Brazil World Cup Blog

News, analysis, history, and discussion on all things Verde-Amarela

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Brazil’s World Cup Squad

Here it is, exactly as Tite read it out: 

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Cássio (Corinthians), Ederson (Man City)

Defenders: Danilo (Man City), Geromel (Grêmio), Filipe Luís (Atlético Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (PSG), Miranda (PSG), Fágner (Corinthians), Thiago Silva (PSG)

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Man City), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Paulinho (Barcelona), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Willian (Chelsea)

Attackers: Douglas Costa (Juventus), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Neymar (PSG), Taison (Shakthar Donetsk)

The Twelve Reserves: Tite opted to only make one of these public, Dedé of Cruzeiro, but it has since been leaked that Rodrigo Caio is on the list as well.

Zetona’s Hot Take™:  Continue reading

Who’s Going To Be In Brazil’s World Cup Squad?

On Monday the 14th, the FIFA-mandated deadline for doing so, Tite will announce the 23 players he is taking to the World Cup. He’s been very up front about his plans: back in February he named 15 players who had already booked their spot, which soon expanded to 16 and then 17 or 18 depending on who you ask. In any case, what that means is that the squad currently looks like this:

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, ___________

Right-Backs: Dani Alves, ___________, _________

Center-Backs: Marquinhos, Miranda, Thiago Silva, ____________

Left-Backs: Marcelo, ____________

Defensive/Holding Midfielders: Casemiro, Renato Augusto, Fernandinho

Attacking/Box-To-Box Midfielders: Paulinho, Coutinho, Fred

Wingers: Neymar, Willian, Douglas Costa

Forwards: Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino

????????: ___________

Dani Alves was guaranteed a place, but just today it was confirmed that his knee injury means he’s out of the World Cup—an ignominious end (one presumes) to a tumultuous twelve years with the Seleção. Fred and Douglas Costa, meanwhile, haven’t 100% been guaranteed by Tite to be going to the World Cup, but were reported to have all-but clinched their places after the March friendlies against Russia and Germany. That leaves five six spots unfilled: four five of them for backups across the defensive line, and a wild-card slot for strengthening whatever sector Tite feels most needs it. Based on my understanding of Tite’s thinking, and supplementing reports about which players he’s considering with who we’ve seen him consider in the past, I’m going to try and predict who gets each of those five six open spots. Continue reading

Grêmio vs. Atlético-PR: The Most Interesting Coaching Battle Brazil Has Seen In Years

Yesterday, Grêmio and Atlético Paranaense played out a 0-0 draw in the Brazilian league.

So? Why does this warrant a whole article, Zetona? 

To answer that, we have to keep in mind the current coaching situation in the Brazilian league.

Good coaching, let alone attack-oriented coaching, has been something of a rarity in Brazil recently, which owes to a whole number of factors: a large number of “big”, historically successful clubs compete for a small number of actual prizes and titles, which means fans often have unrealistic expectations for success; many clubs give fans opportunities to buy memberships and vote on management roles, which gives them a level of influence that, if they’re impatient or overly demanding, can pressure the management into rapid-fire coaching changes; the resultant culture means clubs move for proven quick-fix coaches instead of trying to implement long-term plans to grow and develop their football, which usually just means hiring Joel Santana for the fifth time; and the CBF’s coaching licenses aren’t valid in Europe, which keeps Brazilian coaches out of big-ticket jobs abroad.

A deeper dive into the issue is beyond the scope of this article: suffice it to say that Renato Gaúcho’s twenty-month tenure in charge of Grêmio is the third-longest of any coach in the Brazilian top flight (and Enderson Moreira and Mano Menezes, the top two, have him beat by only about two months). That was enough time for him to turn the Porto Alegre club into arguably the strongest team on the continent, sweeping to last year’s Copa Libertadores title on the back of slick passing play and attacking football. It doesn’t hurt that Grêmio have one of the best squads in South America, boasting World Cup hopefuls Marcelo Grohe, Pedro Geromel, Arthur, and Luan, as well as young talents like Everton and Ramiro and proven veterans like Léo Moura and Bruno Cortez. Arthur and Luan may well represent the future of the Seleção’s midfield, and if anybody is in pole position to take over the national team coaching job whenever Tite departs, it’s Renato.

