On 17th June, five-times world champions Brazil endured a false start to their World Cup campaign with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland. The Brazilians last failed to win their opening match at the World Cup in 1978. In Rostov-on-Don, Brazil were clueless; porous at the back, disjointed in midfield and without punch up front. They didn’t play the usual slick and compact game that coach Tite has cultivated.

After their 7-1 semi-final drubbing at Belo Horizonte by Germany in 2014, Brazil were dethroned as spiritual owners of the game. The Germans were at the pinnacle of the modern game; Brazil’s football, at best, was anachronistic. The Seleção exited the World Cup with an embarrassing 3-0 defeat in the third place play-off against the Netherlands.

Brazil had shipped 10 goals in 180 minutes, but, inexplicably, the Brazilian FA, the CBF, did not seem flustered. They named Carlos Dunga as new coach. The appointment mirrored a footballing culture in denial. At club level, the unrelenting demands from fans, media and the match calendar prevented coaches from developing and enriching their knowledge. Dunga was fired two years later after the team’s poor performance at the Copa America Centenario.

Tite, who succeeded Dunga as the national coach in 2016, had long sensed Brazilian football was isolated. By 2013, he had won the Brazilian league title, the Copa Libertadores and the club World Cup with Corinthians. He decided to take a sabbatical and went to Europe, to study the modern game and visited many clubs, including Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.

In 2015 he returned to Brazil’s top flight with Corinthians. They had the best defence and the best attack, but, above all, in a compact 4-1-4-1 formation they played beautiful football, valuing the process of play. The result was no longer the highest good. Tite calls it ‘Merecer vencer (Deserve to win)’. His capacity to learn makes him unique in the Brazilian coaching carrousel.

At this World Cup, he may well be Brazil’s secret weapon. Tite has brought balance, compactness and modern ideas to the Seleção. Those characteristics were non-existent against Switzerland. Against Costa Rica, Tite will get a second crack at delivering his vision: a good result from a good performance. That’s what Brazilian football has ultimately always been about.

Close