A double-header against Russia and Germany will go a long way to assessing whether Brazil are ready to mount a serious World Cup challenge
A new FIFA date holds new challenges for Brazil manager Tite, as the national team is set to face Russia and Germany with many open questions concerning more than one position in the starting lineup.
If the Brazilian press is right, then it seems that Renato Augusto’s days as a starter could be numbered, with Fernandinho and Philippe Coutinho in pole position to displace him. Brazil is regarded as the greatest nation in World Cup history, but this title may not last for too long if the team does not manage to pull off a major achievement in Russia.
In case of failure, the next chance to win the greatest event in world football would have to be postponed until Qatar 2022, which would mark 20 years since the last triumph in South Korea and Japan. To make matters worse, Germany is arguably the number one contender to grab the title in July, which means that they would equal the Brazilians with five titles each. This could be even worse than the home humiliation in the previous edition.
The main weaknesses in this Brazil side are the right-back position and to a certain extent, the midfield. Dani Alves is one of the greatest fullbacks in history, but at 35, he isn’t getting any younger. His defensive resilience against top wingers remains far from reassuring, something that was clearly highlighted in Paris Saint Germain’s Champions League fixtures against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Moving on to the midfield, Casemiro, Paulinho and Renato Augusto have delivered the goods against South American opposition, but are yet to be tested against the European heavyweights. The Barcelona man’s lack of creativity and side-back passing alongside Augusto’s lack of pace and ability to drive the ball forward could be points that the likes of Germany, Spain, or France would exploit. Meanwhile, Fernandinho and Coutinho are having excellent seasons and offer better technique and superior passing skills to the current starting duo.
Meanwhile, on the front line, the recent form of Willian has to be taken into consideration. The Chelsea-man has been sensational since the start of 2018, pulling man-of-the-match performances in high-profile fixtures against the likes of Manchester United and FC Barcelona. This should earn him a spot in the eleven, forcing Tite to move Coutinho back to a central role in midfield. Juventus’ Douglas Costa has experienced a resurgence as well, as he is set to take advantage of Neymar’s injury to get himself a start on Friday against Russia.
And last but not least, Roberto Firmino’s impressive season at Anfield cannot go unnoticed, with the Liverpool striker netting 23 goals across all competitions. He is expected to give Manchester City youngster Gabriel Jesus some healthy competition for the privilege of being Brazil’s number nine in Russia.
Real Sociedad’s Willian José and Besiktas’ Anderson Talisca have both made the squad for the first time under the new manager. The same can be said about Valencia goalkeeper Neto and Shakhtar Donetsk left-back Ismaily, as Tite faces a headache with the obligation to reduce the personnel to just 23 names by June. That process starts over the next week.