Blind it like Brazil

Coach Tite’s eagerness to take the best from different styles & evolve following needs of the modern game has rejuvenated the Selecao

Published: 29th June 2018 08:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2018 08:10 AM   |  A+A-


Brazil head coach Tite speaks to his player Philippe Coutinho during a match | AP

Express News Service

SARANSK:  When he’s not shouting instructions at the players — which is often — Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, the man they call Tite, stands near the touchline, with one arm wrapped around his waist and the other supporting his chin, as if he were posing for Auguste Rodin as the latter sculpted ‘The Thinker’. Fitting, for that’s what sets Tite apart from the usual Brazilian manager — he thinks an awful lot. Where many of his compatriots have often been accused of just wanting to win, Tite demands a lot more. For him, football is not just a series of one-night-stands.

He looks deep into its eyes and tries to understand its soul. In a lot of ways, the man who is in charge of Brazil is the result of years of trying to understand the game and through that, himself — a deliberate attempt to grab every possible chance to evolve. His path here resembles a search for something. He passed in and out of no less than 16 clubs in more than 25 years of management. But his steepest learning curve came just five years ago. In 2013, as Brazil prepared for a home World Cup, Tite, who had a reputation as a retranqueiro — a defensive minded manager, decided that he had to re-learn what it meant to coach a team.

He spent a year travelling the world, watching matches, discussing football with the best managers in the world and assimilating everything into himself. An article in Blizzard perhaps best describes his decision to take a sabbatical. “His quest for knowledge, nuance and development wasn’t merely academic, but existential: he needed to cultivate his attack. Tite decided to glean ideas from the Old Continent.” When Brazilian football, after the disastrous Mineirazo — that 7-1 drubbing by Germany in the semifinal in 2014 — and a failed rebound relationship with Dunga, decided that they needed someone to lead the way forward, Tite was ready. The man had been taken apart and assembled again, and his game now was more balanced. In Russia, Tite’s tactical shifts have converted a team, previously overdependent on Neymar, to a more multi-dimensional entity.

The midfield is now anchored by the much-maligned Paulinho whose runs from deep inside midfield has often wreaked havoc in the opposing penalty box. His decision to play Philippe Coutinho deeper has been akin to injecting a healthy dose of drugs into the veins of his midfield — they now pass the ball into channels of whose existence they were previously unaware. Three of the five goals Brazil scored in the group stages had Coutinho involved. And his handling of Gabriel Jesus — the Manchester City striker became a Brazil regular under Tite — has eased the goalscoring burden off Neymar and allowed the latter to do what he best likes — indulge himself.

As his team celebrated after their 2-0 victory over Serbia and qualification to the knockouts as toppers, Tite silently shook the hand of the opposing manager and headed back in. Then, at the press conference, he spoke of his favourite topic — evolution. “We don’t live off expectations, we live off reality,” he said. “This is a team that is growing mentally stronger in the competition and taking the pressure with a good performance on the pitch and a balanced team. There are huge expectations but we are evolving and consolidating.”

And then he headed in for his favourite drink, caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. In many ways, that is a metaphor for Tite. To make a caipirinha, you take the traditional Brazilian liquor — cachaca, distilled from fermented sugarcane juice — add lime and a dose of sugar. Like how Tite mixed the cachaca that was his traditional Brazilian philosophy with the sweetness of more contemporary European ideas. Result: Serbia 0 Brazil 2 (Paulinho 36, Thiago Silva 68)


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