Selecao reborn & hungry

Neymar and Philippe Coutinho both scored in Brazil's 3-0 win over Austria on Sunday. It was their final warm-up match ahead of the World Cup in Russia. The pair and their team-mates arrived early yesterday morning in Sochi where they will be based.
Neymar and Philippe Coutinho both scored in Brazil's 3-0 win over Austria on Sunday. It was their final warm-up match ahead of the World Cup in Russia. The pair and their team-mates arrived early yesterday morning in Sochi where they will be based.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Under Tite, Brazil have gone back to their attacking roots; form looks ominous

VIENNA • If anything summed up Brazil's new approach under coach Tite, it was the fact that they committed only eight fouls in Sunday's 3-0 friendly win over Austria.

At the last two World Cups, Brazil veered away from the great, attacking traditions that used to make them the team that everyone wanted to watch.

The 2010 side, under Dunga, looked to catch opponents on the counter-attack, or from set pieces. They lost in the quarter-finals.

Four years later, playing as hosts under Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil were overly dependent on Neymar as they lost 7-1 to Germany in the semi-finals, when he was injured.

Those teams had one thing in common: they used repetitive fouling in midfield to break up attacks.

The most extreme examples were the Confederations Cup final against Spain in 2013 when Brazil battered their opponents with 26 fouls and the World Cup quarter-final against Colombia in 2014, when they gave away 31 free kicks.

But, for Tite, fouling the opponents means his team have wasted a chance to win back possession of the ball and start a new attack.

RETURN OF THE SAMBA

Brazil are my favourites. I think this is the moment we'll see the best of Brazilian football again. Look at the work done by the new coach, Tite. He has organised the team.

ROBERTO CARLOS, former Brazil defender, believes his country have the talent and the right manager to claim a sixth World Cup title.

"Eight fouls - that shows that we use aggressive marking to try and win the ball and then come out playing," he said after Sunday's game, the last before their World Cup Group E opening game against Switzerland on Sunday.

Under Tite, Brazil have rediscovered the swagger that has been missing from recent World Cup squads.

The individual talent is there as always but the team are better balanced.

The defence is solid - the last time they conceded a goal was during a 3-1 friendly win over Japan last November - and the forwards are lethal when they get a sniff at goal.

Brazil have won 17 of their 21 games since Tite took over two years ago and lost only once. They have scored 47 goals, conceded just five and kept 16 clean sheets.

Sunday's match suggested that Brazil could start the World Cup in Russia with the attacking quartet of Philippe Coutinho, Willian, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar.

  • BRAZIL UNDER TITE (SINCE JUNE 2016)

  • MATCHES: 21

    Wins: 17

    Draws: 3

    Defeats: 1

  • GOALS: 47

    Conceded: 5

    Clean sheets: 16

    The Selecao have also never conceded more than one goal in a game under the 57-year-old.

The foursome, starting together for the first time, worked superbly to break down an Austria side who had beaten world champions Germany only a week earlier.

Neymar played 83 minutes in only his second game since returning from a metatarsal injury in February but scored a stunning goal - Jesus and Coutinho netted the other two - and looked very close to full fitness.

"I don't know what Neymar's limit is," said Tite, whose team arrived early yesterday morning in Sochi where they will be based.

"His technical and creative ability is amazing. In the last third of the field, he is lethal."

Tite, who also said he would confirm his starting XI against Switzerland on Thursday, was pleased with his team's performance. Besides the Swiss, Tite's men will also face Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.

"The concentration and competitiveness of the team were laudable," he added.

"Today was another example that, mentally, we are maturing. It was a difficult match, with heavy physical contact and we did well."

Legendary Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos, who won the World Cup in 2002, said that the current team could win the tournament for a sixth time under Tite.

"Brazil are my favourites. I think this is the moment we'll see the best of Brazilian football again," the 45-year-old said. "Look at the work done by the new coach, Tite. He has organised the team."

While it is all going well for Brazil, their arch-rivals Argentina were hit with the news that their captain and talisman Lionel Messi will decide on his international future by their performance in Russia.

"It will depend on how far we go, how we're going to finish," Messi said in an interview with Spanish daily Sport.

The forward, who will turn 31 during the World Cup, also believes Brazil are leading contenders for the title, along with Spain, Germany, France and Belgium.

Argentina launch their campaign against Iceland on Saturday, with games to follow against Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2018, with the headline 'Selecao reborn & hungry'. Print Edition | Subscribe