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10 Jul 2018

World Cup 2018: Brazil should stick with Tite

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A recurring theme

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 A learning curve

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No need for a replacement

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Evolution through construction

REUTERS/John Sibley

The 2014 World Cup. Brazil’s dream of winning a first global crown on home soil lay shattered about them following a 7-1 humbling at the hands of eventual champions Germany. A 3-0 reverse in the third-place play-off a few days later spelt the end for Luiz Felipe Scolari who would re-emerge at Gremio a few months later.

The 2010 World Cup. 1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga was now at the helm of the selecao ship and, while he was making few friends in the media, results could hardly be argued against. The country had won the 2007 Copa America, the 2009 Confederations Cup and finished first, comfortably, in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying group.

Brazil arrived in South Africa with a powerful front quarter of Elano, Kaka, Robinho and Luis Fabiano. Yet despite an excellent showing in the Round of 16 tie against Chile, they came unstuck in the quarter-final against Holland. Despite taking the lead through Robinho, the Dutch struck back to turn the game around and send Brazil crashing out. That was it for Dunga, at least in his first spell as national team boss.

 REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The 2006 World Cup. This was it. The defending world champions had the strongest offensive quartet in world football, a quartet which included a Ronaldinho Gaucho in his prime, a Ronaldo ready to break the World Cup goal scoring record and a record-breaking sixth world title to win.

Ronaldo got his record during the group stages against Japan but Brazil would not go on to make history. They were again undone in the quarter-finals, Zinedine Zidane turning the clock back to put in one last majestic showing on the grand stage, leaving Ronaldinho as a side note in proceedings. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who had led Brazil to their fourth World Cup crown in 1994, was gone just days later.

A recurring theme

There’s a recurring theme here. Look closely and you’ll spot it.

World Cups, in their four-year cycles, are seen as a convenient point for national football confederations to stop, take stock, consider their options. And 2018 has proved no different, certainly in this corner of the world.

No sooner had Brazil been dumped out of the World Cup by Roberto Martinez’s excellent Belgian outfit that the vultures started to circle over Tite’s Job. Brazilian television station SporTV put out a poll on their Twitter account: should Brazil remain with Tite or start the search for a new coach, a new philosophy, a new approach, all over again?

REUTERS/John Sibley

It looks, however, like the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has seen common sense this time. Reports in the Brazilian media suggest that a new four-year contract is on the table for the former Corinthians boss to sign.

For, while things may not have gone strictly according to plan, Brazil have a coach with a defined approach to the game, who knows how he wants his players to play and, more importantly, the players he wants to use to achieve that goal.

A learning curve

This is the first speed bump Tite has encountered in the national job since taking over almost two years ago. Brazil flew seamlessly through the South American World Cup qualifiers under his stewardship, becoming the first nation to qualify for the event aside from hosts Russia.

In a way, the ease with which Brazil and Tite made it to the World Cup could have served as an inhibition. There was scant challenge as Uruguay and Argentina were brushed aside 4-1 and 3-0 respectively and only friendly ties against European nations where the ability to recreate the urgency of competitive football is nigh on impossible. Tite’s numbers up to the World Cup spoke for themselves.

When it came to the World Cup itself, there were errors. But that is to be understood. This was Tite’s first international tournament and it is as much a learning process as is the introduction to the intense daily routine of club management.

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Tite was undoubtedly unlucky in some areas. His first choice right-back Daniel Alves was ruled out before the tournament began. Then his second choice, Danilo, was injured during the competition itself.

But there were also question marks to be raised over some of the coach’s decision making. Was Tite too loyal to certain squad members owing to past successes together? Certainly, Paulinho looked to be running on close to empty by the time of the quarter-final and Gabriel Jesus became the first no. 9 not to score for Brazil at the World Cup since 1974.

New Manchester United midfielder Fred, meanwhile, did not play a single minute at the tournament after failing to recover from a knee complaint and Taison, who has been almost ever-present in squads under Tite, was another outfield player not to get a minute of competitive action in Russia. In the circumstances, the Gremio pair of Arthur and Luan may well have been more potent weapons in the armoury.

No need for a replacement

But admitting that the Brazil coach made mistakes does not automatically mean he should be handed his P45. 

There is a sacking culture in Brazilian football more aggressive than anything likely to be seen in England and that stretches all the way to the top of the country’s football pyramid.

But in the eagerness to offer Tite a new deal, we can see growth from the CBF. Looking across Brazil’s footballing landscape, alternatives are thin on the ground. But, more importantly, at this stage of the Tite years, they are entirely unnecessary.

REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Brazil were the favourites to win the World Cup but found themselves prematurely eliminated. None of that was down to Tite’s lack of abilities as a coach; rather, individual errors cost them on the pitch, notably Fernandinho who, having been thrown in at the deep end without a float, looked lost at sea for much of the opening 45 minutes.

Furthermore, they were up against arguably the most potent attack left in the competition. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku knew where the Brazilian weaknesses were and exploited them ruthlessly. It’s knock-out football – it can happen and this time it happened to Brazil.

Evolution through construction

The CBF have spoken about evolution in the past but seem slightly less enthusiastic on the key aspect of ensuring evolution: construction. You simply cannot go back to ground zero every four years and start building from scratch.

For the first time since Mano Menezes was at the helm of the selecao ship at the start of the decade, Brazil have a set idea about where they are going and how to get there. Menezes was crudely dumped for fan favourite Luiz Felipe Scolari 18 months prior to the 2014 World Cup. What Tite has going in his favour is the fact that he remains very much the people’s pick.

Paths to success rarely run smooth. Germany struggled to get past Algeria at the last World Cup on the way to the title and Spain’s successful campaign in 2010 started with defeat to Switzerland.

Patience is a virtue, as the old adage goes. It is one the CBF would be well advised to learn and, more importantly, apply.

What do you think? Should the CBF stick with Tite? Let us know by commenting below.