Brazil coach Tite continues to obsess over the fine-tuning of his resurgent Brazil ahead of a World Cup for which they are now firmly among the favourites.
Those tests will be contested by Tite’s final squad prior to the announcement of his 23-man group that will head to Russia in search of an unprecedented sixth world title.
This week the coach reaffirmed that 15-18 members of his World Cup squad had already assured their places, but there are still spots up for grabs – and all the focus in March will be on who can cement the last remaining slots for reserves.
Ahead of March’s friendlies, Brasil Global Tour will be assessing Tite’s options in each area of the field. And the full-backs available to him continue to be a major talking point in the local media.
“If I selected only the best players I had, I’d choose three left-backs,” Tite told Globo this week. Indeed, it is a position in which the Selecao are blessed, both in the immediate and long-term future.
Real Madrid’s Marcelo, ousted by previous coach Dunga, is a guaranteed starter in the role. For over a year under Tite, Atletico Madrid’s Filipe Luis was clearly the first reserve. However, Alex Sandro now appears to have overtaken Filipe as Marcelo’s deputy – the Juventus man’s excellent form and attacking strengths have convinced Tite to make an unexpected change.
Tite and Brazil are spoiled for choice on the left-side of their defence. The right side, however, is another matter entirely.
Dani Alves has featured in 12 of Tite’s 18 matches in charge and has not seen a single direct competitor for his role since the coach’s June 2016 arrival.
Six others have been trialled during the search for a suitable reserve. Bayern Munich’s Rafinha and Atletico MG’s Marcos Rocha were discarded as quickly as they were welcomed. Sevilla’s Mariano, meanwhile, joined the squad for a single qualifier but never saw a minute of action.
Corinthians stopper Fagner, who had enjoyed great success under Tite at the Timao, seemed to be the leading choice as reserve to Dani Alves, but he was replaced by Manchester City’s Danilo for November’s Brasil Global Tour dates versus Japan and England.
Danilo had recovered from a disastrous spell at Real Madrid and showed early-season promise in the Premier League. His lack of game-time under Pep Guardiola is far from ideal, but he remains the only real choice for Tite as it stands.
Monaco’s Fabinho made the squad under previous coach Dunga, but his conversion to a central midfielder in the Principality seems to have ended his hopes for Russia 2018.
And with no outstanding candidates at youth level, Brazil have genuine cause for concern when 34-year-old Dani Alves decides to call it quits.