Already-qualified Brazil signed off from South American World Cup qualifying in style on Tuesday, seeing off Chile 3-0 in Sao Paulo.
And they did so by making just two changes to coach Tite’s preferred stating XI. Alex Sandro came in at left-back because of injuries to Marcelo and Filipe Luis, while Ederson was handed his Brazil debut in goal in place of Alisson.
Brazil’s team heading into Russia, then, seems to already have been decided.
So what now for Tite’s Brazil? With nine months and two more international breaks – which will see the Selecao take in four Brasil Global Tour fixtures – prior to announcing his final 23-man squad, it appears there will be few changes.
This month he handed call-ups to two new faces, with China-based striker Diego Tardelli and young Gremio midfielder Arthur making the squad, though neither saw a minute of action in the draw with Bolivia and win over Chile.
Arthur, however, could well prove a wildcard. A rare Brazilian midfielder able to dictate play as well as offer some dynamism, the 21-year-old midfielder remains hopeful of becoming at least a backup to preferred midfield duo Renato Augusto and Paulinho, while he could also be trialled in Casemiro’s holding role.
Paulinho has been the standout performer since Tite’s June 2016 arrival and appears immovable. Renato Augusto, meanwhile, is facing mild pressure for his role following an increasingly frequent experiment with Philippe Coutinho being moved in from the right to operate deeper in Renato’s central role.
Playing Coutinho as a central midfielder may well be reserved for matches against weaker sides who set out to defend, however, with Tite unlikely to use him there against top sides who look to dominate the midfield.
He is still looking for a third centre-forward it appears. Gremio’s Luan, having starred alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus at the Olympics, will still be hoping to return to the squad before the World Cup.
An injury meant he was unable to be considered for selection this month, and it is thought that he will return in November when the Brasil Global Tour takes the Selecao to France to play Japan before a meeting with England at Wembley.
Gabriel Jesus has been a revelation since being handed a surprise debut for Tite’s first match in charge – a 3-0 defeat of Ecuador in Quito that saw Jesus strike twice – and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino is hoping to hold onto his role as an alternative.
Firmino, however, is very much an alternative. Markedly different in style to the dynamic, pacey Jesus, the Liverpool forward drops from the front line to link play. He is yet to fully convince, though is considered a likely member of the World Cup squad, despite missing a good chance in his brief cameo against Chile.
The speedy Diego Tardelli is a more natural replacement for Jesus and is being closely monitored in China. He may yet be back next month, with his ability to stay high and force opposition defenders to retreat one aspect of his game that has pleased Tite.
And then there is the fight for the role on the right side of attack. Though Coutinho appears to still be first-choice there, Willian – the only man to have lost his place in Tite’s XI since the coach’s arrival – is battling hard to win his place back.
With just four games until his squad is announced, Tite still have some minor details to go over.
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