Brazil coach Tite sprung a few surprises when he announced his latest squad at CBF headquarters in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
Local media expected few changes, and even fewer new faces to be included for the Selecao’s final two World Cup qualifiers.
Though there are seemingly only reserve slots up for grabs in a squad that has marched to nine victories and one draw in the coach’s first 10 competitive fixtures, Tite and his coaching staff underlined their desire to continue to experiment by naming four players previously unnamed by the former Corinthians man.
Once again Tite held court in Rio, engaging coherently and patiently with the local media, taking time to explain his selections.
He stressed that while Flamengo playmaker Diego may not be in the best of form for his club, the 32-year-old has been recalled for his potential and his 14-year history with the national team.
With just nine months left before Russia 2018, Title went on to explain that he does believe he has the time required for international newcomers to become comfortable representing their country.
Carlos Eduardo Mansur of newspaper O Globo, however, believes the latest squad – which included four players never before called into a Tite squad – made it clear that places are still up for grabs.
"I found parts of this afternoon surprising and also enlightening,” he told Brasil Global Tour.
“All the changes made were in roles yet to be cemented in the final squad. But what really surprised me was the recall of Diego Tardelli, who has been away from the Selecao for a long time, as had Danilo and Fred. These names really surprised me, but now we know for certain that [Tite] is still looking for players in those positions.”
— Brasil Global Tour (@BGT_ENG) September 15, 2017
Perhaps another surprise was the absence of Santos goalkeeper Vanderlei, who had been expected to arrive in place of Cassio following a fine season.
Tite was asked about his omission and stated that he understands the criterion of what he needs from his players, admitting that while Vanderlei is in good form and remains on his radar, others are ahead of him.
This latest squad reminded Brazil fans that while Tite appears to have cemented his starting XI, he is still searching for game-changing options on the bench, particularly in attack.
Against Ecuador and Colombia, for example, first-choice right-sided attacker Philippe Coutinho operated in a central position and may now be taking up a slot previously occupied by reserve Giuliano.
Although it worked against Ecuador, however, Tite seems yet to be convinced that he will see the best of Coutinho in that role against stronger sides, and is keen to explore his attacking options.
The return of 32-year-old Diego Tardelli, who has not represented his country since Copa America 2015, is intriguing. While Roberto Firmino is currently second-choice centre-forward behind Gabriel Jesus, the Liverpool man offers a very different option at centre-forward.
The pacey forward is now seemingly fighting to prove himself a direct reserve to the dynamic Gabriel Jesus, whose ability to run in behind and stretch the play has proved so vital to the evolution of Brazil’s attacking play since Tite’s arrival.
Brazil will have their final opportunity to experiment in competitive fixtures when they meet Bolivia and Chile next month, in what will be the final two qualifiers for the already-qualified five-time world champions.
And it appears there are more options to be explored than many had thought this morning.