Seleção back to winning ways but improvement needed

Coutinho, Paqueta and Danilo helped Brazil to a win yesterday

Don’t be fooled – comfortable win over South Korea shouldn’t mask the problems with the coach, or the players.

The Seleção got back to winning ways with a comfortable victory against South Korea in Abu Dhabi yesterday. It was the team’s first win in six attempts and will relieve some of the pressure on the players and the coach Tite, who has been coming in for criticism, with some – such as this blog – thinking that it is time for him to go.

Yesterday’s comfortable victory does offer some hope, that the team can play decent attacking football and that Tite can still get good performances out of the players. Most probably it will keep Tite in his job for a bit longer. I don’t think a defeat would have spelt the end, but there were certainly going to be some difficult questions and an inquest at the CBF. This result, and performance, will make those questions easier.

The match took place at an annoying time, meaning I was at work and unable to watch the game. However, I’ve drawn a few conclusions after looking at the match report and looking at the reaction on twitter.

Roberto Firmino needs to start at number 9. Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, while the both have something to offer, should not be starting. They did yesterday, and they both struggled. Gabriel Jesus has been particularly poor for the Seleção since before the World Cup and Tite has persisted with him, beyond what he should have.

He might need confidence and he might be one for the future, but there is a limit as to how much faith the coach should be giving him when he is not in form. Playing him on the right wing, as he has often done, is not the answer either. That is not his natural position, and there are better players for that role. Start with Bobby Firmino, and keep Jesus on the bench. Simple.

Richarlison, meanwhile, by many accounts was even worse yesterday. I am an Everton fan and watch him play regularly in a blue shirt and he has some big qualities. In particular, he has pace and power, which can stretch teams and he keeps going (after taking 10 rubbish shots, he’ll try another one and score a worldy). He can offer those qualities to the Seleção, but I would agree with some of the Twittertariat that he should not be starting for the Seleção. He is a jewel that still needs polishing. And at the moment, his best position is on the left wing (where Brazil are blessed with many options), not number 9, or on the right wing.

Renan Lodi looks set to become Marcelo‘s succcessor at left back. The dopey Alex Sandro was dropped for Atletico Madrid‘s new young signing and Renan Lodi did not disappoint, setting up two goals. Fabinho was given a start in midfield ahead of Casemiro, and it sounds like he had a very solid game too. Apparently he has been tearing it up there for Liverpool so this was not surprising.

The takeaway here is that it makes sense to give players that are producing the goods for their clubs a chance, and do take ages to do this. There is merit to foster stability, try to get this club side kind of feel, where their is familiarity in the group. But international football will always be different. Go with the form players. It creates a buzz, it adds pace to procedings and it creates more of an incentive for players: 1/ that they know good club form will be rewarded with Seleção performances; 2/ they will feel more confident and more deserving when they get their Seleção game time.

One player that has been waiting for an opportunity for ages is Lucas Paqueta. His club form for AC Milan hasn’t been very good. Arguably, he was finally given his chance with the national team at the wrong time. He was terrible against Argentina. He was better against South Korea, and scored, but by most accounts, he still didn’t play very well again.

Paqueta has also been subject of a rather strange set of tweets from Rivaldo, who is, of course, one of Brazil’s legendary number 10s. A few days ago he tweeted a picture of Brazil’s great number 10s, including himself, Ronaldinho, etc, suggesting that Paqueta shouldn’t be in that same category and that the Seleção needs better. Fair point, but not so nice if you are Lucas Paqueta.

Yesterday, Rivaldo tweeted his congrats to the new number 10 and praised Tite for keeping him on the pitch for 90 minutes. Paqueta is a confidence player and while Rivaldo may have been right with his initial tweet, it wasn’t very helpful. Yesterday’s meia culpa will at least soften the blow.

Finally, it was good to see a few young players get given a run out. Aston Villa‘s Douglas Luiz got some minutes under his belt and replaced Arthur, while Real Betis‘s Emerson, came on for a few minutes at right back.

Alisson; Danilo, Marquinhos, Éder Militão, Renan Lodi (Emerson); Fabinho, Lucas Paquetá (Firmino), Arthur (Douglas Luiz); Gabriel Jesus (Rodrygo), Richarlison, Philippe Coutinho

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