SAO PAULO: Coach Tite is considered practically a saint in Brazil for his miraculous transformation of the national team from serial disappointments into a purring machine recalling great sides from the past.
On taking over in June 2016, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, who is universally known by his nickname Tite, faced a daunting task.
The team under Dunga, who'd been fired, were an embarrassment. And Dunga himself had been hired in 2014 to resurrect a team reeling from the ultimate humilation of that 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Brazilian soil.
By the time Tite took over, Brazil had already played a third of their qualifying games for the 2018 tournament and Tite wondered whether he'd have time to turn the slow-motion disaster around.
Immediately after getting the job, "I said to myself... 'What if I don't manage to qualify?'" he told TV Globo recently.
Tite, 57, says his wife Rose looked at him in concern. "I can't figure out what you're thinking," she said.
But the devout Catholic, who has a shrine to the Virgin Mary in his office, did more than just sort out his thoughts. In seven months he pulled the team from the brink and turned them into winners, comfortably topping the South American qualifying group.
They go to the World Cup in Russia as one of the hot favourites.
Tite's emotional and eloquent way of talking and his father-figure status in the dressing room were key in healing the mental scars of talented, young players who'd known so many setbacks. Tite didn't have to make wholesale changes to the squad -- he only had to bring out the best in what he already had.
A fan of typical Brazilian rice and beans, washed down with the potent cachaca-based cocktail caipirinha, Tite brought a sense of fun back to a side afflicted by fear and nerves.
His achievement has made him one of Brazil's favourite national figures. A poll even found that he would stand a good chance in a presidential run.
Tite plays down the hype. "I am not a saint," he told Folha de Sao Paulo.
But there's no question how much the role means to him. He describes crying for a week after the 2014 loss to Germany, when he waited in vain for a call from the Brazilian Football Confederation to take over.
"When I wasn't chosen... I felt frustrated, angry and very sad," he said. "But right then I thought of my mother. She was a fighter. Whenever our family had problems, she'd start working even harder," he told The Players' Tribune.