What did Tite learn from Brazil's latest World Cup qualifiers?

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The coach had the luxury of changing around players and formations against Ecuador and Colombia and will be pleased with what he saw

Brazil's most recent World Cup qualifiers were their first they grabbed the first spot in Russia after the hosts way back in March. And as the dust settles on tough clashes against Ecuador and Colombia, coach Tite has every reason to be pleased with what he saw.

Despite losing his 100 percent record in official matches with the draw in Barranquilla, the trainer had the luxury of experimenting with his first team, using these hyper-competitive clashes almost as friendlies.


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IN STATS: Colombia 1-1 Brazil | Willian states Brazil case | Brazil's WCQ campaign so far


Tite's demands for the double-header from his men were simple: pressure and a responsible attitutde. With precious few games scheduled before June 2018 he is keen to waste no time in finding his best XI, as well as fine-tuning his strategy on the pitch for whatever opponents await in Russia.

Against both Ecuador and Colombia fans witnesseed a change in formation, as Tite altered his usual 4-1-4-1 for a 4-2-3-1 line-up, an idea he first put into action in June's friendlies against Argentina and Australia. Philippe Coutinho started both games on the bench, coming on for Renato Augusto in each. The game-plan proved a roaring success in the opening game, but did not quite come off against Colombia as the Selecao were held to a 1-1 draw.

Coutinho Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

Fernandinho and Roberto Firmino also benefitted from the rotation as the Manchester City and Liverpool men were tried out against Colombia and passed the test. Fernandinho was strong both in defence and attack, feeding Neymar in the box to start the move that led to Willian's goal. Firmino, meanwhile, played in an unfamilar role as the lone striker in place of Gabriel Jesus, but showed enough quality to provide an alternative in the position. Fernandinho Brasil 14112016

Resisted by some of the Selecao support, who cannot see what Tite wants from the player, Firmino is nevertheless in pole position to be Jesus' principal back-up in the upcoming World Cup. In Barranquilla, he played for the team, dragging markers out of position and opening up the final third. His finishing may not be on the level of Gabi, but he has the qualities Tite wants on his bench.

The coach will also have been heartened to see discipline and restraint rule surpreme in a match that in recent years has been a flashpoint for incidents. Only Dani Alves picked up a yellow card against Colombia, and Brazil will hence have a full squad to choose from in the daunting climes of Bolivia's La Paz when qualifying resumes in October.

Even the loss itself of the 100% could be considered positive: no team can win all their games, and Brazil have learned that lesson in time to face reality after Tite's dream start of nine straight qualifying wins.

But if these games served to advance Tite's learning as a national team coach, an even bigger test lies in wait next away to the Bolivian side at altitude. Brazil then round off their fantastic qualifying campaign at home to Chile, a game that will probably decide whether Juan Antonio Pizzi's men join the Selecao in Russia next year.

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