After sitting out the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ by virtue of being the competition hosts, five-time world champions Brazil return to the campaign trail in the race for places at Russia 2018.

Assessing the journey that lies ahead of them is former Seleção idol Ronaldo, who was on duty as one of the Draw Assistants at Saturday’s Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in St. Petersburg.

“From what we’ve seen in the last few tournaments, this is going to be one of the most keenly contested qualifying competitions of recent times,” commented O Fenômeno, a two-time world champion, at USA 1994 and Korea/Japan 2002. “It’s always been tough in South America but there’s even less to choose between the teams this time around.”

Naming his favourites for the four direct qualification slots, he said: “I think Argentina, Brazil and Chile will go through, with Uruguay and Colombia fighting it out for the last place. I don’t think there’ll be anyone else in the running.”

Though confident his compatriots will progress, Ronaldo said they will not have things all their own way: “Based on their last few games and their performance at the Copa America where they really underperformed, I think Brazil will struggle a bit to begin with.”

Brazil’s all-time leading World Cup marksman with 15 goals, the iconic striker added: “The qualifiers will provide us with a chance to get a squad together for the World Cup. The players who come out well from the qualifying campaign will be in confident mood for Russia and will make up a solid team.”