OPINION - Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer
Brazil coach Tite is facing a nervous wait to find out whether Renato Augusto will recover from a knee injury that is threatening his place at the World Cup.
Six days ago, the midfielder confessed he was feeling pain in his left knee and since suffered a constant inflammation of the joint which has kept him out of training and forced him to miss the Selecao’s Brasil Global Tour victory over Croatia on Sunday.
On Wednesday, he underwent tests that confirmed he is now in a period of recovery and faces a race to recover his fitness ahead of this weekend’s clash with Austria in Vienna.
Renato has been one of the stars of the Tite era, however, this year he appears to have lost his previously assured place in the starting line-up as Philippe Coutinho was moved central or Fernandinho was introduced to inject some added grit to the midfield.
Regardless, Tite will be desperate to ensure the former Corinthians and Flamengo man makes it to Russia – and his importance to the side was underlined in the first-half of Brazil’s clash with Croatia at Anfield.
The Selecao suffered at the hands of the Croatian press in the first period, frequently surrendering possession near their own and goal and struggling to retain their passing rhythm.
Fernandinho, was unable to dictate the play anything like we’ve seen from the cerebral, creative Renato, though it is worth noting the Man City star was asked to perform a different task to the defensive midfield role in which he’s excelled for his club in the Premier League this season.
Neymar, though!— Brasil Global Tour (@BGT_ENG) June 3, 2018
Just outrageous pic.twitter.com/zlag43fKCd
Renato Augusto has been the ‘conductor’ of Tite’s Brazil, providing balance and implementing the changes in pace required throughout games.
He has also been vital to the balance that the Selecao have discovered in the middle of the park: Casemiro sits to protect the back four, Paulinho shuttles and makes forward runs, while Renato sits in the midfield and initiates the passing moves.
It is Renato Augusto who assesses the space on the field and looks to exploit it by coaxing others into those positions. His is the one who knits the midfield to the attack and has been key to the form of Neymar, constantly floating out to the left to make sure he gets the PSG man receiving the ball on the front-foot.
He has also been seen to sit back and fill in the gap when Marcelo bursts forward from left-back. Neymar’s best performances have arrived when playing ahead of Renato, who was also key to Brazil’s Olympic gold medal victory in 2016 as one of the three permitted overage players.
He showed himself a leader in Rio time and again, and he was also one of the stars of Brazil’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
The intention of Tite and his staff this month was to work extensively with Renato to help him win back his place in the Brazil first-team, which he lost for, in part, seeing around half the number of minutes of club football enjoyed by his colleagues in 2018 due to the Chinese Super League following a different calendar.
The 30-year-old Beijing Guoan midfielder is also frequently singled out as the most tactically intelligent member of the squad. It is notable that whenever Tite wants to make adjustments to his side during matches, he always speaks to Renato and asks the midfielder to translate his instructions to the rest of the team.
Just how much would Brazil miss Renato? That is a question Tite is already asking himself. Brazilian football has struggled to produce passing midfielders in recent decades and there appears no direct replacement who can offer the same skillset.
Renato is now working towards a return to training this week ahead of Sunday’s Brasil Global Tour clash with Austria in Vienna.