0-0 record, while Gustavo Alfarao’s side has been the biggest surprise so far with a 3-0-1 record, positioning themselves nicely for a spot in next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Brazil: The perfect record through four games is great, but they haven’t really played any of the big boys outside of Uruguay. This will be a huge test for the team and one they should pass rather easily. Brazil will dominate the ball, move it at will, and they’ll have their chances. But don’t be shocked if Tite puts a leash on his fullbacks, looking to keep them back and battle Ecuador’s counter.
Ecuador: Who would have thought Ecuador’s attack would be the best through four games? 13 goals and a three-game winning streak has them full of confidence, but facing Brazil’s defense is no easy task. The key here will be to possess the ball, keep it away from Brazil and play with patience, methodically looking to build going forward. But, chances are we will see Alfaro’s team sit back and go on the counter. Brazil’s technical ability could see them have a field day, so Ecuador’s attack must continue if they are to have any chance.
Brazil is undefeated in the qualifiers with a 4-0-0 record, but this is the first Matchday since last fall, and a fresh start for teams across the league. When qualifiers began last year, Brazil opened with a dominant 5-0 win over Bolivia, followed by another high-scoring 4-2 win over Peru. They last defeated Uruguay 2-0 in November. Ecuador is in 3rd place in the qualifiers with a 3-0-1 record. Their only loss so far has been to Argentina, and they are coming off a crushing 6-1 win over Columbia.
Brazil will be looking to make it five wins from five matches in CONMEBOL FIFA World Cup qualification when they host Ecuador in Porto Alegre on Saturday. Tite has named a strong 31-man squad for the next two qualifiers against La Tri and Peru, with several key first-team players returning to the national team setup. Goalkeepers Ederson and Weverton have started two games each during the qualifiers so far, but with the return of Liverpool stopper Alisson Becker to the squad, he could be recalled to the first XI.
Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz has featured in each of Brazil’s last five international matches and could be handed another start alongside Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta and Real Madrid’s Casemiro. Tite’s 4-3-3 formation will likely see a three-man attack that includes talisman Neymar, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 victory over Peru last year. The Paris Saint-German star is in contention to make his 104th international appearance for Brazil, which would put him one cap behind Lucio who is fourth on the all-time list. Neymar could be joined up front by Merseyside pair Roberto Firmino and Richarlison, who have five goals between them from the opening four qualification fixtures.