Tite has reached for the past for his inspiration in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, but has the Brazil boss missed the chance to look to the future?
Brazil coach Tite has announced the squad for the next two World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Paraguay, to be played in late March 2017. As usual, the call-up featured many debatable inclusions and exclusions. But is the 55-year old spot-on with his decision to maintain the same base of players that has helped him win in six games, or should he experiment with other options ahead of the World Cup in 2018?
Tite is widely considered the best Brazilian coach over the past few years, after guiding Corinthians to the league title, Copa Libertadores, and the FIFA Club World Cup. Adenor – as his mother still calls him – has stolen all the headlines in the Brazilian press, following his Brazil debut.
Before his arrival, the national team sat in sixth place in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers. But with six wins in six games, Tite’s team quickly turned the table upside down. Brazil has since then, topped the group by a gap of four points over second-placed Uruguay – who by the way – happens to be the next opponent, as they prepare to receive the five-times World Champions in Montevideo.
Having said that, if you’re reading this but you’re not too familiar with Brazilian football, you might think that Tite is godlike. However, the former Corinthians boss is starting to display a criterion that I consider common in most Seleção coaches. Dunga and Scolari both won the Confederations Cup in 2009 and 2013 respectively, before miserably failing at the World Cup in the following year. Why? There are several reasons, but sticking to players whose level has drastically dropped is certainly one of the essential factors.
It seems that most Brazil coaches have a common way of thinking, “This is my group, and we shall remain together until death!”. For example, Dani Alves and Paulinho had a decent tournament in 2013, but they had a terrible season at Barcelona and Tottenham in 2013-2014. Scolari still relied on them for 2014, just because they had helped him beat the likes of Italy and Spain.
Hulk was woeful in the World Cup, but he had to be selected ahead of Lucas Moura and Coutinho, just because he was part of the “Familia Scolari”. Is Tite repeating the same mistake by relying on the likes of Fagner, Gil, Renato Augusto and Paulinho? The four of them plied their trade at Corinthians.
Dani Alves is ageing and has proven to be a defensive liability. Brazil’s World Cup qualification is in safe hands now, hence, it would have made sense to test Mariano or Bruno Peres. They are both younger options and are having a better season than the 34-year old – who was elected by ‘GLOBO’ users in the World Cup 2014 flop XI of the group stage phase.
Furthermore, it is no secret that Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho are admirers of Fabinho, who has been one of the best midfielders in the French league this season. Would it not be wiser to test him in midfield ahead of Paulinho who plays in China, and whose level could suddenly drop by next year?
For, in the end, this is exactly what happened to the former Tottenham midfielder, between 2013 and 2014. Why repeat the same mistake? Other notable exclusions are Diego Alves, David Luiz, Alex Sandro, Lucas Moura and Felipe Anderson. Is there a veto on them? Are Wéverton, Gil, Filipe Luis, Diego Ribas and Willian really better at the moment? Is Diego Souza the best Brazil can come up with to replace the injured Gabriel Jesus or is he the next Diego Tardelli? So many question marks are left without answers.
His selection of players is as debatable as ever but one thing is sure, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi is a better technician than Dunga and is a modern coach who combines efficiency with a clear style of play. In six World Cup qualifiers, Brazil has so far scored 17 goals and only conceded one.
However, the real challenge will be maintaining the same performances in Russia next year, as Brazil fans will be looking forward to adding the record sixth star to the yellow shirt. Will Tite’s plan of sticking to the same players who have brought him success – while betting on them to retain their level, prove out to be right, or will he pay the price of favoring them ahead of the footballers who have been in better form at club level?