In a year for Brazil which saw national team disappointment but honours for some wonderful individuals, Fernando Duarte picks through the winners and losers
Lists are a tricky business, especially when football is concerned. But they are a useful way to evaluate a season – and god, people love to love and hate them.
In this one, we discuss which managers and players will end 2018 with more good than bad memories and vice-versa. Go ahead, we know you want to read it…
Winner – Luiz Felipe Scolari
Yes, his Palmeiras fell short of a second Copa Libertadores title, undone by Boca Juniors in the semi-finals. But Big Phil recovered a lot of the credibility lost in 2014 – he was the one in the dugout while the Selecao were thrashed by Germany – by taking the Sao Paulo club to a tenth national title with some ease.
Suddenly he was not the 7-1 coach anymore. Boca, freshly after losing the continental title to mega-rivals River, came knocking. And so did the Colombian Football Federation, which wanted Big Phil to prepare James Rodriguez and co to mount a challenge for the Copa America in Brazil. Both were turned down and it looks like he will return to China for another lucrative stint, possibly in charge of Dalian FC – for a reported 8-9 million euro a year.
Loser – Tite
Few times in Seleção history has a manager arrived at a World Cup with the amount of popular and media support enjoyed by Tite. Apart from solid results on the pitch, the man oozed confidence and readiness for the Russia 2018 campaign.
When the ball rolled, however, his Seleção were nowhere near as fearsome. Questionable selection decisions such as the insistence on Gabriel Jesus in lieu of a rampaging Bob Firmino and his perceived failure to tame Neymar’s temper hampered Brazil’s campaign. Tite’s case wasn’t helped by the tactical schooling he received by Roberto Martinez in the first half of Brazil’s 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Belgium in Kazan.
Although Tite kept his job, a lot of scrutiny over Brazil’s Copa America campaign – which they will play at home – awaits.
Winner – Bob Firmino
Liverpool finished the 2017/18 season empty-handed and Brazil failed in Russia, but Bob Firmino will end the year as one of the hottest players around. A crucial part of Jurgen Klopp’s revolution at Anfield, he is a Kop favourite and in a recent interview Tite said he would be accommodating the Seleção’s tactics to better emulate Firmino’s positioning for Liverpool. Not bad for a player who had not set the room alight in 2014 when handed his first caps by Dunga.
Loser – Neymar
Yes, him again. His presence here has much less to do with his displays on the pitch for Brazil in the World Cup, when he really showed the effects of match fitness after missing three months with foot injury. The attitude was all wrong, including overreacting to the fouls he will always attract as a playmaker. Neymar made things even worse by issuing the infamous sponsored apology, which reinforced the individualist and detached image. Make no mistake: the Seleção and whoever he plays for will always need him. But with his feet on the ground.
Winner – Fernandinho
A tricky entry if you remember his less than inspired World Cup, which ended with an own-goal in the Belgium game. But Fernandinho makes the winners list for two reasons. First, his role in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, which has been made even more evident by how much the team seems to miss him when he’s injured. Second: the dignified way in which he reacted to the unacceptable online racist abuse by Brazil fans following the team’s World Cup elimination.
Losers – Miranda and Thiago Silva
Arguably one of the finest center-back pairings to wear the Seleção shirt in recent memory, these two will probably not defend the team together in a World Cup again – Miranda and Thiago will both be 37 in 2022. At least they will leave the stage with heads held high, as they had solid displays in Russia. In five games Brazil conceded as many goals (3) as Champions France did in a single one – the 4-3 win over Argentina.
Winner – Alisson Becker
Liverpool’s impressive campaign in the first half of the season has a lot do with the form shown by the Brazilian, who has managed to silence questions about his hefty price tag. His work for the Selecao didn’t show as much, but that is because he had Silva and Miranda as shields.
Loser – Ederson
Tough to brand this label on a goalie who has a Premier League winner’s medal and the number one shirt at the Etihad. But as long as Alisson remains in that form, the City number one looks fated to be an understudy for his country.