Which all means that anybody hoping to make a name for themselves as a coach has to go through Renato and his Grêmio side. Enter Fernando Diniz, maybe the most ambitious coach in the entire country. He first drew national attention for his exploits at the head of São Paulo state minnows Audax, where he instilled a fanatical devotion to Barcelona-style tiki-taka passing play. It was a philosophy that led to occasional embarrassments, but it also produced one of football’s great underdog campaigns: Audax reached the final of the 2016 São Paulo state championship, beating national giants Corinthians and São Paulo to do so. After bouncing around between similarly low-tier clubs for much of the next year and a half, Diniz finally got his big break this year, landing his first top-flight job with Atlético Paranaense. Despite his lack of top-flight experience, Diniz seems to have adapted well: earlier in April, Atlético won the Paraná state championship, notched an impressive 3-0 first-leg win against Newell’s Old Boys in the Copa Sudamericana, and beat Chapecoense 5-1 to end the first round of Brazilian league action on top of the table.

All this set the stage for yesterday’s matchup. Rarely has the Brazilian league had two coaches so intent on, and successful in producing, attacking, aesthetically pleasing football—and yesterday, they faced each other for the first time ever. It’s the sort of game that warrants a writeup no matter what the result. Let’s dive in.   Continue reading

Brazil vs. Germany Thread

Brazil vs. Germany

Olympiastadion, Berlin, March 27, 2018

Kickoff: 2:45 PM EDT / 3:45 PM BRT / 6:45 PM GMT

US TV: None (the hell?); Streaming: WatchESPN

Starting Lineup: Alisson; Dani Alves (C), Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Fernandinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho.

Zetona’s Keys to the Game™:

  1. Brazil has to perform at a high level all game long, not just for stretches like we did against Russia. Germany is much less likely to let us get away with the sort of sloppy errors we made on Friday.
  2. Dani Alves had a horror show against Russia, leaving massive gaps behind him whenever he came up the pitch to participate in buildup play. If he isn’t restricted to a purely defensive role against Germany, Leroy Sané is likely to absolutely eviscerate him. That would certainly be an ignominious way to mark his turn with the captain’s armband.
  3. Paulinho scored a goal and won a penalty against Russia, but he also missed two absolute sitters and was constantly, conspicuously absent both in midfield buildup play (which incentivized Dani Alves to come forward and playmake, see item 2) and in defense. We’re all familiar with this tradeoff between his poacher’s instinct and his frequent total lack of technique, and it’s one that Tite has long since decided is worth it. If it’s ever going to be shown up, though, it’ll be against Germany, as capable as any team of overwhelming and picking apart an undermanned midfield.
  4. Tite’s inclusion of Fernandinho just might tip the scales, however, especially if Coutinho and Willian cut inside frequently and make up the numbers in midfield. His added technical ability and defensive nous could be the key to keeping Brazil from being overrun in the middle, and to making sure we advance the ball effectively and incisively in attack.
  5. Our possession game doesn’t really suit our players, as we saw against Russia, where we couldn’t find a breakthrough until Russia began pushing up and leaving avenues for counterattacks. When we faced Germany in the Olympic final, we went toe-to-toe in midfield for much of the game, but only truly asserted ourselves as the better side once we began looking more on the counter late in the second half and into extra time. The same principle should apply at the full international level, and I expect Germany will push forward and leave plenty of space for counters—but without Neymar, our only truly fast player is Willian, so we might not be able to make the most of them.

Fun Fact: Neymar has scored in every game he has played against the German national team at any level. Unfortunately for us, today’s game means he’s missed as many Brazil vs. Germany games due to injury as he has played.

Brazil vs. Russia Thread

Just putting up a quick thread for today’s game.

Brazil vs. Russia

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, March 23, 2018

Kickoff: 12:00 PM EDT / 1:00 PM BRT / 4:00 PM GMT

US TV: beIN Sports

Starting Lineup: Alisson (C); Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Coutinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Douglas Costa.

