The 2022 World Cup is now less than eight months away and the excitement will ramp up another notch on Friday when the draw takes place in Doha.

Qatar will become the first Arab country to host the global showpiece, 92 years after the inaugural event in Uruguay, in what is the 22nd edition of football's biggest tournament.

It will become the smallest host nation by area, with matches to be spread across five different cities, making this the most concentrated edition since Argentina 1978.

Twenty-nine nations have already booked their finals spot, 22 of which competed at the 2018 edition, with the automatically-qualified hosts the only side to make their debut.

Due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the fate of eight teams remains in the balance – only three of whom can still advance.

Wales will face the winners of the Scotland versus Ukraine play-off in June, while New Zealand take on Costa Rica and Peru meet either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.

To further whet the appetite ahead of Friday's draw, Stats Perform looks at some key questions to be answered with the aid of Opta data.

 


Will Europe continue to dominate?

The past four World Cups have been won by European teams: Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 and France in 2018.

That is the longest run of victories for a single continent in the tournament's history, with only one defeated finalist – Argentina in 2014 – coming from outside of Europe.

Indeed, a European team has triumphed in 12 of the previous 21 editions, with South America responsible for the other nine victors.

France are the reigning champions and are aiming to become the third team to retain the trophy after Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962).

However, a word of warning for Les Bleus – the past three defending champions have been eliminated in the group stage (Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018).

 


No Italy, but will it be a familiar winner?

Despite that, France will be fancied by many having reached the final in half of the past six World Cups –1998, 2006 and 2018 – which is more than any other country.

Another World Cup heavyweight will not be present in Qatar, though, as four-time winners Italy – only Brazil (five) have won more trophies – missed out in the play-offs.

Speaking of Brazil, they are taking part in their 22nd World Cup, making them the only team to have featured in every edition of FIFA's showpiece competition.

Like Italy, Germany have won four titles and they have reached the semi-finals on four of the past five occasions, which is double the number of any other team in that period.

No matter how strong a side, a perfect tournament is tough to come by – only Brazil in 1970 and 2002 have achieved that since the 1930s, when teams played just four games.


Or is it a chance for someone new to shine?

Canada will play in their first World Cup since 1986; that gap of 36 years the longest between appearances among teams confirmed to be taking part in this year's event.

Egypt and Norway had the longest gap at 56 years, though Wales will break that should they advance from their play-off to qualify for the first time since 1958 (64 years).

Qatar are the only new face and will aim to avoid becoming just the second hosts to be eliminated in the first round after South Africa in 2010.

Mexico will also have their sights set on the knockout stages, though no side has played as many games (57) as them without reaching the final.

Netherlands, meanwhile, have reached the final on more occasions (1974, 1978 and 2010) without lifting the coveted trophy than anyone else.

 


Can Ronaldo and Muller set new records?

Cristiano Ronaldo will appear at a record-equalling fifth World Cup and is out to become the first player ever to score in five different editions.

The Portugal forward has seven World Cup goals in total, nine short of the record held by Miroslav Klose, who netted all 16 of his goals from inside the penalty area.

Thomas Muller has an outside chance of catching countryman Klose in Qatar, having scored 10 times across his three previous participations – no active player has more.

The top scorer in a single World Cup is Just Fontaine, who scored 13 times in 1958, including a goal in all six of France's games.

Not since Gerd Muller in 1970, with 10 goals for Germany, has a player reached double figures in a single edition. Brazil great Ronaldo's eight in 2002 is the highest since then.

It's nearly four years since Didier Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, as he guided France to their second success on football's grandest stage.

The target now for Les Bleus is to become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain their crown, and that journey begins on Friday with the draw for the group stage of Qatar 2022.

Four years is a long time to wait for anything, but the draw for the World Cup is always a milestone event that sees the anticipation taken up a notch.

The eyes of the football world will be on the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, where the eight groups will be drawn and potential routes to December's finale can start being plotted.

But there is a little more to the draw than that…

 

How will the draw work?

Most of us have seen a draw and understand the general premise, but there's a lot of detail to consider before we end up with our completed group stage.

For starters, Friday's draw (19:00 local time) will only include 29 qualified teams, with the other three spots to consist of a couple of intercontinental play-off slot placeholders and one UEFA play-off slot placeholder, with those nations to be determined later in the year.

