Brazil’s coach Tite is breaking taboos and has brought the Selecao back to its old strength. The final World Cup test is coming up against Germany in Berlin.
Tite at work Photo: dpa
Four years can be a very long time in soccer. So long that one might almost believe that this 7:1 was in reality nothing but imagination, a German dream, a Brazilian nightmare. Anyone who last saw the Selecao, who were so humiliated at the 2014 World Cup, would not think that years of torment were predicted for them after the apocalypse in Belo Horizonte. Which team qualified first for the 2018 World Cup? Who do the betting companies list as favorites? Who just won 3:0 at the host Russia?
Yes, it is Brazil. At the same time, as far as is known, no players have been bred in the laboratory there from World Cup to World Cup. Marcelo, Dani Alves, Paulinho, Willian, Thiago Silva – players with familiar names were on the pitch in Moscow on Friday and will probably do so again today in the test match in Berlin. Plus someone like Philippe Coutinho, who also kicked well in 2014 but was passed over. Only attacker Gabriel Jesus, 20, was still too young at the time, only clearer Casemiro really still under the radar.
Inevitably, the traces of the brilliant comeback are traced back to the coach. Especially since nothing got better when Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, known as Tite, took over in 2016. Brazil was sixth in the South American qualifiers, Carlos Dunga repeatedly blew the Copa America in his second term and was fired shortly before the Olympic Games in Rio. Tite then had junior coach Rogerio Micale coach them in close consultation. Two experts. It apparently didn’t take much more, witchcraft even, to "change everything," as Marcelo says: "We owe Tite a lot."
Led by its superstar Neymar, Brazil won the Olympic final against Germany on penalties. Those present at the time will never forget the infernal noise after the final whistle. But no one would have dared to predict how magnificently Tite would use the tailwind of this banishment of ghosts. In World Cup qualifying, the team won nine games in a row, a feat that had never been achieved even by the five-time world champions. Tite’s record today: 18 games, 14 wins, three draws.
Without Neymar again
So the match against Germany is now the final endurance test before the patient can finally be declared cured. Of course, it is not a normal game for Brazil. "The 1:7 belongs to the past," says Tite. But he, too, concedes: Meeting Germany is "psychologically important."
Also because the match will once again take place without the injured Neymar. In 2014, his absence against Germany completely overwhelmed the team, both mentally and football-wise. But under Tite, Brazil not only plays more variably, it appears stable in every respect. The 56-year-old from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul is considered a good psychologist. Keeping things as down-to-earth as possible is his motto. When Brazil sets up its quarters in Sochi on the Black Sea for the World Cup, the players’ families will be allowed to reside in a nearby hotel. The Brazilian federation calls this a "breach of taboo.
Tite researches every detail about the playing style of his chosen players and communicates with them almost daily.
Tite’s working style can also be described as such. The experienced club coach is more present in everyday life than his predecessors, he researches every detail about the playing style of his chosen players and communicates with them almost daily. It’s as if he were coaching a club, as he used to do with Corinthians, for example – with the traditional club from Sao Paulo, he won the Copa Libertadores in 2012 and, as the only South American team of the last decade, also the Club World Cup.
Afterwards, he took a sabbatical and interned with his favorite coach Carlo Ancelotti in Madrid, among others. In his national team, the influence of contemporary European teaching is unmistakable. Tite has made the necessary tactics update, worked on pressing, given the team an identity. His Brazil exudes the conviction of knowing what it is doing in every situation.
System with freedoms
The Selecao plays without hustle and bustle and tries to draw the opponent out by playing combination soccer and then attack them with lightning-like acceleration. It has enough system to hardly concede any goals, always stay compact and cleanly build up the game, but it also gives Neymar or Coutinho the necessary freedom.
Tite defines himself first and foremost as a pragmatist: a coach depends above all on his material, he says. Nevertheless, he has an ideal: the Brazil of 1982, the elite around Falcao, Socrates, and Zico that is still revered today despite failure at home and by aesthetes all over the world. "I see this team, and I think: what a beautiful thing soccer is," Tite said recently. Even more interesting was his addition that he believes he can at least come close to the role model with his current squad. The 1982 team, with players from 2014 – who would have thought that?