Four Months Out From The World Cup, Where Are We?

It’s World Cup year!

It’s still weird to say that. It feels like there’s remarkably little hype surrounding the coming tournament, even though we’re just a few months out. Living in the United State probably skews that perspective, given how the USMNT hilariously wasted their chance to go to the World Cup. But here on the blog, even though Brazil is arguably in better shape than in 2014 or 2010, there’s just not a lot of hype. The 7-1 loss to Germany in 2014 seems to have instilled a newfound trepidation, a fear that Brazil still has yet to fully overcome the faults that made that embarrassment possible and that something similar might happen again.

With all that said, today’s subject is a simple one. We’re four months out from the World Cup, more or less, and probably about three months out from Tite announcing his final squad for the tournament. One last pair of friendlies, against Russia and Germany, looms at the end of March. Tite and his staff are embarking on what very well might be their last round of scouting before the tournament this month. We know, if not his exact selections, roughly what his team will look like. Four months out, where does that leave us? I’m going to go through it position-by-position, building from the back. Continue reading

What Can We Learn From This Week’s Friendlies?

This week, Brazil plays two friendlies—Friday against Japan in Lille (7 AM EDT / 12 PM GMT), and then Tuesday against England in London (3 PM EDT / 8 PM GMT). These are Brazil’s last games until March, and the second-to-last chance Tite has to observe players before he announces his World Cup squad. Unfortunately, he called up a truly dour list of 25 players. If you need a refresher, here they are, copied directly from the CBF website:

Allison – Roma (Itália)
Cássio – Corinthians (Brasil)
Ederson – Manchester City (Inglaterra)


Alex Sandro – Juventus (Itália)
Dani Alves – PSG (França)
Danilo – Manchester City (Inglaterra)
Marcelo – Real Madrid (Espanha)


Jemerson – Monaco (França)
Marquinhos – PSG (França)
Miranda – Internazionale (Itália)
Thiago Silva – PSG (França)


Casemiro – Real Madrid (Espanha)
Diego – Flamengo (Brasil)
Fernandinho – Manchester City (Inglaterra)
Giuliano – Fenerbahçe (Turquia)
Paulinho – Barcelona (Espanha)
Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool (Inglaterra)
Renato Augusto – Beijing Guoan (China)
Willian – Chelsea (Inglaterra)


Diego Souza – Sport Recife (Brasil)
Douglas Costa – Juventus (Itália)
Firmino – Liverpool (Inglaterra)
Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City (Inglaterra)
Neymar Jr – PSG (França)
Taison – Shakhtar Donetsk (Ucrânia)


The problem here is twofold. First, with perhaps his last real chance to make any real experiments with personnel, Tite didn’t call up anybody he hadn’t called up before. Fabinho and Allan are still out in the cold, and if Jorginho wasn’t just using Brazil’s interest in him as leverage to get called up for Italy, then Tite’s decision not to call him blew our chance to secure his services. If he sees playing time in Italy’s playoff against Sweden (which, admittedly, is hardly a guarantee given that Gian Piero Ventura doesn’t seem to rate him), he’ll be permanently locked down as an Italy international. (If he doesn’t play, though, maybe he’ll be mad enough to actually switch to Brazil for real?)

Second, of all the players Tite had previously called up, he went for seemingly the most disappointing group possible. I love Diego Ribas, and I was thrilled to see him return to the Seleção this year after years of straight-up inexplicable omission, but he’ll be 33 at the World Cup, and he’s far from being in the sort of form that would justify him being included in spite of his age. Giuliano is a good player (he really is! I swear!) but at any of the positions he can play, there are plenty of options who are younger, better, and often have superior pedigree at club level. Taison is good, too, but again, there are a host of players Tite could have picked who are clearly better than him. That Tite apparently considers these players better than the likes of Lucas Lima, Arthur, Dudu, Luan, and Fred (the good one)—all players Tite had previously called up and observed—is really disappointing.1 At least he didn’t bring back Rodriguinho or Diego Tardelli.

