Just under ten weeks after replacing Dunga, Tite will take charge of his first match as the coach of the Brazilian national team in a World Cup qualifier away to Ecuador on Thursday evening. Due to the timing of this international break – coming right at the beginning of the European season – and the scant time allowed to train with his team, Tite picked a slightly unorthodox squad, selecting seven of the U23 side that won the Olympic gold in August, as well as a total of seven players he has worked with previously in Brazilian football.
Between the posts, Tite has opted for continuity by allowing Roma’s Alisson to hold on to the number one jersey. Brazil has an abundance of fairly solid goalkeepers, both at home and abroad, who all play at roughly the same level. Some claimed favouritism when Dunga handed Alisson his national team debut in October of 2015 (Alisson was playing at Internacional at the time, Dunga’s favourite club), but some steady performances have justified his continued presence in the side. Grêmio’s Marcelo Grohe keeps his place as understudy, and Olympic goalkeeper Weverton also made the 23-man squad.
Defence was always going to be the main focus of Tite’s first squad selection. Would he call up Marcelo and Thiago Silva? Two of Brazil’s best defenders who were inexplicably overlooked during Dunga’s reign? Marcelo made the cut and goes straight into the starting lineup at left-back on Thursday evening, while Thiago missed out through injury.
From the Olympics squad, PSG’s Marquinhos got the call and will start at centre-back alongside Internazionale’s Miranda. 23 year-old Rodrigo Caio was also selected from the gold-medal squad, but he was forced to pull out through injury, making space for Grêmio’s excellent centre-back Pedro Geromel.
Daniel Alves keeps his place at right-back, with Tite calling up Corinthians’ Fágner as a reserve.
By all accounts, Tite intends to use the same 4-1-4-1 formation he employed with some success at Corinthians. When Brazil are in possession, their shape will be more of a 2-1-4-3, with Casemiro playing as the lone defensive midfielder, sweeping up balls in front of the back four, just as he does at Real Madrid.
The two central midfielders will play shuttling roles, taking it in turns to drop back and help bring the ball out of the defence and join the forward three in attack. Tite is sticking to what he knows in this position, starting with former Tottenham flop Paulinho (with whom Tite won the World Club Cup with Corinthians) and Beijing Guoan’s Renato Augusto (Brazilian champion with Tite in 2015).
Tite’s 4-1-4-1 system requires two wide players who attack and defend. Furthermore, he tends to play one more direct attacker on one flank (in this case, Neymar) and an advanced playmaker on the other. Chelsea’s Willian should get the nod for this more creative role on the right flank, although Tite has also called up Philippe Coutinho and Zenit’s Giuliano, both who could function well in that position.
At centre-forward, Tite has a pair of Gabriels to choose between. Manchester City-bound Gabriel Jesus has been handed the number 9 jersey so would be expected to start, but he has had less time to train with the squad than new Internazionale signing Gabriel Barbosa (Gabigol), so it remains to be seen who will begin the match against Ecuador. Both are solid options, Gabriel Jesus’ movement and ability to hold up the ball is superior to Gabigol’s, but the latter is more of a goal threat, with Jesus still prone to mistakes in one-on-one situations.
ECUADOR V BRAZIL
Alisson, Daniel Alves, Marquinhos, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro; Willian, Renato Augusto, Paulinho, Neymar; Gabriel Jesus (4-1-4-1).