Picking Brazil’s 2018 World Cup Squad After Latest International Games
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Brazil have prospered since Tite took charge after last year’s disastrous Copa America campaign.NELSON ALMEIDA/Getty Images
Less than a year ago, Brazil’s national team were stuck in the doldrums.
After suffering a 1-0 loss to Peru, albeit after conceding a contentious goal, Dunga’s underperforming squad failed to even get out of their group at the Copa America Centenario in June 2016.
It was another disappointing result for the Selecao, who were perhaps still suffering a hangover from a humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany on home soil in the semi-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Fast forward to the present day, however, and Brazil seem to have their swagger back.
With Dunga departing after such a disastrous Copa campaign in the United States, the Brazilian Football Confederation turned to former Corinthians coach Tite to steady the ship.
The new boss has done more than that, though. He’s won all eight of his competitive fixtures since taking charge. The latest success, a 3-0 triumph over Paraguay on Tuesday, saw Brazil become the first nation to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
When Tite took over, the team were sitting outside the top five in the CONMEBOL qualification table. Now they are on top of the standings and already able to start planning for Russia next year.
The turnaround has come about partly due to a consistency in selection. Those who have performed so well in qualifying will be expected to make up the majority of the final 23-man squad.
There are, however, a few spots still up for grabs. With the tournament just over a year away, Bleacher Report attempts to nail down a list of Brazilian players who will be present at the next World Cup.
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Alisson Becker has been Brazil’s first-choice ‘keeper under Tite.NELSON ALMEIDA/Getty Images
As it stands, Alisson Becker is the first-choice goalkeeper for Brazil.
While he may play second fiddle to Wojciech Szczesny at Italian club as Roma, the 24-year-old has started all eight competitive outings since Tite took charge, conceding just twice during the streak.
The identity of the other two ‘keepers isn’t quite so clear-cut, though.
Weverton played for his country in the January friendly fixture against Colombia staged to raise funds for the victims of the Chapecoense air disaster. He was also in goal for the gold-medal winning squad at last year’s Olympic Games, saving Germany’s fifth spot-kick to seal glory in the final in Rio de Janeiro.
Diego Alves of Valencia and Gremio’s Marcelo Grohe will be in contention to make the plane to Russia, but Ederson appears ahead of the pair at this stage.
Although the Benfica shot-stopper is still yet to make his full debut for Brazil, he has represented his country at under-23 level.
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Marcelo seems to have the jump on Filipe Luis to start at left-back.Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Going on his short tenure, Tite has shown who are the likely candidates to fill the four full-back berths for Russia.
On the right, Dani Alves is still going strong. The Juventus defender will be 35 by the time the next World Cup starts, yet he’s started all bar one of the World Cup qualifiers since the change in head coach.
Fagner—whom Tite knows all about from their time together at Corinthians—filled in when Alves was ruled out for the game against Paraguay on Tuesday through suspension.
As for the other flank, there seems to be a head-to-head battle between two men based in Madrid to start at left-back.
Real’s Marcelo—who fell out with former coach Dunga, according to Raisa Simplicio of Goal—scored in the victory over Paraguay, but Atletico’s Filipe Luis is breathing down his neck.
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Miranda has formed a solid central pairing with Marquinhos.NELSON ALMEIDA/Getty Images
Brazil have a history of playing attacking football, but a rock-solid defence has given them a base to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.
Miranda is a central figure in Tite’s team and has worn the captain’s armband twice under the new coach, including in the 3-0 victory against Paraguay that secured a place in Russia next year.
The Inter Milan centre-back has formed an excellent partnership with a Paris Saint-Germain player—but perhaps not the one most would expect.
Marquinhos is now ahead of club colleague Thiago Silva in the pecking order, although the latter is still involved and would add valuable experience to the World Cup squad.
The fourth and final spot appears to belong to Gil, a 29-year-old who plays for Shandong Luneng in China. However, his place looks the most under threat from alternative options, including David Luiz.
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Paulinho didn’t impress in England, but he’s a favourite of Brazil coach Tite.Buda Mendes/Getty Images
According to Transfermarkt, Tite has used either a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 formation during his tenure so far.
Both systems have included a holding midfielder, with Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Manchester City’s Fernandinho splitting playing time in the position during the last eight qualifiers.
It may surprise Tottenham Hotspur fans to see Paulinho a regular starter for Brazil. The 28-year-old did little of note during his time in the Premier League, yet he is one of the national coach’s current favourites.
Tite also likes to use former Corinthians player Renato Augusto in the centre of the park. Now at Beijing Sinobo Guoan, the versatile Augusto has started the last eight qualifiers.
After making his international debut back in October 2010, Giuliano has come in from the cold.
The Zenit St Petersburg playmaker started in Paulinho’s absence for the 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia last year, putting him in a prime position to travel as a squad member.
The sixth and final midfield berth is tough to call. Tite has a number of options, although some of the more established names may end up on the outside looking in.
He seems likely to go for experience in Diego, who is now 32 but has starred in domestic football for Flamengo. However, if the World Cup is viewed as an opportunity to take a talented youngster, Hamburg’s Walace will come under strong consideration. Take your pick, folks.
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Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus could be Brazil’s starting forward line in Russia.VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/Getty Images
Neymar may no longer be captain, but the forward must still be the first name on Tite’s teamsheet.
Barring serious injury (and even with only one working leg, you’d be tempted to take him), the Brazilian member of Barcelona’s famous MSN front line will be spearheading his country’s bid for glory in Russia.
“He is the guy that decides a lot of games, a guy that is fundamental on our national team,” Philippe Coutinho said of Neymar, per Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo.
Coutinho played on the left side of the front three in his compatriot’s absence during the 2-0 win over Venezuela last October, but he has since usurped Willian to start on the opposite flank.
Both, though, look certain to make it to the World Cup, along with two other forward players from Premier League clubs.
Teenager Gabriel Jesus was Tite’s first-choice striker, scoring five goals in six appearances, until he suffered a fractured metatarsal on duty for Manchester City in February.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino took over up top for the recent wins over Uruguay and Paraguay, suggesting he’s in a strong position to make the final squad.
Although less certain of selection, Douglas Costa appears to be the leading candidate to cover Neymar’s spot. Injuries have hampered the Bayern Munich forward’s international career, yet Tite keeps on picking him.
Missed the Plane
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David Luiz has yet to feature for Brazil under new boss Tite.Buda Mendes/Getty Images
With such depth of talent, Brazil could pick a different 23-man squad and still fancy their chances of doing well in a major tournament.
David Luiz may be excelling on his return to Chelsea, yet Tite still refuses to recall him for national duty.
“I am disappointed to not be in the Brazil squad, but I respect the decision. I’m playing regularly and trying to do my best to come back [into the squad]. Have I been told why I wasn’t picked? No,” he told Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard.
Luiz is not the only notable name missing. Former Chelsea team-mate Oscar wasn’t included in the last four squads, suggesting he faces a battle to win back a place in time.
Lucas Moura, Luiz Gustavo and Rafinha are not included either. Nor is the evergreen Kaka, who will be 36 by the time the World Cup comes around but still holds out hope of featuring in Russia.
Fellow old-timer Robinho looks to be crowded out up front, as not even Hulk can muscle his way in. Both Felipe Anderson and Gabriel Barbosa look future stars, but 2018 may come around too soon for them.
Then there’s Alex Teixeira, too. And Ganso. Plus Dudu, who led Palmeiras to the Brazilian league title in 2016.
Considering all the names in the frame, spare a thought for Tite, a coach who has done so much good work already but, ultimately, will be judged on how Brazil perform in major tournaments.