Brazil: The midfield trio that Tite should actually use
Brazil’s squad is oozing with quality. They possess traditional flair and guile – but in Paulinho and Renato Augusto, their midfield doesn’t quite fit this mould.
Brazil go into this summer’s World Cup as one of the favourites.
To do this, they will have to banish the memories of the heartache suffered at the hands of Germany in Belo Horizonte four years ago.
The 7-1 defeat to the eventual champions left scars that initially carried into the qualifiers for this summer’s edition. Then Tite was appointed.
Under Tite, Brazil have been formidable, becoming the first side to qualify for this summer’s finals, having not lost a competitive game since Dunga’s last in charge against Peru at the Copa America Centenario in 2016.
But Tite’s Brazil will face tougher tests at the World Cup than they have so far experienced under his watch.
Could they actually benefit from tweaking the midfield that successfully qualified with flying colours? RealSport take a look.
The Fernandinho conundrum
It’s true that shoehorning players into a national side doesn’t work. But Fernandinho doesn’t need to be shoehorned.
At the moment he is the natural backup for Casemiro at the base of Brazil’s midfield three. However, despite his advancing years, Fernandinho proved in a friendly against Japan in 2017 that he is more than capable of playing in Renato Augusto’s role to the right of Casemiro in Tite’s 4-3-3.
At the time Augusto had suffered a dip in form, so Fernandinho was given a chance and Brazil ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. The Manchester City midfielder is a superior player, without doubt, offering defensive stability, intelligence, and passing range.
The reason the likes of Augusto and Paulinho are so popular with Tite is their ability to cover nominal wide-men Neymar and Coutinho, doing their defensive work, as well as exploiting some of the space that Brazil’s attacking players create with their clever movement.
Some may level the accusation of a lack of mobility at the 34-year-old, limiting him to the role of deepest lying midfielder; the Casemiro role, rather than those of Renato Augusto and Paulinho.
But having kept himself in supreme shape, if managed correctly, Fernandinho could do a brilliant job to the right of Casemiro, instead of being his understudy.
Where best to play Coutinho?
Tite likes to select Gabriel Jesus as his lone striker, with Neymar to his left and Coutinho to his right. The three have a good relationship and link up well.
The team is built around their talisman Neymar, which seems to be the reason that Jesus is selected over Roberto Firmino. Most pundits follow the school of thought that Firmino would occupy the spaces reserved for Neymar, so is not really favoured by Tite.
Philippe Coutinho on the other hand, is a popular selection. Usually deployed on the opposite flank to Neymar, the former Liverpool man is favoured by Neymar to play with.
But a role out on the right doesn’t really suit Coutinho, and it is unlikely that we will see the best of him in that position, after struggling a little for Barcelona when played out there.
Willian’s performances have put major pressure on Coutinho’s place in the starting XI, but why does it have to be one or the other?
In his Liverpool days, Coutinho was sometimes deployed on the left of a midfield three, a role he could thrive in for Brazil. He’s been able to dovetail with Neymar on that side of the pitch, and offer more creativity and goal threat than Paulinho or Augusto.
Being able to play Willian to the right of Jesus could inject some much-needed pace and width into the team, especially with the absence of Dani Alves this summer.
Perhaps against the bigger nations, Brazil would be reluctant to play Coutinho in midfield on Marcelo’s side, given that the left back’s forward forays will need to be covered. But the extra creativity and pedigree of a trio comprising of Coutinho, Casemiro and Fernandino could take Brazil far.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group B of the World Cup for Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.