Brazil legend Zico has given an overwhelmingly pessimistic prediction ahead of the Selecao’s home World Cup next year.
Zico, who played 72 times and scored 52 goals as an attacking midfielder for Brazil from 1976 to 1988, does not think the host nation will win the World Cup.
He says that coach ‘Big Phil’ Scolari has been left with too much to do, and too little time to do it in. And that Brazil’s young squad of much-hyped, up and coming stars may not have the mettle to survive a month of cut-and-thrust tournament football.
In what will come as a painful blow to samba supporters, Zico thinks that Argentina will probably win the World Cup, and that the home of Brazilian football, the Maracana, could begin to feel like a “cursed place.”
In an interview with The Guardian, 60-year-old Zico, considered by Pele to be “the one player that came closest to me”, painted a depressing picture of the state of Brazilian football.
"The group of players we have now look unlikely to win the World Cup, even with home support. The main problem is that we are a year from the World Cup and we still don't know who the first 11 is," he said dismissively.
Asked if he agrees with growing and uncomfortable consensus that Scolari’s new Brazil are the weakest Selecao squad in 60 years, Zico said: "Yes, in terms of results. It's because there is no continuity."
"The Brazil team is still very young. A whole new generation came in at once. So now you get all the responsibility on a player like Neymar, who is only 21 and has never played in a World Cup before,” Zico continued.
"We need some players who have been there and done that so the spotlight is on them rather than the young, up and coming players."
Meanwhile, the thought of Brazil’s great rivals, Argentina, beating them to the World Cup title in their own backyard must be especially toxic to consider.
But Zico thinks that Argentina’s eye-catching squad, inspired by serial World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, will be hard to stop.
And he shudders even to think of Brazil losing to Argentina in the final at the Maracana.
"If they [Argentina] win, I just hope it is not in the final against Brazil, or we will suffer just like we did against Uruguay in 1950,” Zico said.
“Then the Maracana will seem a cursed place."