The end result of all that disappointment, of course, is that there’s not much of value we might learn from these friendlies. We won’t get to see how an unknown factor like Jorginho or Arthur could change the complexion of the midfield or assert themselves as an alternative to Paulinho or Renato Augusto. We won’t get to see someone like Luan, who has only received single-digit minutes under Tite, get an extended runout to show what he can do. Instead, the reserves are a mostly fairly uninspiring group, and one that has, generally, gotten a decent amount of playing time.

The question, then, is this: what can we actually learn from these friendlies? Here are a few things we might reasonably expect.


What happens if Coutinho and/or Fernandinho starts in midfield?

Probably the single biggest source of dissatisfaction with Tite right now stems from his continued preference for Renato Augusto, a very intelligent but limited player who seems to be slowly declining, as an undisputed starter in midfield. Replacing him with Philippe Coutinho seems like a no-brainer, but at both club and international level, his coaches have been reluctant to move him back from the wing. Tite has given Coutinho a few brief cameos in Augusto’s position, mostly late in games, but that’s it. This week is the ideal time to see how he does in that position from the start. 

Alternately, Tite apparently talked to Fernandinho about him starting Augusto’s place one of these days, which would be a welcome development. Even at 32, he’s technically and athletically superior to Augusto, and, more so than Coutinho, he could match or exceed Augusto’s defensive contribution while still improving the midfield’s passing play. Tite might feel this is a better solution than moving Coutinho deeper, considering what he offers on the wing. It might also mean that he finally realizes that Fernandinho’s  best served in a more advanced position than defensive midfield, which could open the door for a proper defensive midfielder to back up Casemiro.

Happily, it looks like this question will be answered, at least partially. While Coutinho will start the Japan game on the bench after recovering from an injury that kept him out of several games for Liverpool, Tite’s lineup in training indicates that neither Augusto nor Paulinho will start the game either—Fernandinho will get the nod.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that Coutinho will be fit enough to come in during the second half, or that he’ll be ready to start against England, and that his familiarity with the Premier League (not to mention Willian’s, seeing as he’d profit from Coutinho moving deeper) might prompt Tite to start him in midfield upon his return.

Speaking of…


Can Willian deliver despite his poor club form?

With Coutinho injured, Willian will take his usual place on the right wing. Willian’s dire recent performances for Chelsea have gotten a lot of attention on the blog recently, to the point that some have called for him to be dropped. Realistically, of course, that’s not happening—Tite clearly values him a lot, and he makes up the core group of 14-15 players who regularly feature as starters or substitutes. But I can’t say that bothers me much. After all, Willian’s poor club form has not wholly translated to Brazil—he’s been decent in his recent appearances, scoring the goal of his life against Colombia and coming off the bench well against Chile. But he’s definitely a player whose utility varies based on the circumstances—he’s better against teams that sit deep than those that expose themselves on the counter, and recently, he’s been better coming off the bench than starting. Depending on Coutinho’s fitness, Willian could be starting both games this week, meaning he’ll have plenty of chances to either allay or deepen our concerns.


Can Danilo adequately back up Dani Alves?

Right-back is Brazil’s single weakest position going into the World Cup, evidenced by the fact that the undisputed starter is Dani Alves—who’ll be 35, and was so bad at age 31 at the last World Cup that he got replaced as the starter halfway through by a past-it Maicon—and his current backup is Danilo, a bench player for Manchester City who spends a good chunk of what playing time he does get at positions other than right-back. Danilo was decent as the regular starter at right-back during Dunga’s first year in charge after the 2014 World Cup, but since then he suffered through two mediocre seasons at Real Madrid before moving to City, and he hasn’t played for Brazil in over two years. That’ll change on Friday, since he’ll start against Japan. It’s the perfect chance for Tite to test whether he has what it takes to back up Alves in game conditions.


Is Douglas Costa back?

Douglas Costa was pretty dreadful the last time he played for Brazil, against Australia. Since then, he’s moved to Juventus and slowly begun to claw back his best form, but his selection this time around was still a bit of a surprise. It’s presented him with a big opportunity—if Willian underdelivers, or if Neymar’s niggling injury keeps him out of the starting lineup, Costa could see significant playing time. If he makes the most of it—and, more to the point, shows that his last performance for Brazil was a fluke brought on by his poor club form—it could send him to the World Cup, particularly since his main competition continues to be Taison.

