Don't be too quick to pick Brazil in your World Cup pool

Don't be too quick to pick Brazil in your World Cup pool
Brazilian World Cup Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari answers questions at a June 5 news conference. (Hassan Ammar / Associated Press)

Two words of caution for those inclined to write in Brazil on the championship line of their World Cup brackets: outsized pressure.

Yes, the Samba Kings have hoarded five Cup titles -- more than any other country -- and host nations have kept the trophy within their borders six times.

Nearly every soulless, numbers-crunching, analytic website spits out Brazil as the winner. And from a less algorithmic perspective, no team endears more stylistically with their mastery of the Beautiful Game -- a phrase coined, naturally, by Brazilian icon Pele -- than these guys.

Yet what the statistics and the heart cannot measure is how much of Brazil's talent and home-turf advantage will be offset by the enormous burden placed on the team by a nation in turmoil.

Surveys indicate that much of the Brazilian populace wishes the World Cup was being held elsewhere, and one found that 11% said they plan to vent these feelings in public over the next five weeks.

Though some hosts of high-profile sports happenings suspend outward displays of disaffection during the competition, Brazilians seem inclined to exploit the spotlight and raise holy heck over a take-your-pick index of issues: growing income disparity, government corruption, raging crime, etc.

A strike by subway employees, still unresolved, threatens to gum up the transportation system, and the work-stoppage virus has spread to bus drivers and military police.

Thus, the substantial pressure heaped on the team owing to its legacy has been dialed up further. Victories and advancement might calm the masses. Draws, defeats and premature ouster might inflame unrest, as the squad surely knows.

And if the case to beware of picking the pressure-taxed favorite to win a major sports event remains unconvincing, two more words of caution: California Chrome.