Brazil are the first team to book their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The focus now for Tite is to battle the twin enemies of complacency and comfort
Brazil are the first team to join the hosts, Russia, in booking their ticket to the 2018 World Cup, following a convincing 3-0 victory over Paraguay at the Arena Corinthians. It was a result that was followed soon after by Uruguay’s defeat to Peru, which mathematically speaking secured the qualification.
So, after guaranteeing a place in the most prestigious tournament in world football, what is the next step for Tite’s men?
After the 7-1 trashing at the hands of the Germans in the 2014 World Cup semi-final, many disheartened Brazilians gave up on watching the national team forever. Appointing a pragmatic coach like Dunga certainly did not help tempt the viewers to even bother and turn the television on.
The Seleção had lost its charm, and most importantly, its connection with the fans. For around two years, Brazilians were fed up with uninspiring performances and disappointing results. Until, at that time Corinthians coach, Tite stepped up to the plate and succeeded Dunga following Brazil’s catastrophic exist from Copa América’s group stages.
It was a decision that was welcomed by everyone in the country. People were curious to see what the greatest Brazilian manager of the modern era, would be able to change. And it is fair to say that Adenor Bacchi has surpassed all expectations, by carrying the team from sixth place, to the top of the standings.
To put it into perspective, Brazil would still be the leaders of the CONMEBOL table even if you remove all the points that Dunga was able to gather in 6 games. It is almost unthinkable!
But there are a couple of warning signs. Dunga’s Brazil also topped the qualifiers by the end of 2009, whereas Scolari’s side was able to dominate reigning world champions Spain in the Confederations Cup final, a year prior to the grandest stage of them all.
But in both cases, when the big occasion arrived, the team suddenly lost its identity and succumbed to the pressure. From this point of view, Tite should not be reassured because the only thing that matters for Brazilians, is bringing the “hexa” – a mission which is still far from being accomplished.
In his defense, the 55-year old admitted in his post-match interview that he will use the next two friendlies against Argentina and Australia – set to be played in June – in order to test new options and give chances to highly qualified players who have been shining in European football.
The Brazilian might have unintentionally let the words slip out of his mouth, but he mentioned Monaco star Fabinho among the viable options for the future. This is exactly what the fans wanted to hear, and this is exactly what should be done. Brazil must keep its feet on the ground while keeping in mind that 15 months is a long time in football.
Form comes and goes, injuries often affect the level of players – so we must avoid repeating the mistakes of 2010 and 2014 by keeping out-of-shape players, for the sole fact that they had done well a year prior to the World Cup. Therefore, the importance of experimenting in the next fixtures, now that qualification is official. Perhaps Tite’s reaction to the news summarizes the whole story – in his mind, the priority was to booking a ticket to Russia, and now that the job is done, the Brazilian will be readier to test new ideas.
In Brazil, some media outlets are already jokingly suggesting that if the highly-rated tactician can bring Brazil the sixth star, then he should be the main candidate in the 2018 presidential elections. For the local press, Brazil is always, either the worst team in the world – as it was treated in the Dunga era – or the best, as is the situation now.
There is unfortunately no in-between, and this over-confidence could lead to extra pressure, come next year. Gladly, Tite is aware of his predecessors’ experiences and has warned the journalists in every press conference about the danger of making assumptions, because football games are never won on paper.
Will Brazil be able to carry its recent form to the World Cup, or will the pressure to win the trophy bring Adenor Bacchi’s men back down to earth with a bump in Russia?