Let’s… let’s not think about the possibility of Taison getting the nod ahead of him.


Can anybody actually test this team?

It’s a common refrain on the board that Tite’s team hasn’t been properly exposed like it could be against a truly top-tier side. Occasionally, we’ve thought that a team could give us a stern test, only to winning comfortably. Even the two worst results of Tite’s tenure are of limited value: the 1-1 draw against Colombia struck me as a test of whether Brazil could play for the result if needed, rather than Colombia truly putting us to the sword, while the 1-0 friendly loss to Argentina has the “we didn’t have Neymar or a bunch of other starters” and the “we absolutely would have won with better finishing” cards dangling over it. We haven’t really seen this team be overrun in midfield or forced to claw back a deficit, and one of the commonly cited reasons is that, thanks to an unusually poor period for our South American opposition, that we have yet to face any truly top-tier opposition.

Well, I’m not sure that’s going to change this week. Japan is a good side, but hardly a legitimate threat; we’ve won our last four games against them by a combined 15-1. England, meanwhile, look to be entering a golden generation with a bumper crop of talented attackers and midfielders. Unfortunately, we won’t be facing that golden generation, seeing as Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks, and Raheem Sterling (not to mention Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph) have hopped on the always popular I-have-a-bruise-so-I-guess-that-means-I-have-to-drop-out-of-the-England-squad-I’m-really-sorry-no-really-I-am bandwagon. And even if we were, England rarely play anywhere close to their potential. They certainly could provide the attacking and midfield challenge we’ve been waiting for Brazil to face—but seeing that they could only muster a 1-0 win against Lithuania the last time they played at Wembley, do we really think that’ll happen?


How will the games end? 

Here’s what I’m predicting…

Brazil 4-0 Japan: Anything but an easy win would be real cause for concern. Hopefully the return of the regular starters means a better overall performance than our rather flat display in our last 4-0 win, over Australia in June. Japan is far and away Neymar’s favorite victim when playing for Brazil—he has a crazy seven goals in three games against them. If his niggling injury doesn’t keep him out, expect him to add a couple to that tally and end a Seleção goal drought stretching back to March. Even if he doesn’t play, though, we’ll play only as hard as we need in order to walk to a 4-0 victory. 

Brazil 2-1 England: This’ll be far more of a contest, but with England ravaged by “injuries” and struggling to convince in recent games, I have to think we’ll win this one comfortably, though something tells me the scoreline will be closer than the contest. 


You can find more of Zetona’s work on his Twitter or his website, where he is known to the Internet at large as Dr. #Content.

[1] The only saving grace I can think of is that maybe, maybe, Grêmio asked Tite not to call up Arthur or Luan because they wanted the players fresh for their Copa Libertadores campaign. We’ve seen coaches avoid calling Brazil-based players for November friendlies in the past, when the local league enters crunch time. That said, it’s no credit to Tite if he caves in to the clubs like that. The Seleção should be bigger than such interests, especially with just four games to test players for the World Cup.

The Top 10 Brazilian Moves Of The Transfer Window

The most bonkers transfer window I can remember slammed shut a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s time to pick up the pieces. Since this is the Brazil World Cup Blog, I will, naturally, examine the most interesting moves for Brazilian players. Yes, our very own BrazilStats already wrote a far timelier list, but our metrics of what constitutes a top transfer are pretty different—not to mention that I’ve also included a second, equally consequential set of players: the biggest non-transfers of the window.

Without any further ado: Continue reading

Guest Article: “What We Learned From Brazil’s Recent Coaches, Part 2: Rogério Micale and the Olympics” by Zetona

It has now been a year since Brazil won the gold medal in men’s football at the Olympic Games. It was one of Brazil’s most significant footballing accomplishments in years, particularly since Olympic gold was the last mountain the Seleção had yet to scale. Continue reading

June Friendlies Discussion Thread

You know the drill.

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