The qualified teams will be sorted into four pots of eight, with their FIFA world ranking determining which they enter – joining Qatar in pot one will be the top seven teams, while the nations ranked eight-15 will be in pot 2, and so on. The three play-off slot placeholders will be drawn from pot four.

There will also be eight pots representing the groups, A to H. Each group pot contains four balls with position numbers, ranging from one to four, which correspond to the teams' respective starting position in the tables and subsequently impact their fixture schedule.

Team pot one will be the first to empty, with Qatar automatically drawn into slot A1. The other sides from pot one will go straight into position one of the remaining groups.

From then on, a ball is drawn from a team pot and followed by one from a group pot, determining that team's position – for example, the second nation drawn into Group A could be placed in slot A4. The process continues until each team pot is emptied, with pot four the last to be drawn.

Where possible, no group will contain more than one team from the same qualification zone, with the exception of Europe – so anyone hoping for an encounter like Brazil v Uruguay will have to wait for the knockout stage.

Thursday's release of the latest world rankings confirmed the make-up of the respective pots, so, without any further ado, let's take a look through them…

The Pots

Pot One:

Qatar (hosts)
Brazil
Belgium
France
Argentina
England
Spain
Portugal

 

Pot Two:

Denmark
Netherlands
Germany
Mexico 
USA
Switzerland
Croatia
Uruguay

Pot Three:

Senegal
Iran
Japan
Morocco
Serbia
Poland
South Korea
Tunisia

 

Pot Four:

Cameroon
Canada
Ecuador
Saudi Arabia
Ghana
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 1 
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 2
UEFA play-off placeholder

Luck of the draw!

It goes without saying that, theoretically, being in pot one means you would be favourites to win your group. But that's the beauty of football; practically anything can happen once you're on the pitch.

If we look back to the last World Cup four years ago, defending champions Germany were top of the FIFA rankings and in pot one, but then failed to get through the group stage for the first time ever.

 

But just as being in a higher pot is no guarantee of going deep into the tournament, who's to say how eventual 2018 champions France would have fared had they been in pot two?

Les Bleus were ranked seventh at the time so squeezed into pot one ahead of Spain. While that arguably gave them a trickier route to the final in the knockout phase, perhaps the tests posed by Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium were what kept them sharp all the way to the end?

This time around, Spain do appear in pot one. Portugal do as well, with Fernando Santos' men benefiting in that regard from European champions Italy's shock absence.

Nevertheless, there are some powerful teams in pot two. The Netherlands and Germany are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch there, both of whom will provide a stern test for any of the teams in pot one. Brazil v Die Mannschaft in the group stage, anyone?

There's a chance we could even see a repeat of the 2018 final in the group stage, with Croatia (pot two) able to come up against France in the opening round, while an England v United States showdown would surely capture the imagination of fans on both sides of 'the pond'.

We can expect to see plenty of quality in pot three as well, especially with Serbia, Robert Lewandowski's Poland and African champions Senegal present.

Among those in pot four are Canada. They may only be competing in their second World Cup and first since 1986, but John Herdman's team have won plenty of admirers en route to winning the CONCACAF qualifying section and reaching a record high of 33rd in the rankings.

 

Excitement, expectations and exoduses as Ronaldo and Messi look likely to bow out

Whether watching football on TV or from the stands, it can often be easy to forget that our heroes are just ordinary people as well. They are individuals who in all likelihood had the same hopes and dreams as many of us as children.

The glitz and glamour surrounding professional football can lead us to put footballers on a pedestal, but behind the sport's shiny facade, our teams are made up of – and coached by – people who are just as obsessed with the idea of the World Cup as anyone else.

England manager Gareth Southgate encapsulated the excitement earlier this week, as he said: "[The World Cup evokes] a different sort of feeling, but it's still a tournament we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well. And it's a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting."

Of course, that innocent excitement harbours expectation and hope for many, for others there will be a feeling of responsibility to amend the wrongs of the past.

This time around, that's arguably truest when looking at Germany, with Manuel Neuer fully appreciating he may not get another opportunity to put things right.

"I know that I will probably not get to play many more World Cups, so after crashing out in 2018 in Russia and our exit against England [at Euro 2020], it's important that we show a new version of ourselves and visualise success," the experienced goalkeeper said.

