Brazil are in the comfortable position of having qualified for the World Cup already. But there is no room for complacency for Tite’s men
Brazil’s national team had already secured World Cup qualification back in March, after beating Paraguay 3-0 at the Arena Corinthians. However, the last two qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia had their own significance, but for different reasons rather than just adding extra points. Some players who were considered locks in the starting lineup, have under-performed in an alarming way, which could have served as a big indicator for Tite to take into consideration. So, who are the biggest winners and losers from the recent FIFA date?
Brazil struggled to create clear-cut chances in against Ecuador, until Thiago Silva and Philippe Coutinho replaced João Miranda and Renato Augusto respectively. The build-up from the back notably improved thanks to Silva’s passing abilities, whereas the non-existent link-up between the midfield and the attacking trio was alive all of a sudden, thanks to Coutinho’s ability to drive the ball forward.
The Liverpool man was key in improving the team’s creativity, and it was only after his inclusion that the national team was able to break the dead-lock and score two goals, to guarantee the victory. Coutinho was himself involved in the second, as he inter-changed passes with Gabriel Jesus before finishing things off, with a well-placed close-range tap-in, inside the penalty box.
Against Colombia, the situation was not so-different. Dani Alves looked very shaky defensively and was beaten several times, but also gave away the ball more than you’d expect your right-back to do. On the other side of the pitch, Filipe Luis did a fine job defensively but was clearly unable to support the attack, the way Marcelo does.
In midfield, Fernandinho had an awful performance where he failed to control the ball in basic situations, but also lacked energy or even the desire to move in order to locate himself as passing option for the center-backs. His midfield teammates Paulinho and Renato Augusto were not any better, as they had a forgettable game by all means. They failed to support the attack, and could not help Brazil impose its dominance in the midfield battle.
Right before the end of the first half, Willian opened the scoring after concluding Neymar’s lay-off with an amazing first-touch volley from outside the box. Whereas Roberto Firmino did not find himself in the game, despite one or two moments of brilliance, he seemed absent for the majority of the match. In his defense, the support he had from the midfield and the team as a whole, in the absence of key players was far from sufficient.
Although, it is clear at this point that Brazil’s best option for the nine role, is the Manchester City star – who by the way, will be up against Firmino in a direct duel in the English Premier League, this weekend. In the second half, Colombia pressed and their efforts were rewarded, as Radamel Falcao was able to take advantage of poor communication between Dani Alves and Marquinhos, and free himself in order to beat Alisson with a header.
It seemed like the two Brazilians were inviting each other for the task of closing down ‘El Tigre’, who is now the historical top goalscorer of ‘Los Cafeteros’ with 27 strikes. Coutinho came on for the last few moments and yet again, was able to display how much of an upgrade he is over Renato Augusto, in terms of technicality, passing skills and ability to carry the ball into dangerous areas.
The World Cup is less than 10 months away, but Brazil still have many weaknesses in the starting lineup. Despite being defensively solid and always finding a way to score, the 1-1 draw in Barranquilla highlighted how Tite’s men are unable to control the course of a game for 90 minutes. This would certainly be a major issue when colliding with top European sides such as Germany, Spain, Italy and France, come Russia, in 2018.