Brazil’s coach called up a really good squad—maybe the best of his entire tenure, considering the circumstances! Here’s the list of players who’ll be facing Panama and the Czech Republic at the end of March, directly from the CBF:
Alisson – Liverpool (ING)
Ederson – Manchester City (ING)
Weverton – Palmeiras
Daniel Alves – Paris Saint Germain (FRA)
Danilo – Manchester City (ENG)
Miranda -Inter de Milão (ITA)
Thiago Silva – Paris Saint Germain (FRA)
Marquinhos – Paris Saint Germain (FRA)
Éder Militão – Porto (POR)
Filipe Luís – Atlético de Madrid (ESP)
Alex Sandro – Juventus (ITA)
Casemiro – Real Madrid (ESP)
Fabinho – Liverpool (ENG)
Allan – Napoli (ITA)
Felipe Anderson – West Ham United (ENG)
Lucas Paquetá – Milan (ITA)
Arthur – Barcelona (ESP)
Philippe Coutinho – Barcelona (ESP)
Everton – Grêmio
Roberto Firmino – Liverpool (ENG)
Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City (ENG)
Richarlison – Everton (ENG)
Vinicius Júnior – Real Madrid (ESP)
Here are some quick takeaways from this selection.
A pleasant surprise
This really might be the best squad that Tite has ever called, if we consider that Neymar is unavailable through injury. He’s done almost everything right. He’s called the two players who made the strongest case for their first callup (Vinicius and Felipe Anderson), he’s kept or recalled the promising talents whose status had seemed a little uncertain (Allan, Éder Militão, Paquetá, Everton), and, just as important, he’s almost entirely refrained from calling up the players we’ve all grown sick of seeing get the nod ahead of younger, better options. There’s no Willian, no Paulinho, no Renato Augusto, no Fernandinho (though he might have missed out through injury), and none of the… ahem… left-field selections he’s made on occasion. (No offense, Bordeaux center-back Pablo, but you’re not exactly Seleção material.) The only two players I object to seeing are Dani Alves (though I’ll let this one slide for reasons I’ll explain in a bit) and Weverton (who’s called as the third-choice goalkeeper, the least consequential position in the side).
Listen to Cléber Xavier
Turns out Tite’s right-hand man knows what he’s talking about. Over the weekend, Cléber Xavier spoke about who was likely to be included in the squad, and his statements turned out to be pretty much spot on:
- He said that Lucas Paquetá would be called up (though that was common knowledge).
- He revealed that Douglas Costa would miss out through injury.
- He said they were only likely to bring one or two entirely new players into the side, and that’s what happened—Vinicius Junior and Felipe Anderson are the only players never before called up by Tite.
- He listed Vinicius, David Neres, Everton, and Richarlison as potential options in Neymar’s position, and all but Neres are in this squad.
Listen to Tite and his team, and they’ll generally tell you a lot about what they’re planning.
Dani Alves has a ripple effect
I can’t say I’m much excited to see the 35-year-old Dani Alves continue to get opportunities as a right-back—it’s past time for Brazil to try someone new—but his selection has some significant knock-on effects throughout the side. Most notably, it means that Fabinho is listed as a midfielder, rather than being shoehorned into a position he hasn’t played at club level in like three years. And that means that Casemiro finally, for basically the first time in Tite’s tenure, has a genuinely good defensive midfield backup rather than Fernandinho or Walace.
The other notable ramification is that this keeps Éder Militão in central defense, which I’m not sure I like as much. He seems to play as much at right-back as in the middle for Porto, where he’s been named the league’s best defender for five months running. In other words, he’s a very good right-back, too, and he’d be more likely to step onto the pitch for Brazil if he were used as a right-back, where his main competition is a 35-year-old and a guy who only plays at right-back about a third of the time, than as a center-back, where he has to try and beat three of the best center-backs in the game today for a starting role. Either way, he’s a huge young talent who can fill a position where Brazil lacks young talent, so he has a bright future with the Seleção.
The ideal midfield?
Tite finally called up what people here on the blog have often stated as being Brazil’s perfect midfield. Casemiro, maybe the best in the world at his position, anchors the midfield as always, but he finally has an actual like-for-like backup in Fabinho. Ahead of them, Allan and Arthur offer different combinations of creativity, athleticism, and defensive bite to control the midfield and supply the forwards. And then we have three players capable of either playing as a number 10 or in a wide role to link up with a winger, each with their own strengths. Coutinho brings technical wizardry and shooting prowess, Lucas Paquetá has a high work rate and great scoring instincts, and Felipe Anderson is a tremendous athlete who can function fully as a winger as well. At the moment, it looks like the perfect mix.
How do you spell this kid’s name
Nobody seems to have any friggin’ clue. Is it spelled with an accent on “Vinícius”? On “Júnior”? On both? Neither? The CBF website lists him as Vinicius Júnior, but the CBF Twitter calls him Vinícius Jr. Globo calls him Vinicius Junior, no accents. Wikipedia goes with accents on both names. There is literally no consistency.
But his inclusion is nonetheless huge. He has already established himself as the most exciting young Brazilian to emerge since at least Neymar and one of the greatest young talents in world football. With Neymar out injured, there’s a good chance he’ll be thrown straight into the starting lineup against Panama. Hardly intimidating for someone who was the most electrifying player on the pitch against Barcelona yesterday.