RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil legend Zico has dismissed his nation’s chances of winning a World Cup on home soil next year.
Instead, the 60-year-old has backed Brazil’s neighbour and arch-rival Argentina to secure its third world crown.
Brazil, a five-time World Cup champion, has not won the tournament since 2002, failing even to reach the semi-finals in its past two attempts.
But despite football’s premier event finally returning to Brazilian shores for the first time since 1950, Zico, who failed to hoist the trophy as a player, believes the current Brazil squad are not yet ready to claim the grand prize.
“The group of players we have now look unlikely to win the World Cup, even with home support,” Zico told The Guardian.
“The main problem is that we are a year from the World Cup and we still don’t know who the first 11 is . . . 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.
“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.”
The former Japan and Iraq coach also criticised Confederation of Brazilian Football officials for their decision to replace Mano Menezes with Luiz Felipe Scolari, a transition Zico believes could severely undermine Brazil’s chances.
“They switched at the wrong time; just as Menezes’s team was starting to come together. Now Scolari is having to start all over again,” he said.
However, Zico does not see the trophy leaving South America next year, predicting a Lionel Messi led Argentina will prove too strong for the rest of the world.
“If (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.
Then the Maracanã (stadium) will seem a cursed place.”