Well, I was very wrong with my predictions yesterday. Here’s the squad Tite announced this morning for next month’s friendlies against the United States and El Salvador:
Goalies: Alisson (Liverpool), Hugo (Flamengo), Neto (Valencia).
Defenders: Alex Sandro (Juventus), Dedé (Cruzeiro), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fagner (Corinthians), Felipe (Porto), Filipe Luís (Atlético Madrid), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG).
Midfielders: Andreas Pereira (Manchester United), Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paquetá (Flamengo), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan).
Attackers: Douglas Costa (Juventus), Everton (Grêmio), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Neymar (PSG), Pedro (Fluminense), Willian (Chelsea).
A few things to note about these choices before I break things down further:
- Ederson would have been called up, but wasn’t for “personal reasons”.
- To not affect Brazilian clubs too much in the league and Copa do Brasil, only one player who regularly starts per Brazilian club was called. Thus why Hugo, the backup goalie with Flamengo, joins Paquetá. (This all further underlines my point about how screwy it is to emphasize Brazil-based players because of the country’s schedule meaning they’re more match fit at this time of year.)
But let’s get to the real important stuff.
Zetona’s Hot Take™
- Pretty good squad. The most common rumors about the selection turned out to be true—Arthur, Paquetá, Dedé, and Pedro all made it in, as did Everton—and for the most part the other selections make sense. There’s a good injection of youth, particularly in midfield, with enough experienced faces to keep them from being totally overawed.
- Tite seems to have specifically left out players who bore blame for Brazil’s World Cup struggles—in particular, Paulinho, Fernandinho, Marcelo, and Gabriel Jesus are nowhere to be seen. The one (and particularly odd) exception is Willian, but I’ll talk more about him in a minute.
- Andreas Pereira is included after all! Tite’s staff claimed today that he wasn’t eligible to play for Belgium regardless, but it’s nice to see that they’ve given him a clear signal of their intent.
- Speaking of Pereira, here’s some mind-blowing info: he’s only the fourth player born outside of Brazil to be selected for the Seleção, and if he sees the field this month, he’d be the first foreign-born Brazilian to see playing time since 1918. That’s right: it’s literally been a hundred years since someone like him came along. (Fun fact: one of the other three was named Francisco Police, which is just fantastic.)
- Fabinho is included as a right-back, which is honestly more frustrating than anything. Sure, it’s great to see him finally included, but if Tite was willing to consider him as a right-back all along, it obviates whatever excuse he had for not calling him up before the World Cup. We could have stomached the excuse that Tite didn’t see his value in midfield, and didn’t want to play him out of position, but now? Especially considering that he’d no doubt have offered more than Fagner and Danilo, even having not played the position in some time.
- I correctly predicted that Fagner might return at right-back, but I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t see two new faces in the position. Fagner’s 29 and, as I think Saul Goodman commented a few weeks ago, had to play out of his skin at the World Cup to be “just okay” in the role. Tite’s staff were watching Éder Militão in the weeks before his move to Porto, so maybe they want to let him adapt without making fly across the Atlantic for two weeks in September?
- I’m quite surprised at the selection of right-wingers. Given the incredible glut of young talent emerging in the position—Malcom, David Neres, Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo—that Tite chose to stick with the two who went to the World Cup is bizarre. There’s some sense in Costa’s selection, given that he deserved to start in the World Cup but struggled with injuries, but I think many people would like to see the back of Willian after an extremely poor tournament. Plus, they’re both going to be at least 32 in 2022, which is pushing it for a position so dependent on athleticism. If nothing else, I’m very surprised that Malcom, whom Tite coached at Corinthians and has followed in Europe for some time, didn’t make the cut. Maybe it’s that same “give ’em time to adapt to their new club” logic.
- That said, I don’t think either VJ or Rodrygo is ready for the big time, and I believe it would have been a mistake to call up either one right now. Neither one is yet as impressive as Neymar was at that age, and there’s far less of a void for them to fill than there was when Neymar burst onto the scene. Let them be part of the U-20 team for the next year.
- Other surprises come at the back, where Filipe Luís stays on but Marcelo doesn’t. I wonder whether he’ll start at left-back, or if Alex Sandro will finally get his chance as a starter?
- There’s also Felipe, an old Corinthians holdover and not really a long-term option. I get the sense that Tite identified Brazil’s lack of height and physicality as a problem area at the World Cup (for the record, I agree with him) and is adding height where he can. Felipe (6’3″), Dedé (6’4″), and Fabinho (6’2″) are all taller than any outfield player who featured at the World Cup. In retaining the 6’1″ Renato Augusto and adding the similarly tall Pedro, you can see something similar in how Tite’s setting up the midfield and attack (which is otherwise mostly 5’9″).
- Casemiro still has no like-for-like backup (though Fabinho might end up in that role if need be). That shouldn’t be a problem against the USA and El Salvador, so I’m willing to chalk this up to Tite wanting to test more young, creative midfielders. (I’ve already seen an unsettling article claiming that Andreas Pereira is the ideal modern number five. This is how we end up with another Anderson, people.)
- The 19-year-old Hugo is, at 1.99 meters or 6’6″, quite possibly the tallest player to ever represent the Seleção. (If he ever sees the field.)
On the whole, if it were up to me, I would have left out a few more of the older players (particularly Willian for Malcom/Neres, Fagner for Militão, and maybe Filipe Luís for one of the many younger left-backs in the pipeline), but this is a fine squad full of exciting talent in midfield and attack. As long as Tite actually integrates that talent into the lineup (he could still field a team with World Cup holdovers at every position), we’ll enjoy an exciting showcase of Brazil’s future.
And he’d better, because I’ve already got my tickets to the Brazil-USA game and I don’t want to be disappointed.