Brazil vs. USA
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, USA
Kickoff: 8:00 PM EDT / 9:00 PM BRT / 12:00 AM GMT
US TV: FS1
US Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Expected Starting Lineup: Alisson; Fabinho, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Filipe Luís; Casemiro, Fred, Coutinho; Douglas Costa, Roberto Firmino, Neymar (C).
On The Bench:
GK: Hugo, Neto
DEF: Éder Militão, Dedé, Felipe, Alex Sandro
MID: Arthur, Andreas Pereira, Lucas Paquetá
FWD: Everton, Richarlison, Willian
Zetona’s Notes And Stuff™:
- In a marked departure from Brazil’s first games after a World Cup in some past cycles, we’re not looking at a radical reinvention of the team here. The starting lineup will only feature one player who wasn’t part of the World Cup squad, Fabinho, and that might only be because both Fagner and Danilo are currently out injured. Even so, this isn’t anything like the team that crashed out against Belgium: Tite has cast aside, or at least benched, most of the players who were dead weight in that game, with the result that this lineup is essentially a manifestation of all the what ifs we had at the World Cup: What if Firmino and Douglas Costa had ever gotten a start? What if an actual midfielder had replaced Paulinho? What if Tite had taken a risk and included Fabinho as a right-back?
- Even so, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that Tite isn’t giving this team more of a renewal. Sure, the core holdovers of Neymar, Coutinho, Firmino, Casemiro, Alisson are all-but certain to be in contention in 2022, while Fred and Douglas Costa have certainly earned a what if? look after not starting (in Fred’s case, not even playing) at the World Cup, but there’s something about it that’s a bit dispiriting. Maybe it’s that, despite having a vast wellspring of up-and-coming right wingers, Tite chose the same two from the World Cup squad, both of whom will be at least 32 in Qatar. Maybe it’s that, despite a similar glut of talent at left-back and the fact that Alex Sandro has deserved for a while to get out of the shadow of Marcelo and Filipe Luís, it’s the 33-year-old Luís who still gets the start. Maybe it’s that Fred has been very disappointing for Manchester United so far, even if it’s not like Arthur or Andreas Pereira have gotten anything like regular club play. Maybe it’s just that I’ll be in attendance, even though I haven’t actually seen most of these players in the flesh other than Neymar, Douglas Costa, and Thiago Silva.
- What I’m saying is that my feelings on this matter are a bit irrational. Tite’s system has largely worked, and it’s a system most of these players are familiar with from having worked at it during the World Cup, and he’s not planning to drastically reinvent the team, and it’s not like flooding the team with new players without giving them time to gel would improve the play. Presumably he’ll give some of the new faces more time against El Salvador (or against Saudi Arabia, whom we’ve booked for October 12), opponents who should be far easier than the US.
- Not that the USMNT should be particularly tough opponents. They’re still very much in transition after missing the World Cup, Dave Sarachan is still in charge while they look for a permanent coach, and the squad he’s named is extremely young and inexperienced. Plus, Christian Pulisic is (disappointingly, since I was looking forward to seeing him—hey, did I mention I’m going to be at the game?) out injured. Brazil has played the US 16 times and won 14 of those, often handily. Our last two encounters both ended 4-1 for Brazil. That said, expect the US to try and lock down the defense like they did when they held France to a draw just before the World Cup, which could cause problems.
- Neymar is back to being Brazil’s captain, apparently on a permanent basis, because that worked out so well when Dunga tried it. To be fair, he says he’s matured and feels far readier for the role, and I get the sense he’s really set on rehabilitating his reputation after how the World Cup damaged it, so I imagine it could go better this time—but remember that last time he was the captain, he played very well for a year of friendlies, and then fell apart pretty much the instant the pressure ratcheted up in competitive games. In any case, he has an excellent history against the US, scoring four goals in three games against them, including one on his Brazil debut in 2010. Now that he’s back fit, I imagine he’ll be hungry to make up for a lackluster World Cup.
- Really, there’s only two things I hope to see in this game. One, a promising showing from some of the new talent (if that just means Fabinho asserting himself as a right-back, or the midfield being substantially better without Paulinho, that’s fine), and two, a prolific attacking performance—because I’m going to be there, yes, but also because the team’s inability to put the ball in the back of the net at the World Cup ultimately sent them home early. No offense to my home country, but the US shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, especially in their current state (unless I just jinxed it), and it’s the perfect time for Tite to make a statement after Brazil slowly lost their attacking spark in the year leading up to the World Cup.
- Did I mention I’m going to be at the game? I’m hoping to take some pictures and have a decent write-up for you all on how this team looks at the start of the road to Qatar.
Image: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports