Tite’s Next 12 Month Challenge
A year ago this week, Tite took charge of a beleaguered Brazil side, sitting in 6th place in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. There was serious talk of them not qualifying for the first time ever. Tite reinvigorated a side still reeling from humiliation at the 2014 World Cup and consecutive Copa Americas and instantly turned them into a unit. 12 months and 8 qualifying wins later and the Seleção are home and dry.
Tite now has the luxury of experimentation in his team’s final 4 qualifiers, starting with Ecuador on Thursday. Tite is a wise and pragmatic coach and he will consider these matches far more than mere formalities, as planning begins in earnest for the Seleção to repair their reputation following the chastening 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil in 2014.
South America is well aware of the Tite revolution, but the rest of the world will have to wait until next summer to make its next judgement. In that respect, the Brazil boss must be privately seething that the CBF put financial considerations above sporting ambitions when they signed off on money spinning June friendlies against Argentina and Australia in Melbourne back in June.
Tite will be keen to test himself against European and African opposition as the clock starts ticking for next summer. He does have the advantage of using the remaining qualifiers as a laboratory to test his team. He may wish to experiment with different shapes, but largely he will probably test players as he decides on the final 6-7 squad slots for next June.
The likes of Grêmio’s Luan, São Paulo’s Rodrigo Caio, Shakhtar’s Taíson and maybe even veteran David Luiz will have the rule run over them. Alisson will almost certainly be selected as one of Brazil’s 3 goalkeepers, but the other two spots are very much up for grabs, with Weverton, Diego Alves, Marcelo Grohe and Cassio duking it out for two positions. Tite may look to test a couple of those choices in the matches themselves, but the training field will probably be his principle testing ground.
Tite has a balance to strike between now and next June. He will want to experiment, expose his charges to different opponents, different styles and mould alternative responses to in game situations. But he will also be keen to maintain the momentum and optimism built up by 8 consecutive qualifying wins.
The June friendly defeat to Argentina in Melbourne has at least prevented Tite’s 100% record from being under consideration, but he will be keen not to surrender further momentum. Not least because Brazil will be playing competitive matches against South American counterparts who are desperately playing for qualifying points. Indeed, their September assignments, Ecuador and Colombia, are closely competing for one qualifying spot in all likelihood.
He will want to continue to foment the chemistry found between the likes of Renato Augusto and Paulinho, Neymar, Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus and Marquinhos and Miranda. But at the same time, he will need to test players likely to take the final few spots in his roster for 2018. The final days of the European transfer window could provide him with further intrigue there too.
How will Paulinho’s move to Barcelona pan out? Rodrigo Caio and Luan might yet move away from Brazil, where they are guaranteed starters for their teams and make the transition to Europe. João Miranda will be 34 next summer, Dani Alves will be 35, can they ward off the spectre of age for one more year? Can the likes of Fabinho, Jorginho and Alex Sandro do enough to force their way into contention? Tite and Brazil may have qualified for the World Cup in some style, but the next phase of the plan for world domination, starts on Thursday, against Ecuador.