That finality Neuer alluded to is another key aspect of the World Cup. Given the four-year cycle of the tournament, every time we bid a fond farewell to a few greats of the game who opt to take advantage of the cyclical nature and end their international careers.

 

This time it looks as though Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who for so long battled out their own personal 'Greatest of All-Time' rivalry – may be among those appearing on the World Cup stage for the last time.

"Goal achieved, we're at the Qatar World Cup. We're in our rightful place!" Ronaldo's Instagram post after Portugal's play-off success focused on the positive, but at 37, Qatar 2022 will surely be his final appearance at the tournament.

As for Messi, he said last week: "I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope [Argentina's preparations] go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Exoduses after major international tournaments are common as teams reset or rebuild, but given what Messi and Ronaldo have represented on the pitch and the fact they've appeared at each of the previous four World Cups, their appearances at Qatar 2022 need to be savoured.

It all begins with Friday's draw, when narratives and talking points that'll live longer than any of us will start to take shape with the unscrewing of a few shiny plastic balls.

Brazil head coach Tite praised the performance of his much-changed Brazil side after a comfortable 4-0 win in World Cup qualifying in Bolivia on Tuesday.

Goals from Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison (two) and Bruno Guimaraes sealed the routine victory in La Paz, a notoriously difficult place to play football given its high altitude, which Tite referenced before the game.

The Selecao had already qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and so Tite was happy to ring the changes after also winning 4-0 against Chile last week, with Philippe Coutinho and Richarlison coming in for Vinicius Jr and the suspended Neymar.

There were also starts for Dani Alves, Eder Militao, Alex Telles, Fabinho and Guimaraes, who scored his first goal at international level.

"We need to see the game in its whole context," Tite said. "It was a linear situation in the first and second half. The changes helped to maintain our balance.

"In terms of tactics, we play in a 4-4-3 almost always, even in different situations. Sometimes we have a player who floats, like Coutinho today. The striker attacked space today. In the other game it was two central defenders with two arrows on their side."

The 60-year-old also referenced the difficulty of playing in La Paz, saying he even struggles with it just standing on the touchline.

"To come up against such adversity and be able to produce this score, with a lot of shots, maintaining our level and making changes to the team without losing our model [was impressive]," he said. "Our recovery of ball possession remained high, and we kept up very high levels of concentration.

"My head hurts, I go upstairs and I gasp. The athlete diminishes his physical capacity for performance. It was [a performance above expectations]. To put in that performance against Bolivia here in La Paz is very difficult.

"A team that has changed its starting lineups and maintains a pattern, this is significant. We always try to do the best job possible. The feeling I have is one of peace."

Brazil sit top of South American qualifying with a six-point lead after securing 14 wins and three draws from their 17 games, with only the re-arranged clash against Argentina still to play.

Brazil maintained their unbeaten record in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup on Tuesday after a 4-0 win over Bolivia in La Paz.

At the notoriously tricky Estadio Hernando Siles, first-half goals from Lucas Paqueta, Richarlison and Bruno Guimaraes proved the difference.

With the likes of Neymar, Casemiro, Vinicius Junior and Fred all rested, Tite's side were by no means dominant, but characteristically did enough to secure a 14th win out of 17 games.

Though qualification is not technically finished for Brazil, with their abandoned game with Argentina set to be rescheduled, that fixture with their arch rivals will likely be nothing more than a glorified friendly for both teams as they prepare for the finals in Qatar.

The best chance in the opening 20 minutes fell to the hosts, with Henry Vaca cutting inside on Marquinhos and shooting straight at Allisson.

They were made to pay only moments later via fantastic individual work from Paqueta in the 24th minute, the Lyon man playing a one-two with Guimaraes before coolly converting with only Ruben Cordano to beat in the Bolivian goal.

With a simple tap-in, Richarlison doubled the advantage just before half-time. Fabinho drove up the pitch upon Brazil gaining possession and Antony picked out the Everton attacker free at the back post to provide the assist.

It wasn't all clear skies for the Selecao in the altitude of La Paz, with Alisson again called into action in the 52nd minute to keep out Ramiro Vaca's deflected effort.

