With a settled starting XI and the majority of the squad’s presence in Russia having already been confirmed, all the talk in the build-up to next month’s announcement has centred around who will claim the final reserve slots.
Though unlikely to have any real impact on Brazil’s chances in Russia, the battle to secure the role of third-choice goalkeeper is one of the most close-run.
Alisson has long since cemented his role as TIte’s no.1 and Ederson is second-choice, but the third goalkeeping slot is very much up for grabs.
Tite has called up nine goalkeepers since his June 2016 appointment, but the race now seems to be a direct contest between Cassio of Corinthians and Neto of Valencia.
Neto earned his first call-up under Tite last month for the Brasil Global Tour clashes with Russia and Germany, brought in as a direct replacement for Cassio.
Cassio is one of Corinthians’ all-time great goalkeepers, who enjoyed huge success under Tite as the club claimed Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup titles. Indeed, he took the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player as the Timao shocked Chelsea and the world to claim the 2012 world title in Japan.
2016 aside, when he suffered a slight dip in form, the 30-year-old has been one of Brazil’s standout custodians for half a decade. He was one of the stars of both Tite eras during that period and once again starred as the club won Paulista and Brasileirao titles last term.
He was particularly decisive in both, stopping two penalties in the State Championships semi-finals against Sao Paulo and two more against Palmeiras in the final. He has time and again proved himself a man for the big occasion.
Cassio can fancy his chances of making it to Russia for two reasons: First, hunting a role that will very likely not require him to actually play, that Tite knows him so well personally will means there will be less concerns about integrating him into the squad on a social level; secondly, he played 45 minutes against Japan in November, while Neto is yet to make his senior international debut.
Neto, meanwhile, has got his career back on track this season after an impressive start to life in Spain with Valencia.
After two seasons as backup to Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus in Italy, the 28-year-old has been one of the standout performers in La Liga and a star of their challenge for UEFA Champions League qualification. His performances were rewarded last month with his first international call-up under Tite.
He has conceded just 32 goals in 31 Liga matches this season and also saved two penalties, ensuring Los Che have not suffered from the departure of another Brazil international, Diego Alves, who left to join Flamengo prior to the start of the season.
“Today, Neto is irreplaceable and has won the full confidence of coach Marcelino Toral, who was the one who asked the club to sign him," declared Cesar Hurtado of Goal Spain.