Two more games, two more wins, two more clean sheets. Right now, everything is coming up roses in the garden of Tite and the seleção have now come through two contrasting European tests unscathed.
Prior to these friendlies against World Cup hosts Russia and World Cup winners Germany, the former Corinthians boss already had 15 of his 23 names confirmed for his final squad – testament to the organisational structure and positive turnaround the manager has accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Tite knows how he wants to play, and the key pieces he needs to achieve said game plan.
Those 15 names were: Alisson, Daniel Alves, Marquinhos, Miranda, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, Roberto Firmino.
And after this last European sojourn, who has done enough to see themselves over the line and onto the plane for Russia?
With Alisson confirmed, it is probably safe to add Manchester City stopper Ederson to that list, meaning there is one spot left.
Corinthians goalkeeper Cássio and Neto of Valencia were called up for these two games but it was Alisson who played the full 90 minutes on each occasion.
Cássio’s form has faltered somewhat domestically over recent weeks and has six call-ups under Tite compared to Neto’s two. In addition, the boss knows the former well from their time together at Corinthians.
Likely call-up: Cássio
Miranda and Marquinhos always performed admirably and competently when paired together by Tite during the World Cup qualifiers. However, for these two friendlies, the coach opted for the more experienced Thiago Silva to partner Miranda.
Silva, of course, captained Brazil at the 2014 World Cup on home soil, when emotions clearly got the better of him on more than one occasion.
He was moved to tears during the national anthem of the World Cup opener against Croatia and famously sat with his back to the penalties during the shoot-out in the round of 16 tie against Chile.
Yet the former skipper has done more than enough to ensure he is part of the 23 four years later, leaving Rodrigo Caio, Gil, Jemerson and Geromel battling it out for the fourth and final spot.
Caio, of São Paulo, has a Phil Neville-esque versatility to him – jack of all trades, master of none – which has seen him, alongside Gil, receive 10 call-ups under Tite.
Jemerson may have previously appeared the favourite for this spot, but was left out completely by the boss this time around. Rather, it is Grêmio’s Geromel, who helped his side to Libertadores triumph at the end of last year, who looks to be the front runner now.
He has received fewer call-ups than any of his rivals and has played just 94 minutes of international football under Tite, but the boss had high praise for the 30-year-old last week (link in Portuguese).
Likely call-up: Geromel
With Daniel Alves having cemented his place in the team, this looks to be a straight shoot-out between Fágner and Danilo.
It was the former who was given the nod for these two games and the Corinthians full back has received 14 call-ups under Tite compared to just four and 90 minutes of international football for Danilo.
Likely call-up: Fágner
Marcelo has also made a full back berth his own meaning, in theory at least, that there would be three players potentially vying for the back-up spot. However, Filipe Luís may just be the unluckiest defender in world football.
He missed out on the 2010 World Cup through injury; he was overlooked in favour of Marcelo and Maxwell for the 2014 event under Luiz Felipe Scolari; and now, just when it looked as if the Atletico Madrid left-back would safely make it onto the plane, injury in the Europa League against Lokomotiv Moscow could have robbed him of a third chance.
Luís looked an absolute shoe-in for this World Cup squad. He has received 16 call-ups and played well over 400 minutes of international football under Tite, yet injury has removed him from the last three squads and that chance may well be slipping away again. In his absence, Juventus’ Alex Sandro looks probable to get the nod.
Likely call-up: Alex Sandro
The most congested battle area of the entire squad. With Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho and Renato Augusto all assured of a place on the plane, that leaves no fewer than five players who may consider themselves in with a chance of making it to Russia.
Fenerbache’s Giuliano may look to be the favourite. The 27-year-old has been called up 14 times and has played over 250 minutes under Tite.
Yet Lucas Lima has recently moved from Santos to Palmeiras, one of the favourites for the Brazilian league title this season, and he has made a promising start to life at the Allianz Parque. On his day, there is no more accurate or astute passer of the ball currently plying their trade in Brazil.
Following a poor end to last season, Flamengo midfielder Diego may have fallen slightly down the pack. Yet at 33, he is no spring chicken and fatigue looked to be catching up with him after a long and gruelling campaign with Flamengo, which saw the side reach the finals of the Campeonato Carioca, the Copa do Brasil and the Copa Sul-Americana.
Two outside runners could be Fred of Shakhtar Donetsk and Arthur of Grêmio. There have been reports in the Brazilian media recently that the former is now the favourite to make it to Russia, whereas Grêmio’s Arthur is yet to play a minute of football for the senior side.
However, the experience and guile of Diego could well be potent weapons during a potentially nerve-wracking knock-out tie. The 33-year-old has played just 45 minutes under Tite, but five call-ups mean he has not gone unnoticed.
Likely call-up: Diego
Reserve for Neymar:
One of the most encouraging aspects of these last two games is the fact Brazil came through them without their talisman. In the press conference after the Russia game there was not a single mention of their usual no. 10, highlighting the strength in depth that the boss can rely on.
Taison, Luan and Douglas Costa are all options the boss could use for Neymar’s favoured wide left starting position. However, Grêmio forward Luan now looks to have a miniscule chance of making it to Russia after failing to be called up for this squad.
Shakhtar’s Taison has a total of 12 call-ups under Tite but has rarely been given game time to prove his worth. His total minutes on the pitch add up to just over an hour.
Instead, it was Douglas Costa who was given a starting position against Russia and did his chances no harm at all with an incisive performance on the left flank. The Juventus wide-man may well have played himself into the World Cup squad.
Likely call-up: Douglas Costa
Gabriel Jesus has made the no. 9 shirt his own and it previously looked as if Diego Souza had made the reserve spot his own as well.
However, the forward’s move from Sport Recife to São Paulo has brought with it a stark downturn in form and the man with close to 200 minutes of international football under Tite has found himself on the descent at precisely the wrong time.
That saw Tite go for two left-field choices for his latest squad announcement in Anderson Talisca and Willian José, although Jô’s form in powering Corinthians to the league title last season has potentially put him back in the frame.
Tite could well be looking for a target man figure rather than a more versatile and fluid attacking player if he is to employ a Plan B. Willian José fits that mould more easily than Talisca and could be the wildcard choice for Tite’s Russian adventure.
Likely call-up: Willian José
So, that Brazil squad in full would read:
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Manchester City), Cássio (Corinthians)
Full backs: Daniel Alves (PSG), Fágner (Corinthians), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Centre backs: Miranda (Internazionale), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG), Geromel (Grêmio)
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Diego (Flamengo)
Attacking midfielders/forwards: Neymar (PSG), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Willian (Chelsea), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Douglas Costa (Juventus), Willian José (Real Sociedad)
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