Alisson was left scrambling only two minutes later with Henry Vaca providing a dangerous cross to the back post for his namesake, who could not get a foot onto the ball for what would have been a certain goal.

Brazil were ruthless when presented opportunities and Guimaraes spectacularly made it three in the 66th minute after another quick counter, volleying home a first-time volley following good work from Gabriel Martinelli.

Richarlison rounded off the scoring from a quick throw-in during injury time, following up Rodrygo's initial attempt after a Guimaraes dart behind the defensive line.

Tite has issued an apology to Mikel Arteta following reports he was in talks to take a job at Arsenal after the 2022 World Cup. 

The Brazil boss will leave his position with the Selecao when his contract expires after the competition in Qatar at the end of this year. 

It was reported last week that negotiations for Tite to take a job at Emirates Stadium were already under way, but the 60-year-old has categorically denied that is the case. 

Tite branded the information in the media "a lie" and insisted his sole focus is on leading Brazil to a successful campaign in the Middle East. 

"Regarding the information given, my feeling is one of sadness. I'm sad because the information given to the public is a lie. The information is a lie," Tite told a news conference. 

"And the people I represent and who identify with me, rest assured, because I have morals, value my professional activity and know the responsibility of the Brazilian national team. 

"Sorry, Arsenal. Sorry, Arteta. It didn't come from us. There's nothing, absolutely nothing. 

"In a moment of widespread fake news, of information that isn't true, it saddens me. My word is that there is no one, neither me nor Gilmar [Veloz, his agent], who can talk about it." 

Brazil take on Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, and a win would guarantee they finish top of the CONMEBOL standings. 

However, Tite acknowledged his team will have to change their approach due to the "inhumane" conditions at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, which sits at over 3,600 metres above sea level. 

"We always have an expectation, regardless of the adversities we're faced with," said Tite. 

"The team won't be as attacking as in the past few games because it's not possible, it's inhumane, there aren't the conditions for it. 

"There are other strategies [like] keeping possession. Of course, you can't continue with the same rhythm, the pace that we have played with in home games or in normal conditions." 

South America has not produced a World Cup-winning side for two decades because so many of their players are spread across the globe, Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda has suggested.

Brazil were the last nation from the continent to win the biggest prize in football, triumphing at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Since then, Italy, Spain, Germany and France have all won the title, with only Argentina coming close from the CONMEBOL confederation when they finished second at Brazil 2014.

Brazil and Argentina will be among the favourites at Qatar 2022 later this year following superb qualification campaigns, alongside a host of familiar European rivals chasing success.

Asked ahead of Colombia's final qualifying clash with Venezuela this week – in which they must at least draw and rely on results elsewhere, too, to make an inter-confederation play-off – Rueda offered an explanation for why CONMEBOL sides have come up short over the past four editions.

"Without doubt, [players playing in Europe] has always been our biggest worry, the problem that we have in South America," Rueda stated. "I have said so many times.

"South America, with the potential and talent that it has, we are approaching now 20 years without a World Cup winner because of that situation.

"Because our biggest talents go to Europe and for some of them, it is difficult, depending on the percentage of those players that are in the national teams, to respond in the same way.

"Then players coming from Europe must attend two or three tournaments. South America has been a victim of this problem in the last 20 years

"That has been a factor that explains why strong national teams haven't been able to consolidate good performances and to win a world title that hasn't happened since 2002."

The CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying format is too tough on the players, with Thiago Silva keen for an alternative that can aid performance to be found. 

In the current system, South American teams play one another twice in a single group for a total of 18 matches. The top four qualify for the World Cup, with the fifth-placed team entering a play-off against a team from Asia. 

Given the scale of the continent and the fact many players ply their trade with European clubs, huge distances need to be traversed and matches can be played at significantly varying altitudes and temperatures in the space of just a few days. 

Brazil centre-back Silva believes a change is needed, with FIFA having reportedly met with some players to discuss what a new format could look like for the first 48-team World Cup in 2026. 

"It's not the 18 games, but the travelling we do. It's a lot of mileage compared to the Europeans, who play close together," Silva was quoted as saying by Globo Esporte. 

"There's a lot of wear and tear, in addition to the climate, which is totally different from what we are used to in Europe. 

