Seleção: mixed feelings mark start of new era

Barcelona’s Arthur was one of four players to make his Seleção debut on Friday (Mowa Press)

A new era began for the Seleção as they beat the USA in a friendly on Friday night: Neymar has been named as full time captain and four players made their debuts. But more questions were raised about their World Cup exit.

Annoyingly, for some absurd reason, the UK media channels thought it was okay not to show the USA v Brazil friendly match live on television. Ridiculous. Because of that, I was forced to catch up with events by watching highlights and reading match reports. There was some excitement about the new players making their debuts and Neymar being handed the captain’s armband on a full time basis after Tite’s rotation, but many pundits were left looking to the past instead of looking to the future.

Douglas Costa was brilliant on Friday night. In the highlights that I saw, on two occassions his pacey, skillfull dribbles created two clear chances for teammates. On a third occassion, he skinned Everton’s fullback Antonee Robinson (who is no slouch himself), before whipping in a brilliant right footed cross, which Roberto Firmino slotted home. All of the reports that I read were equally praising of Douglas Costa and his performance was reminder of what might have been had he been fully fit in Russia and started the match against Belgium.

Roberto Firmino’s goal reminded people about his qualities too and raised further questions about why Tite persisted with an out of sorts Gabriel Jesus at the World Cup. Gabriel Jesus wasn’t even named in the squad for the matches against the USA and El Salvador, but I don’t think that Tite has completely lost faith with the striker – I think it has something to do with some kind of agreement Tite had with Manchester City, since he didn’t pick Ederson, Fernandinho or Danilo, in his this squad either. During the World Cup, I thought Tite was right to persist with Gabriel Jesus – I am now starting to think that Firmino is a better player.

Fred started in midfield alongside Casemiro against the USA and had a solid game. Some will be wondering if it would have been different had he played against Belgium in the place of either Paulinho or Fernandinho. Like Douglas Costa, Fred suffered with injuries in Russia, but even if he was fit I don’t think Tite would have selected him. And to be honest, I’m not sure whether his presence against Belgium would have changed anything in that game – the real loss was Casemiro: Brazil need to find a substitute.

One candidate for that position could be Fabinho, who has transformed himself from a right back into a defensive midfielder. His good form playing in that position for Monaco persuaded Liverpool to splash some big bucks on him. He hasn’t had much of a look in for his new club just yet, but I suspect that when he does settle, that is where he will play. Interestingly though, he started at right back for Brazil on Friday and he played quite well. He stung the keepers palms with a shot from outside the area and he was brought down for a penalty in the first half, which Neymar dispatched.

It is not clear whether Dani Alves was reseted or dropped, but at 35 years of age, he won’t be around for much longer. Fagner is probably Brazil’s new first choice right back, but he suffered an injury and withdrew from the squad. Danilo was rested, and in my opinion, Eder Militao will be a better centre back than right back. Jurgen Klopp probably sees Fabinho as a defensive midfielder, but due to a lack of options and after his good performance last night, he may get more games for Brazil in that position. (My tip for Brazil’s right back spot in Qatar 2022 is 19 year old Emerson of Atletico Mineiro.)

Friday night’s friendly wasn’t all bad news and melancholy for Brazil. They won the game 2-0 and played some good stuff. With four players making their debuts in the second half, and Cruzeiro’s 30 year-old centre back Dedé making his first appearance for the national team in years, there was some excitement and fans got a glimpse of the future too: Arthur came on for Fred, Flamengo’s Lucas Paquetá replaced Coutinho, Richarlison came on for Firmino and Gremio winger Everton replaced Neymar. Their debuts were discrete, but at least they got on the pitch and they did alright. According to a report on Globoesporte, Everton made the most impact out of the four.

The expectation (hope) is that Tite gives them, and the likes of Éder Militão and Andreas Pereira, some more game time in the match against El Salvador on Tuesday night (or 01:30am on Wednesday morning UK time).

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