Brazil qualify for 2018 World Cup finals in Russia
FootyOn look at five things that helped Brazil qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.
Results in the latest round of South American qualifiers mean five-time World Cup winners Brazil have booked their place at the Russia finals in 2018 already.
Besides the tournament hosts, the Samba Boys are the first nation to secure passage.
The World Cup qualifying process will take until November with the conclusion of the play-offs before all 32 teams are known.
Betfred now make Brazil 7/1 second-favourites to win the World Cup next year, with only holders Germany more fancied.
It is a sensational turnaround for the Samba Boys, who less than 12 months ago were languishing in sixth place in South American qualifying.
Brazil have also suffered three consecutive disappointments at major international tournaments.
As hosts of the last World Cup, they were mauled 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals and were then beaten by the Netherlands in a third place play-off.
The Samba Boys then flopped at consecutive Copa America tournaments, failing to make it out of the group stage in the centenary edition in the USA last year.
In light of that, we look at five things that have helped Brazil qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.
Ditching Dunga for Tite
Phil Scolari’s second spell as Samba Boys boss saw him build a side with more functionality than flair.
Dunga then also returned for another stint at the helm, and it was more of the same really.
Eight of the 26 matches he managed Brazil for during his second tenure were won by a single goal.
That group stage exit at the Copa America Centenario last summer meant another change of coach.
Enter charismatic Corinthians coach Tite and the Samba Boys swagger came back with a vengeance.
Brazil have won all nine internationals under their latest manager, eight of them 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Of those competitive victories, just one has been by a single goal.
That is more like the Brazil of old!
Case for the defence
Tite’s Midas touch deserves more detailed assessment, so where better to start than a perceived area of weakness.
The Samba Boys have conceded just two goals in nine matches.
One of those was an own goal and the other a penalty from Edinson Cavani, the top scorer in South American qualifying.
Skipper Miranda and Marquinhos, 10 years his junior, are Tite’s selected centre back pairing.
Dunga didn’t name the same partnership for consecutive games once in his six 2018 World Cup qualifiers in charge.
The rewards of consistent selection are obvious when you look at subsequent results.
One of the scapegoats for Brazil’s shame when hosting the last World Cup was former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho.
So impressive in the build-up to the 2014 tournament, his disappointing displays cost him his place in the squad.
When he left Spurs for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande the following summer, it further jeopardised his international career.
Tite was prepared to pick Paulinho, however, and bring him back into the fold.
How that sign of faith has been rewarded.
Surging forward in the customary box-to-box role, Paulinho has scored four goals in his last four caps – including a hat-trick against Uruguay – and set up two of the Samba Boys’ three goals against Paraguay.
Talk about reviving yourself!
No centre forward? No problem!
This current Brazil vintage don’t have that out-and-out central striker like Pele, Ronaldo, Adriano or Luis Fabiano.
It’s been the case for a while, since Samba Boys target man Fred flopped at the last World Cup.
A number of frontman options have been trialled leading the attack since, including 30-somethings Ricardo Oliveira and Jonas.
All the exciting forward options open to Tite are low centre of gravity, pacy or skilful players, though.
Besides Brazil goal machine Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, Manchester City youngster Gabriel Jesus will surely play a prominent role in what remains of qualifying.
Liverpool attacker Roberto Firmino as a nominal striker is the perfect foil for these names, as he has proven for both club and country.
His movement occupies defenders, and the space that creates is exploited to great effect.
Evolution not revolution
It may have been tempting for Tite to have a thorough clearout of players who disappointed last summer.
Rather than wield the axe, though, he has kept faith with around half of the Copa America Centenario squad.
Goalkeeper Alisson, most of the defensive options, hard-working Chelsea winger Willian and anchorman Casemiro are among those to retain their places on the Samba Boys roster.
Tite’s attitude to China is interesting, as the likes of Paulinho and Renato Augusto get regular midfield action, yet Oscar hasn’t earned a cap under him.
Subtle additions, Paulinho’s return being a notable example, to a core of grit, guile and goals has definitely paid off.