"Me and the team had a hard time training in Teresopolis, which is colder than Rio de Janeiro [where Brazil played Chile on Thursday]. This can hinder performance. 

"If we could somehow find a balance in these trips, it would certainly facilitate our stay and our performances. 

"It's definitely unnecessary wear and tear, in my opinion." 

After defeating Chile 4-0 in the heat of Rio on Thursday, Brazil play their final qualifier against Bolivia at over 3,500 metres above sea level on Tuesday.

Brazil head coach Tite was emotional after his side's 4-0 win over Chile in World Cup qualifying on Thursday in what may his final game in charge on home soil.

Tite previously announced he would exit the role after the 2022 World Cup, having taken over in June.

During Tite's tenure Brazil won the 2019 Copa America, but were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in the quarter-finals.

More recently, Tite guided Brazil to 2022 World Cup qualification in November with several games to spare, with Selecao currently unbeaten in their qualifying campaign with 13 wins and three draws.

Brazil are currently on a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions, dating back to last year's Copa America final defeat to Argentina.

"It has many meanings, many situations," Tite said after the win over Chile about his final game as head coach on home soil.

"There are many and they are very particular. Many thanks to the fans who attended the Maracana today, thank you very much."

Tite may still lead Selecao in Brazil again with the postponed qualifier against Argentina yet to be re-scheduled although the match would be a dead rubber with both sides comfortably qualified, with appetite low for a re-match.

On the win over the Chileans, who appear destined to miss the 2022 World Cup, Tite praised his side's level of performance, without pinpointing individuals.

"Two aspects have swayed me: the players with the personality and confidence to come to the national team and repeat the performances of their clubs, this is difficult due to the expectation of wearing the national team's shirt," Tite said.

Brazil's next qualifier is away to Bolivia on Tuesday, where they will be without Neymar and Vinicius Junior after they picked up yellow cards against Chile forcing suspension.

A spectacular first-half performance from Brazil's forward trio of Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Antony paved the way for a stylish 3-0 win against Chile.

Neymar scored his 71st international goal in his 117th cap for Brazil, while for Vinicius there was just a second goal in his 13th international appearance as the Selecao claimed a deserved 2-0 half-time lead, controlling 63 per cent of the possession.

To Chile's credit – with their World Cup qualification hopes just about alive – their second half ensured a competitive encounter with chances of their own, but Brazil were comfortable, having already booked their place in Qatar.

A hopeful long ball forward ended up with a second penalty for the hosts, with Philippe Coutinho getting his name on the scoresheet soon after his arrival into the match after Neymar delegated the duties. There was time for Richarlison to add a fourth, too.

Brazil almost made a superb start after Antony sliced his way into the box from the right wing 30 seconds after kick-off, but his shot on goal was tame and easily gathered by Claudio Bravo.

Bravo stood firm amid an early onslaught, crucially taking the ball off Neymar's toes after a sloppy first touch 19 minutes in, but his first half took a turn for the worse.

After Mauricio Isla brought down Neymar in the box for a clear penalty in the 42nd minute, which the felled forward converted, Bravo botched a clearance less than two minutes later to allow Antony to slip in Vinicius for Brazil's second.

Chile's Arturo Vidal thought he had pegged one back four minutes into the second half, but the VAR ruled it out for offside, before Brazil made sure of the points with a penalty scored by substitute Coutinho when Antony beat Bravo to the ball and was wiped out.

Richarlison – also introduced off the bench – put the icing on the cake in stoppage time, cutting in on his left foot and curling a finish across Bravo to make it four.

Lucas Paqueta has defended Neymar against "false" accusations that the Brazil star turned up to Paris Saint-Germain training sessions drunk, describing them as "a lie".

The pair, rivals in Ligue 1 and team-mates with the Selecao, are both in camp ahead of their final Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia.

Neymar has arrived on the back of a rough personal period at Parc des Princes, having been booed alongside Lionel Messi following the club's Champions League exit.

Reports from RMC Sport suggested the forward had breached discipline at the club by showing up to training in a state of inebriation.

But speaking in a pre-match press conference, Lyon attacking midfielder Paqueta has fired back at such claims, hailing his fellow Selecao star as a "great professional".

"It's a total lack of respect, to say or transmit information that is false," he stated. "Obviously, [Neymar] didn't comment on that, I believe it's a lie.

