Next week Tite will lead the Brazilian national team into battle for the first time as they strive to rectify their poor start to the World Cup qualifying campaign under Dunga’s stewardship which has left them languishing in sixth place in the rankings, outside the qualification places.
Yesterday the new manager gave a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, announcing the squad which had been submitted to FIFA a week earlier, and the list was as follows:
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Marcelo Grohe (Gremio), Weverton (Atletico Paranaense)
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo).
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Giuliano (Zenit), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Rafael Carioca (Atletico Mineiro), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Willian (Chelsea).
Forwards: Gabriel (Santos), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Neymar (Barcelona), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk)
There are many points of interest within it, most notably the selection of seven Olympic gold medal winners, as well as the inclusions of Paulinho, Taison and Giuliano. Out are the likes of Dunga favourite Luiz Gustavo, ageing front-man Ricardo Oliveira and Benfica’s Jonas.
Tite has not chosen an out-and-out centre-forward, which perhaps hints at a continuation of the style employed by Rogério Micale at the Olympic tournament, with four lithe, mobile attackers who are able to interchange positions and drag defenders out of position.
Playing without a striker is not something unfamiliar to the ex-Corinthians manager, he lead Timão to their 2012 Libertadores triumph without a traditional number 9. The inclusion of so many Olympic players also hints at the fact that he want continuity of personnel in order to maintain the group dynamic and team spirit that clearly developed well throughout the Rio-based tournament.
He has included several players he knows well from his previous clubs such as Paulinho, Gil and Taison. This is another example of Tite’s pragmatism; he knows exactly what these players will give him despite nobody in the country being thrilled at the prospect of their inclusion.
He openly admitted in the press conferece yesterday that he did not pick this squad looking to build towards the World Cup in Russia but to win two crucial qualifying ties and put Brazil back amongst the top-5 positions in the table. As such he has selected players who are fit and in form for their club sides despite the fact that they may not have the ability of players who have been left out.
The players who ply their trades in China and Brazil are over half way through their respective league campaigns and should be firing on all cylinders, as should the players who have just come off the back of the packed Olympic schedule. They may not have been playing at the level of the Europe-based contingent but they have been playing and, as the Brazilians are so fond of saying, will have their rhythm.
New call-ups Fágner and Rafael Carioca have both been having fine campaigns with Corithians and Atlético Mineiro respectively and both of the clubs are challenging for the Brasileirão title. New man Giuliano is also a surprise to most but was having an excellent season with Grêmio before being transferred to Zenit in mid-July.
It is also worth noting that this list of players was submitted to FIFA a week before its release to the press. The absences of Luan, who played so well in the games he started in Rio, and possibly of Walace, can be explained by this factor as the list was ratified before the game against Honduras and presumably written up several days before that.
Despite still being in the very early stages of their seasons Dani Alves, Marcelo, Filipe Luís, Casemiro, Alisson, Miranda, Philippe Coutinho and Willian all keep their places, and do so deservedly. Marcelo, Filipe Luís and Dani Alves are the three obvious choices at full-back; they’re a cut above all other options and bring experience to a squad that does not have a wealth of it.
Casemiro meanwhile is one of the few who stood out in the disastrous Copa América campaign and, along with Willian and Neymar is one of the few players who can be pretty much guaranteed of a starting place when fully fit.
It will be interesting to see where Tite deploys Gabriel Jesus, if at all, after his unsuccessful start to the Olympics as a centre-forward followed by his more fruitful move out to the left. It will also be fascinating to see if Tite opts for three central midfielders, perhaps Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho, or decides to go with a more attcking central player such as Coutinho.
One more decision that he will have to make is the appointment of a new captain after Neymar’s wise decision to renounce his role following the gold medal match against Germany. Under Dunga Miranda deputised when Neymar was out and it would not be a surprise to see him step into the role, though I think Tite will also be tempted to give the armband to Gil, who lead his Corinthians side to last year’s Brasileirão.
This is not the most scintillating first selection of an incoming manager of o Canarinho but there are certainly many talking points. Nobody is really sure what team will line-up against Ecuador in Quito next Thursday but I would not be at all surprised to see a team chosen with solidity rather than expansive attacking football in mind. Excitement is not what Tite is aiming for; this really is a results game now.