Will Brazil still qualify for the 2026 World Cup? What they need to do for qualify

brazil-vs-argentina-2023

Brazil’s World Cup qualification woes took a historic turn for the worse on Tuesday when they lost 1-0 to arch-rivals Argentina at the Maracana.

Nicolas Otamendi’s second-half header sealed a 1-0 replay of the Copa America 2021 final at the same venue, but the match also incredibly marked Brazil’s first ever home World Cup qualifier loss.

It should therefore come as little surprise that the Selecao boast an all-time World Cup record that dates back to the inaugural edition in 1930.

However, Argentina’s defeat was their third in a row following 2-1 reverses on the road in Colombia and Uruguay, while a 1-1 draw at home to Venezuela in October means caretaker boss Fernando Diniz is now without a win in four games.

So is Brazil’s bid to reach the 2026 World Cup in trouble? And what must they do to turn it around?

CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table

*Updated as of November 22, 2023.

Rank Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1. Argentina 6 5 0 1 8 2 +6 15
2. Uruguay 6 4 1 1 13 5 +8 13
3. Colombia 6 3 3 0 6 3 +3 12
4. Venezuela 6 2 3 1 6 3 +3 9
5. Ecuador* 6 3 2 1 5 3 +2 8
6. Brazil 6 2 1 3 8 7 +1 7
7. Paraguay 6 1 2 3 1 3 -2 5
8. Chile 6 1 2 3 3 7 -4 5
9. Bolivia 6 1 0 5 4 14 -10 3
10. Peru 6 0 2 4 1 8 -7 2

*Ecuador were deducted 3 points by FIFA decree after fielding an ineligible player in a previous qualification cycle.

What does Brazil need to do to qualify for the 2026 World Cup?

The tables above outline the main factor working in Brazil’s favor. CONMEBOL qualification is a marathon, not a sprint.

Three consecutive defeats at any stage of this grueling ordeal isn’t ideal, but with two-thirds of the campaign left there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

By the time qualifying is over, Brazil will have Diniz’s permanent successor firmly planted in the dugout, Neymar back in action after a serious knee injury and will see several new stars emerge.

If all goes according to plan, the October/November dip of 2023 will begin to feel like ancient history. Also, the escape route will remain, even if they have the ignominy of a few more setbacks before the end of this season.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the first edition expanded to 48 finalists. From CONMEBOL’s perspective, this means six automatic qualifiers, up from four, and the seventh-placed team entering the Intercontinental play-offs.

Brazil have never needed a play-off to reach the World Cup before, and it would be a little embarrassing for them if they had to go that route. But even if they do shamefully, the Selecao should emerge and fly the flag at the 2026 World Cup.

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