Tite’s Brazil is now dominating South America after another dominant performance against Uruguay. But is it enough to win another World Cup title in 2018?
Brazil’s renaissance under newly appointed manager Tite has surpassed expectations. The former Corinthians boss has carried the wounded lion from sixth in the South America World Cup qualifying group following Dunga’s dismissal in June 2016, to top spot and a seven point lead over second-placed Uruguay.
But is Brazil ready to mix it with top European national teams, or do the South Americans still have weaknesses?
Tite’s Brazil has certainly surprised everyone in terms of results. From beating Ecuador 3-0 in Quito breaking a taboo that had lasted for 33 years, to outclassing Copa América finalists Argentina 3-0 in a game where Messi was completely nullified, as well as smashing Uruguay 4-1 in Montevideo.
To put it into perspective, the Uruguayans had not lost any game at home for seven years, and had won all six of their home matches in the qualifiers, while only conceding once – which makes the score-line even more impressive. On top of that, Adenor Bacchi’s side has made history by becoming the first team to achieve seven successive victories in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. Pelé’s Brazil won six in a row in the build-up for Mexico 1970, before ending up as the eventual champions of the competition.
However, are South American teams a parameter that allows us to measure how good this Brazil side really is? The last three World Cup winners have been from Europe, and at the same time, Brazil has been eliminated from the last three World Cups at the hands of European national teams: France in 2006, Holland in 2010 and Germany (cough) in 2014.
Even a midfield trio of Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho was still considerably better than that of every South American opponent Brazil has so far faced. In other words, we are yet to see how Brazil reacts when facing a team with a much more technical midfield. So far, the Chinese Super League duo has been enough to retain possession in every game, but will that be the case against Germany, Spain and Italy?
To be fair, Tite has shown signs that he is trying to lead a revolution in Brazilian football by prioritizing build-up from the back, over long balls from center back to striker, as seen in 2014. It is what he likes to refer to, as the “jogo apoiado”, which translates to “the supported game”.
In a more expanded explanation, Tite wants his players to position themselves in favorable spots, in order to offer themselves as passing options for the player holding the ball. It is about the footballers supporting each other, because even if one player is a strong passer but has few options, the risk of making a mistake is higher.
Likewise, if a player is not so strong but have your teammates constantly making themselves available, the job of releasing it is easier. The Tite system also favors exchanging the ball in one-two plays, especially on the flanks. The veteran manager likes to refer to it as “triangular plays”. Marcelo and Neymar in specific tend to follow it in order to move the ball into more dangerous areas, while breaking down the opponent’s high pressing.
On the other hand, this also raises question marks about Brazil’s tendency to advance the ball from the flanks rather than penetrate from the center. In many cases, the fullbacks and Neymar are the sources of creativity and are responsible for driving the ball forward, more so than the midfield trio.
This is part of Tite’s tactical scheme, and it has proven to be enough to be best in South America – for in the end, the 55-year old has already won the Copa Libertadores with Corinthians, so it is no secret that he is an expert in the region. But will it be enough for Brazil to lift the World Cup for the first time since 2002? The next games could be very telling, in the build-up to the most prestigious tournament in world football.