"People talk too much and it ends up affecting us a little in a way, it's difficult to filter all that. You can't believe what people say. I believe Neymar is a great professional.

"Neymar, above all, is a great person, a great professional, who has an incredible talent, without a doubt is our best player in the Brazilian team.

"Having him with us is a privilege, particularly me, when I have Neymar on my side, I feel much stronger, as do all my team-mates. 

"I think he also feels the same, we motivate each other more, hug each other more and that makes us stronger."

National cyclist Marloe Rodman is set to represent Jamaica at the Pan American Para-Cycling Track and Road Championships in Maringa, Brazil this week.

The races are scheduled for March 17-20.

Rodman, who has a paralyzed upper limb from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in 2018, will be the first Jamaican athlete to represent the nation in para-cycling.

Prior to his injury, Rodman was a multiple national track cycling champion and has represented Jamaica at several international competitions.

Rodman, who left the island on Sunday, is set to do the scratch race and omnium, which is his speciality event on the track, as well as the road race. This event is a qualifier for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Tite has continued his regeneration of the Brazil national team, with Gabriel Martinelli receiving a first international call-up.

Martinelli and Arsenal team-mate Gabriel Magalhaes are both without a cap but were named in Tite's squad on Friday, with the Selecao facing Chile on March 24 and Bolivia on March 29 in their final 2022 World Cup qualification window.

Along with the Arsenal duo, seven more players in the latest 25-man have won fewer than 10 caps for Brazil, including Bruno Guimaraes, Raphinha and Rodrygo.

Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus may face further risk of not playing in Qatar, having been left out of the squad.

However, the Selecao have already secured qualification, meaning there is increased scope for experimentation. They are currently four points ahead of second-placed Argentina, with 39 points from 15 games.

Notably, after not playing Brazil’s last three qualifiers, Neymar has returned to the squad.

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Danilo (Juventus), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Telles (Manchester United), Arana (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Militao (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Paqueta (Lyon), Arthur (Juventus), Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Coutinho (Aston Villa, on loan from Barcelona); Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Vinicius Junior, Rodrigo (both Real Madrid), Martinelli (Arsenal), Antony (Ajax), Raphinha (Leeds United).

Pele has been discharged from hospital following a urinary tract infection.

The Brazil legend was admitted to Sao Paulo's Hospital Albert Einstein on February 13 for treatment on a colon tumour.

Doctors discovered a UTI eight days after he was admitted but said on Monday that the issue has been resolved.

A statement from the hospital read: "The patient's clinical conditions are stable and he is cured of his infection.

"He will continue his treatment for the colon tumour, identified in September 2021."

The 81-year-old was previously re-admitted to hospital for treatment on his tumour on December 8, before being discharged on December 23.

A three-time World Cup winner, Pele is one of only four players to score in four different World Cups.

He remains Brazil's all-time leading scorer with 77 goals in 92 games, seven goals ahead of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar (70).

Neymar has criticised the connection between the Brazil national team and their fans as he questioned whether the Selecao are as important now.

Brazil became the first South American team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, with Neymar set to take part in Qatar in November.

However, the Paris Saint-Germain forward, who missed a penalty in a 3-1 defeat to Nantes in Ligue 1 on Saturday, believes the Selecao's games are not talked about enough and there is no hype around their outings.

"Today the national team has distanced itself from the fans, I don't know why, but I see it through the games," Neymar told Ronaldo Nazario on the Fenomenos podcast.

"There is little comment, few people know when we are going to play. And that's bad, it's sad. In this generation of mine, when the national team plays, it's no longer important.

"When I was a child, the national team match was an event. You put the Brazilian flag in the window. There was a barbecue, there was cake and there was everything at home. It was quite an event. 

"Today it no longer has that importance, I don't know how we got to this stage. I hope that everything will come back, that the fans will once again support the Brazilian team. 

"That we'll be together to go in search of the World Cup, which is what everyone wants."

Neymar has endured a tumultuous relationship with Brazil, revealing last year that he was unsure whether he could manage another World Cup with the national side due to the mental stress it imposes on him.

Brazil remain unbeaten in their 15 CONMEBOL qualifiers for the World Cup, in which they next face Chile on March 24.

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