By Giancarlo Giampietro with Brazil
When Dunga was sacked in 2016, Brazil sat sixth in the CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, outside the direct qualification places. To make matters worse they had also suffered two disappointing Copa America campaigns, all this while continuing to lick their wounds from their chastening semi-final defeat to Germany at Brazil 2014.
Things have changed since then, however, and judging by the results and the performances of the team that touched down in Sochi on Sunday, it would seem that all that turbulence is a thing of the past. Confounding his own expectations, Dunga’s replacement Tite wasted no time in getting the five-time world champions back on track. As we reveal, however, the coach has not had to perform magic to make A Seleção serious contenders once more. Here are five reasons why:
1. An honest relationship
Brazil’s players have always made a point of praising Tite for his communication skills and plain speaking. His authority is based on dialogue and a sense of fairness.
No-one is above anyone else in Tite’s squad and no-one is immune to criticism. It is an approach that has helped him gain the respect of a team that was down on its luck and under pressure. In the process, he has filled it with confidence.
2. An open door
The coach and his sizeable support staff have been doing plenty of travelling since taking up their positions, making several journeys to Europe to watch training sessions and matches and, most importantly of all, talk to the players. There have also been countless chats online.
Even from his Rio base, Tite has always been available for his charges. Thanks to the dialogue that has flowed between them, the players have been able to tell him in which positions they feel most comfortable. In the meantime, Tite has also been talking to their club coaches and gathering ideas.
3. A well-oiled unit
Talking is one thing; doing it another, especially when time is short and a potential crisis is lurking around every corner. Practising what he preached, Tite has turned A Seleção into a team and restored their standing.
It is a team that has, understandably, also drawn on the ability of its star players. There is much more to this unit than individual flair, however, as it showed in recording respective 3-0 and 1-0 defeats of Russia and Germany without the services of Neymar. When the ball is not in their possession, Brazil press the opposition hard, with the front men playing an active role in that regard, and whenever the situation demands they defend doggedly. This is a machine that is working well.
4. Correct decisions
In his first match in charge, against Ecuador in Quito, Tite handed a start and a maiden cap to 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus, an Olympic gold medallist at Rio 2016. Rising to the occasion, the teenager scored twice in a 3-0 win that sparked the Brazilian revival. Tite also assigned Casemiro to a holding midfield role, one he has performed ever since.
Aside from giving youth a chance, the coach recalled some well-known names, among them Marcelo and Thiago Silva, both of whom had fallen out of favour somewhat under Dunga. With his gift for passing, dribbling and finding space, the Real Madrid man now has an especially important part to play in putting Tite’s attacking ideas into practice.
5. A solid base
When he announced his final 23-man list for Russia 2018, Tite showed he was one step ahead of the reporters by stating that there was no-one in his squad who had picked themselves.
That said, the coach has largely stuck with the core of players he chose at the start of his reign, a policy that made plenty of sense given the fact that he only had a couple of years in which to prepare A Seleção for Russia 2018. The fact that 15 members of Brazil’s 23-man party at Russia 2018 featured in Tite’s very first squad list reveals just how consistent he has been in terms of team selection: