ANALYSIS - Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer
Brazil signed off on their World Cup preparations in style on Sunday as an impressive second-half showing saw them cruise to a 3-0 victory over Austra in Vienna.
With Neymar fully-fit, Tite handed the PSG man his first start since February – the exact XI that recovered from a tricky first period against Croatia last week to score two unanswered goal in the second-half in Liverpool.
That saw Philippe Coutinho vacate Neymar’s natural position on the left to start in a central midfield role, which now appears to be exactly how Brazil will go in search of their sixth world title in Russia later this month.
Below, the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour look back at five talking points following another successful afternoon for the five-time world champions.
After a trial process that has lasted as long as a year, Coutinho now looks set to play a major role for Brazil at this month’s World Cup in a central midfield position. Sitting to the left of Paulinho, he was the Selecao’s most active player of the afternoon and took responsibility for building the teams play.
Only Neymar (88) had more touches than Coutinho’s 86, while the Barcelona man made the most passes of anyone on the field (65) and finished the game with a 93 per cent passing accuracy. Coutinho now looks to be the rhythmist of this side – a role previously reserved for Renato Augusto.
Neymar returned to a starting line-up for the first time in three months and that he remained on the pitch until the 84th minute will have delighted coach Tite. After a tricky first-half in which he uncharacteristically surrendered possession on a handful of occasions, he most certainly found his feet after the break and turned in the most dominant performance of the match.
He doubled Brazil’s lead with a sublime mazy run and neat finish for what was his second goal in two appearances since returning from a foot injury that at one time looked to threaten his World Cup. Brazil are heading to Russia with their star man firing on all cylinders.
Having not been a regular starter for his country since 2014, this year has been something of a rebirth for Thiago Silva. The PSG stopper has now most certainly shifted Marquinhos out of the side and once again looked assured in a firm partnership with Miranda.
The pair have played all four games for their country this year and can boast a full house of clean sheets. Indeed, Brazil have now kept 16 clean sheets in 21 matches under Tite, conceding just five goals along the way. With matches tipped to be tight in Russia, this looks a solid back-four worthy of Brazil’s great tradition.
The sensational form of Roberto Firmino for Liverpool this season has placed some pressure on starting centre-forward Gabriel Jesus in recent months, but the Manchester City reaffirmed Tite’s faith in him with a fabulously-taken opener in Vienna.
After a slightly below average performance against Croatia, Jesus turned in a fine showing against Austria and cemented his starting role in Russia. The 21-year-old, who has played such a vital role in Brazil’s rebirth under Tite, is now the top scorer under the current coach with 10 goals.
Brazil’s sixth victory in their last seven outings sees them head to Sochi on Sunday evening convinced they are ready to compete for an unprecedented sixth world title. 2018 has brought a few surprise changes to this side this year, with Thiago Silva and Willian returning to the starting line-up while Coutinho has found a new position and Danilo has replaced the injured Dani Alves at right-back.
Coutinho will be responsible for organising the game in midfield and dictating the tempo, while Willian will ensure to pull wide and make the pitch as big as possible when Brazil are in possession. Paulinho will continue to make late runs into the box and Casemiro will protect a water-tight back-four.
The time has come, and Brazil are ready. They will start the World Cup in exactly seven days, and they will do so with the following line-up, in Tite’s now trademark 4-1-4-1: Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro; Willian, Paulinho, Coutinho, Neymar; Gabriel Jesus.