Brazil have already qualified for Russia 2018, but instead of taking the opportunity to try out new players in the qualifiers, Tite is playing it safe
Brazil are in the luxury position of having already secured a World Cup spot, after beating Paraguay 3-0 in the last qualifying round, at the Arena Corinthians. With less than 10 months until the start of the biggest tournament in world football, Tite has decided to retain the same starting lineup for the upcoming home clash against Ecuador. Is the Brazilian manager prioritizing topping the group in the qualifiers, over winning the World Cup?
Tite’s reign with Brazil’s national team began just a year ago, as his side crushed Ecuador 3-0 away at high altitude in Quito. He is set to retain the same lineup for the return tie at the Arena do Grêmio, composed of Alisson, Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Miranda, Marcelo, Paulinho, Casemiro, Renato Augusto, Willian, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar.
The only fundamental change he had made since his first game in charge, was injecting Philippe Coutinho instead of the Chelsea man. But the rebellious Liverpool star has yet to play in a competitive game this season, which meant that Willian would naturally be favored ahead of him.
Brazil are one win away from securing the first spot in the CONMEBOL group, however, it would not be the first time where a Brazilian manager triumphed in the standings but failed to win the World Cup. To put things into perspective, Carlos Dunga came first in the build-up for the 2010 tournament, but it did not help him avoid an early quarter-final elimination against the Netherlands. What Tite should do is to avoid repeating the same mistakes of retaining the same eleven men he used on his debut. Form comes and goes in football, and a year is certainly a long time in the game.
So, what are the weaknesses in the national team? Alisson has already been tested so many times, so one would have thought that giving the chance to Manchester City new goalkeeper Ederson to make his debut, would have not have been too harmful – especially with qualification already being guaranteed.
On the other hand, Internazionale center back João Miranda’s poor ball-playing abilities do not favor his case ahead of Paris Saint Germain captain Thiago Silva. Thiago is defensively just as solid, but is simply quicker and a far better deep-lying playmaker.
If Tite favors Alisson ahead of the likes of Diego Alves, Vladimir Vanderlei and Neto because of his ball-playing abilities, then why does he contradict himself when it comes to Miranda? The midfield trio remains one of the biggest reasons for skepticism amongst Brazil fans, especially with Paulinho and Renato Augusto showing no guarantee as to how they would perform against Europe’s elite, such as Germany, France and Spain.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s Casemiro has gained momentum in the past few months and is arguably considered the best defensive midfielder in the world, at the moment. Many advocates of having a more technically-gifted midfield, want Philippe Coutinho to be displayed in a central role, more often. In attack, the headache is not exactly a negative problem to have, as Tite can rely on Liverpool star Roberto Firmino and Manchester City goal-scoring machine Gabriel Jesus. Both are young and talented, which gives the insurance of a desirable backup plan.
Tite has many challenges in the last few months ahead of the World Cup. Brazil’s national team has been convincing against South American opposition, but has yet to be tested against Europe’s elite. Confidence is important, but over-confidence is a danger. The Seleção is still far from being perfect, but it is not too late to make the necessary changes in time for the big event in Russia.