2018 could be Neymar's World Cup, however there are question marks over his temperament.
Brazil World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide
A desperate struggle – Brazil were down in sixth place with a third of the campaign gone – turned into a triumphant and exhilarating victory parade from the moment that Tite replaced Dunga as coach. Following the new coach’s appointment, Brazil then put together 10 wins and two draws to seal their place at the 2018 World Cup with four rounds to spare. Question marks remain over the team’s temperament, particularly that of Neymar. Against Ecuador he was over-concerned with drawing fouls and a routine game became a tense occasion. He lost control, picked up a yellow card for a crude foul and missed four games through suspension. It remains to be seen whether he or others explode under pressure.
Related: World Cup TV Schedule
Key Moments in Qualifying
Failure to get out of the group stage of the Copa Centenario saw coach Dunga lose his job and Tite come in as his replacement.
Tite’s first game, away to Ecuador, was a nervy affair. The game was goalless with 20 minutes to go and Brazil would have probably taken a draw at that point. But debutant Gabriel Jesus forced a penalty, soon after the hosts had a man sent off and the Selecao went on to win 3-0.
A goal up at home to Argentina, Lionel Messi was looking dangerous for the visitors until, on the stroke of half-time, Jesus played a reverse ball into the path of Neymar, who put the game beyond their rivals’ reach.
Brazil did show they may have resolve as well as talent by winning 4-1 in Uruguay after going a goal behind.
Brazil World Cup Group
Brazil World Cup Friendlies
On the 23rd of March Brazil played against World Cup hosts Russia and won handily 3-0 with goals from Miranda, Coutinho, and Paulinho. They will then play Germany on the 27th, before playing Ivan Rakitic and Croatia and then Austria in June.
Related: World Cup Friendlies
Brazil World Cup Fixtures
Related: World Cup Fixtures
Tite, age 56 (25.05.61)
Appointed in June 2016, he is an intelligent and charismatic figure who won domestic, continental and world titles with Corinthians before taking time off to carry out an in-depth study of top-class European football.
Related: What Life for Tite After Brazil?
Coming into his peak years, Neymar is full of dazzling improvisation at pace and is a constant threat. Providing he can keep his head, this World Cup could be his tournament.
Paulinho was a controversial recall, but Tite is well aware of his virtues from their time together at Corinthians.
Gabriel Jesus came in and immediately solved Brazil’s centre-forward problem, scoring seven goals despite only starting half the games. But will he be jaded after a first full season in the Premier League? The appearance of goalkeeper Ederson in the final game may be telling.
Related: World Cup Stadiums
Brazil World Cup Squad
Preliminary World Cup Squad –
Goalkeepers – Alisson, Cassio, Ederson
Brazil World Cup Injuries
Neymar fractured his metatarsal for Paris Saint Germain and it is questionable whether he will be 100% fit by June.
The Unanswered Questions
Have they been truly tested yet?
Tite’s team were magnificent against a disappointing crop of South American rivals, but stiffer tests lie ahead. That point was illustrated by the collapse of Argentina’s defence against Nigeria on the same day Brazil were held by an inexperienced England side.
Would the side benefit from appointing a permanent captain?
Without a natural candidate for the role of on-field leader, Tite has been choosing a different skipper for every match and plans to continue doing so in Russia. Brazil sides have often been at their best with a vocal leader.
Can they cover the vulnerable space behind the full-backs?
Both Dani Alves and Marcelo are rampaging attacking full-backs but neither is great defensively. Opponents will surely seek to probe the space they leave behind them.
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