An impressive international week saw Tite making great strides forward to develop a Brazil team that isn’t far from being the world’s best
Brazil had an interesting series of post-World Cup friendlies with a fairly renewed squad. From beating the United States 2-0 in New Jersey to hammering El Salvador 5-0 in Washington DC, there were many winners and losers for the Seleção in this FIFA date. So what’s next for the national team, ahead of next month’s upcoming friendlies?
Tite was criticized for making many mistakes in the World Cup, most notably for insisting on fielding the likes of Fernandinho, Paulinho, Willian and Gabriel Jesus. But to play the role of devil’s advocate, one could argue that all Brazil needed was a bit of luck to beat Belgium and head to the semi-finals.
There were the four easy chances that the team missed, to hitting the post early on in the first half, to Casemiro’s injury, to Douglas Costa not being fit enough to start the decisive match, as well as Fernandinho scoring an own goal and giving the Europeans a cheap lead.
The idea behind these arguments is to say that Brazil’s team is not far off from being the best, and is therefore potentially just a few changes away from competing with the reigning world champions of France.
Tite seems to have decided to make these necessary changes. Against the United States, Tite pretty much fielded his best line-up at his disposal, but it was already reassuring to see Paulinho out and a more technically gifted midfield in place.
Concerning the fullbacks, it is clear that Tite has in both matches opted for keeping defenders who stick to their job of shoring up the back first, and then trying to support the attack however they can. In this sense, Eder Militao, Fabinho (right-side), Filipe Luis and Alex Sandro (left-side) all emerged as winners ahead of Dani Alves, Fagner and even Marcelo.
In the middle of the park, Fred and Arthur left a good impression in the central midfield role Paulinho used to occupy, meaning that both are potentially ahead of him for good in the pecking order. They offer Brazil more technicality and more vertical plays in their passing.
They are also better for a side looking to maintain possession. Other notable midfield appearances were Flamengo sensation Lucas Paqueta and Manchester United youngster Andreas Pereira. The former was one of the best players on the pitch, meanwhile the latter did not have enough time to prove himself, but it was certainly reassuring to see him make his Brazil debut, ending rumors linking him with a switch to Belgium, where he was born.
In the attacking line-up, Neymar remained as controversial as always despite scoring two goals and providing a couple of assists, it is clear that the press and fans remain divided about their opinions regarding him, with many criticizing Tite’s decision to confirm him as permanent captain, while others highlighting moments when he could have provided his teammates with an easy assist, but did not.
But despite all that, the PSG striker remains the most reputable player in the squad. In this sense, Neymar was neither a loser nor winner, because he did not influence anyone’s opinion to the better, nor to the worse.
Douglas Costa was absolutely brilliant in both games, showing just why Brazil missed him so much against Belgium. He seems like the best option on the right wing ahead of the Copa América. Meanwhile Roberto Firmino was able to get his first start since over a year under Tite, and found the back of the net.
But the biggest surprise was most certainly Richarlison who scored two wonderful goals that required a lot of concentration and skill. The Everton-star has shown hunger, aggressiveness, audacity and talent, which validates him as a competitor for the number nine spot. In this regard, there is no doubt that Willian and Gabriel Jesus were the biggest losers in the attacking sector.
Meanwhile Gremio’s Everton failed to take advantage of the chances he was given, which means he may well be dropped ahead of next month’s matches in the favor of the likes of Felipe Anderson, Lucas Moura, Malcom or even David Neres. And let’s not even mention Vinicius Junior whose star is on the rise.
Brazil is set to face Saudi Arabia and Argentina in two friendlies next month, in Riyadh and Jeddah respectively. Tite is expected to announce his squad in no more than two weeks time, as the national team continues to build ahead of the 2019 Copa América, taking place on home soil.