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Ney's back, volantes, and Firmino takes home advantage - five lessons from Brazil 2-0 Croatia

01:10 EAT 04/06/2018
Brazil Croatia Friendlies 03062018
Brasil Global Tour looks back at the major talking points after the Selecao put on a much-improved second-half showing to claim victory at Anfield


With just two weeks to go until their World Cup debut, the Selecao took another step on the Road to Russia with a 2-0 victory over Croatia.

A stunning goal from the returning Neymar, and one from fellow substitute Roberto Firmino, gave coach Tite yet his 16th victory in 20 matches as the coach of Brazil.

His side had to battle through a difficult first-half but improved after the break and claimed a well-deserved victory at Anfield in Liverpool, England.

Below, the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour look back at five talking points following another successful afternoon for the five-time world champions.


Exactly three months after surgery on his left foot, Neymar returned in some style. The PSG man arrived at half-time for his first international appearance since November last year and made an immediate impact.

Picking up the ball on the left, he bamboozled the Croatian defence before slamming an unstoppable shot in off the crossbar – and he celebrated by running to team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar, who played such a vital role in his recovery. His next goal is to return to the starting line-up against Austria when the Brasil Global Tour hits Vienna on June 10.


Following a largely frustrating first-half playing from the left, Philippe Coutinho moved infield after the break and was considerably more influential in the play, setting up Neymar with a fine pass for the opening goal. Coutinho has been frequently trialled in central midfield as Tite hopes to squeeze both him and Willian into the starting line-up. 

He was last used there against Russia in March and didn’t have a great impact, though Douglas Costa was wide left that evening. With Barcelona keen to use him centrally, too, Coutinho now appears to have cemented his new position. However, will Tite play him centrally against the strongest opposition to be found at the World Cup?


Willian became the first player to lose his place in the starting XI under Tite, a few months after the coach’s arrival – and Willian remained the one and only right up until March this year, when Marquinhos and seemingly Renato Augusto were pushed to the bench. Three months ago, however, with Neymar absent, Willian was key in wins over Russia and Germany and moved back into contention.

With Coutinho increasingly now playing centrally, Willian appears to once again be considered as a first-team player. The Chelsea man lacked the usual support he’d get from the currently injured Dani Alves, but still sought to be a protagonist on the right side and his consistency looks to have become vital to Tite.


As he proved in March's win over Germany, Tite is experimenting with the idea of bringing defensive midfielder Fernandinho into the heart of the midfield for games against top opposition. Coupled with Coutinho’s positional switch, that has left Renato Augusto on the outside looking on. Renato was unavailable through injury on Sunday, leaving Fernandinho and Paulinho to play ahead of Casemiro, but Brazil missed Renato’s cool head and neat distribution.
Croatia provided Tite the rare opportunity to see how his side reacts to their opponent pressing – and the Selecao struggled to deal with the pressure in the first-half. A number of Croatia breakaways could have seen Brazil go behind. With too much space between the midfield and forwards, the game changed after Fernandinho was replaced by Neymar, allowing Coutinho to move centrally. Tite will be looking carefully at his midfield options for Russia.


Roberto Firmino has enjoyed the best season of his career for Liverpool and is rightly being lauded as one of the finest no.9’s in world football. However, he remains second-choice for his country, behind Gabriel Jesus and, on Sunday, was desperate to give Tite something else to think about.

‘Bobby’ was the star of the show at Anfield, earning as large a reception as even Neymar, and took advantage of his natural surroundings with a fabulous goal to seal the victory late-on. Jesus’ pace and eternal desire to run in behind has thus far kept him ahead of Firmino in the pecking order, but Firmino is far from ready to give up the fight for a starting role in Russia.