Three Premier League players that could break into Brazil’s starting XI in Russia
It is largely this band of players that swept to top spot in CONMEBOL qualifying under Tite’s tutelage. The coach will spend the next few months deciphering the final squad spots. But his first choice XI could yet undergo a nip and a tuck prior to the World Cup beginning next June. With only March friendlies and some pre-tournament warm ups to go, here are the places in that first XI that could come under threat.
RENATO AUGUSTO- The Beijing Guoan man has become the oil in the machine for Brazil, quietly and calmly filling the gaps left by the Seleção’s roving full-backs and Neymar and Coutinho’s license to move inside. Renato is economical in possession too, which is a valuable commodity in Tite’s midfield.
However, the player’s form has been less imperious in October and November fixtures. Perhaps he is beginning to pay the price for playing in a slightly less intense league in China. Meanwhile, Fernandinho’s star is on the rise. Ferna is performing excellently in a Manchester City side that are arguably the cream of Europe at the moment.
Fernandinho has been tasked with filling gaps left by Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva at club level and has done so with ease. Tite trusts the player implicitly as one of his first reserves. But if Renato Augusto’s form continues to dip and Fernandinho continues to form the glue of a Pep Guardiola midfield, Tite might be inclined to draft the City man into his first choice XI.
ALISSON- The Roma stopper was handed the number 1 shirt not long after breaking into the Internacional team two years ago. Botafogo’s Jefferson, who has since lost his place at club level, endured a nightmare performance in Santiago in October 2015 and has been banished from the national team.
There were few convincing contenders to take over from Jefferson, who himself benefitted from the country’s dearth of top quality custodians. Alisson was seen as the young up and comer and he was drafted in by fellow Gaucho Dunga. Alisson has not always convinced, especially in the distribution stakes.
But his form has improved since Wojciech Szczesny’s loan spell at Roma ended and Alisson was able to play regularly in Serie A. He is still nobody’s idea of a genuinely world class goalkeeper, but he has remained unchallenged. Until now. Ederson’s move to Manchester City has quickly seen his reputation grow.
Ederson is the epitome of a modern goalkeeper, with distribution skills the equal of a top level midfielder and keen sweeping instincts behind his defence. Much like Fernandinho and even Danilo, drafted back into the squad since his move to the Etihad, Ederson is benefitting from playing in a high performing team.
Ederson was given the gloves in Brazil’s final qualifier against Chile, which suggests that Tite is reviewing the position. His run of form might ultimately come too late to dislodge Alisson for the World Cup. Tite seems to value the Roma man as much as Dunga did. But Ederson will certainly look to keep the pressure on by continuing to impress at City.
PHILIPPE COUTINHO- The wrangle between Willian and Coutinho is one of the most keenly fought in the Brazilian side. Tite still prefers Coutinho, because he likes his wide forwards to move in-field and play more like number 10s. With Dani Alves galloping on from right-back, Brazil scarcely need a dedicated right winger.
Willian is a more traditional touchline hugger, but against high level, organised defences, Tite might be tempted to look at Willian’s skillset to break down teams that play with a deep block. Neymar and Coutinho struggled to make an impression on England’s well drilled rearguard at Wembley recently.
Willian captained the side against Japan a few days earlier, with Tite suggesting that the Chelsea winger might be preferable to Coutinho against certain kinds of opposition. As it stands, Willian, like Fernandinho, is one of the first substitutes Tite reaches out to. The Chelsea man will look to convince the coach that his skillset is more valuable than Coutinho’s in Russia.