With the Barcelona star sitting out of the Brasil Global Tour double-header in Australia next month, the Liverpool man is set to take centre stage
Neymar has finally been granted a holiday. Copa America 2011, Olympics 2012, Confederations Cup 2013, World Cup 2014, Copa America 2015, Olympics 2016 - for the first time in six years, Brazil’s no.10 will have a proper break to recharge the batteries.
And the absence of Brazil’s No.10 for the Brasil Global Tour double-header with Argentina and Australia in Melbourne next month will serve as a valuable test for the Selecao. Under previous coaches Dunga and Luiz Felipe Scolari, the side was criticised heavily for being over-reliant on its star forward.
Since coach Tite’s June 2016 appointment, Neymar has missed just one match for his country (against Venezuela due to suspension). And on that occasion, it was Philippe Coutinho who filled the void, being asked to play as a No.10 from Ney’s position wide left as Willian returned on the right flank and Gabriel Jesus through the middle.
Tite made it clear that being without Neymar would be an important part of his side’s preparations for next year’s World Cup, citing the injury that ended the Barcelona player’s tournament in 2014 just prior to the 7-1 defeat to Germany.
"A team has to be prepared for the various situations in the game,” he said.
“I'm talking about negative results during the game and about winning, about knowing how to manage games, about being happy but not settling into a comfort zone. So, being without Neymar is also about getting prepared.”
Neymardependencia is a word Tite will not allow to creep into his vocabulary. And there appears few better opportunities to test his team without their talisman than against their great rivals Argentina, who will have a new coach in Jorge Sampaoli.
And Liverpool star Coutinho will be asked to lead the team in Ney’s absence. Coutinho’s preferred position of wide left saw suffer three frustrating years as he failed to break into the Brazil team that has been packed full of attacking wide players.
But all that has changed under Tite. Coutinho is now a bonafide first-team player for his country and in the international form of his life, playing from the right after ousting Chelsea’s Willian from the side. Since the current coach’s arrival, Coutinho is the only player to have joined the starting XI due to anything other than injury or suspension.
And June’s BGT clashes offer Tite the chance to place more responsibility on the Liverpool man’s shoulders. After impressing in a deeper role for Liverpool, Coutinho could be moved central and withdrawn into a midfield three, in a role closer to the one that has been filled by the impressive Renato Augusto.
That could also provide a chance for the returning Douglas Costa to see some minutes after injuries have cost him a place at three major tournaments. Shakhtar Donetsk's Taison will also be hoping for an opportunity to impress.
With just four of Tite’s preferred starting XI in June’s squad, there will also be a big chance for defenders to impress. The entire current back-four have been given the month off. A reserve under Tite, Thiago Silva will likely be given the time to prove that he is the best central defender in the world.
David Luiz is also back, earning his first call-up under the current boss, though he could operate in defensive midfield as Tite seeks to use June’s matches to learn more about his evolving side and the players on the periphery of his preferred team.
Brazil face Sampaoli's Argentina on June 9 in Melbourne, Australia. Four days later they meet Australia in the same stadium.