ANALYSIS - Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer
This month saw Brazil bring 2018 to an end with a 1-0 Brasil Global Tour victory over Cameroon in Milton Keynes.
It was the Selecao’s 13th win in 15 matches games in this year – a period that saw them hit 29 goals and concede just three. But two of those goals, of course, arrived when it mattered most, leaving Brazil to head home at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup following a 2-1 defeat by Belgium.
Despite their disappointment, the huge progress made in the two years under coach Tite was plain to see and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) stuck by their man, handing him a new deal through to Qatar 2022.
Tite and his staff drew up a four-year plan to redevelop the squad ahead of the next World Cup, but right now few are truly looking beyond a must-win Copa America on home soil in June.
Below, Brasil Global Tour look back on a 2018 of one significant low but plenty of highs for the Selecao.
Brazil quickly put the 7-1 behind them following Tite’s arrival and swept all before them on the road to Russia, re-establishing themselves as one of world football’s leading national teams, despite relatively few changes to the personnel. The process proved a cathartic one as the demons of 2014 were laid to rest as the Brasil Global Tour brought a March victory over Germany in Berlin. The Selecao would arrive at the World Cup in June among the favourites.
One of the Tite’s greatest achievements was drastically reducing the team’s overreliance on Neymar while simultaneously devising a system that brought the best out of their no.10. After infamously losing him to injury ahead of the World Cup semi-final four years ago, however, fears returned when the PSG man suffered a broken foot ahead of the tournament.
Neymar faced a race to make it to Russia but exceeded expectations and arrived at the tournament fully fit, if perhaps lacking some match sharpness after being out of action for almost three months. The World Cup proved a disappointment on both a collective and a personal level, but he gained vital experience and proved he is still the leading man for the Selecao.
Brazil’s much-anticipated World Cup campaign got off to a slow start as they slumped to a draw with Switzerland, leading to fears that injuries ahead of the tournament would prove to be a problem; Dani Alves was ruled out of the entire competition while midfield maestro Renato Augusto struggled on but was ultimately dropped from the starting line-up.
Fred, too, suffered a knock that would ensure he would not make it onto the field in Russia, which also limited Tite’s midfield options. But even in the face of these problems, Brazil recovered despite never quite reaching the standard they’d set in qualifying.
Their tournament came to a disappointing end in the quarter-finals, however. Unbalanced with Coutinho, Neymar and Marcelo all operating on the left, Belgium exploited the space brilliantly through Kevin De Bruyne in the first period. Brazil responded well and created more than enough chances to win the game, but their campaign would come to a premature end.
In what was quite a departure for Brazilian football, Tite was asked to remain after the World Cup. He had given the Selecao back their pride and his excellent record up to the Belgium game convinced the CBF that he was the right man to lead the charge towards Copa America 2019 and Qatar 2022.
The first phase of Tite’s three-stage plan has gone well, with six consecutive Brasil Global Tour victories following the World Cup. Answers are emerging to some of the big questions he was asking, too, with the likes Richarlison, Arthur and Alan all emerging to provide him the options he was hoping for.
The rebuilding process is well underway and has gotten off to a fine start as the Brasil Global Tour offered Tite the chance to initiate a transitional period ahead of the Copa America. With six wins since the World Cup, including victories over Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil have maintained their momentum and, more importantly, their defensive steel: Six consecutive clean sheets have been kept, while they are also averaging two goals per game. There is still work to do, but Brazil and Tite are on course.