Tite brings back Brazil aura with sixth World Cup win in sights
A smooth operator with the dedication of a monk and a philosophical mind, Tite has brought back Brazil’s aura as the Selecao begin their quest for a sixth World Cup crown in Qatar.
The 61-year-old Adenor Leonardo Bacchi — to use Tite’s real name — was a virtual unknown outside of Brazil and specialist football circles when appointed national team boss in 2016.
His record since then has been hugely impressive, winning three-quarters of his matches in charge and guiding Brazil to an unbeaten World Cup qualifying record with a historic 45 points from 17 games.
Only one thing remains for Tite to achieve.
“I’ve won everything in my career, all that’s missing is the World Cup,” he said in February when announcing he would leave his post following the Qatar extravaganza.
It is 20 years since a Brazil inspired by the sumptuous attacking triumvirate of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho last lifted the greatest prize in football.
Despite his formidable record, not everyone at home is impressed with Tite.
Many fans and former stars have branded the team’s style as ultra-defensive, despite 166 goals scored in 76 matches — with just 27 conceded in 57 wins, 14 draws and five defeats.
Two of those losses were particularly painful ones, though.
Under Tite, Brazil fell 2-1 to Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals in Russia four years ago, and then lost 1-0 to Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the Copa America final at their Maracana fortress last year.
But many others have real faith in Tite.
In a coaching career spent almost exclusively in his homeland — barring two brief stints in the United Arab Emirates — Tite won the FIFA Club World Cup, Copa Libertadores and two Brazilian titles with Corinthians, a Copa Sudamericana with Internacional, and a Brazilian Cup with Gremio, before guiding Brazil to Copa America victory on home soil in 2019.
“He’s one of the best coaches in Brazil, without a doubt,” former Brazil international Dirceu Lopes (1967-75) told AFP.
“Although the national team is not like it once was, it is respected and one of the favorites to win the title.”
– Tite the ‘wizard’ –
Tite took over the Brazil reins following a pair of miserable failures.
First, Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final of their home World Cup in 2014, precipitating the demise of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
And two years later, Dunga bit the dust after the Selecao failed to get out of their modest group at the Centenario Copa America in the United States following a 1-0 defeat to Peru.
Tite set out finding the balance between defence and attack that had served him so well as a club coach, while presiding over a generational change.
For the last two friendlies in September, comprehensive victories over Tunisia and Ghana, Tite picked only nine of the squad from the last World Cup.
This team is built around Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar, who despite several controversies has repaid the coach with goals and assists aplenty.
“I’ve never seen anyone with the ability to get the most out of each player like (Tite),” Brazil stalwart Dani Alves told UOL Esportes website.
“It’s pure magic, the guy is a wizard.”
– European unknown –
There is one major unknown for Brazil, though. Despite Tite’s impressive record, his side has only played one European side since Russia, a 3-1 friendly win over the Czech Republic.
“What use is it to put five past Tunisia and thrash South Korea if we don’t know how our main title rivals play,” wrote Paulo Cezar Caju, a World Cup-winning midfielder from 1970.
“Our last four (World Cup) eliminations were against European sides: France, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium,” he said in a column in Placar sports magazine.
Brazil face two European sides in World Cup group G — Serbia and Switzerland — while they also take on Cameroon.
Despite the criticisms, Tite insists he is “at peace” as his new young starlets such as Vinicius Junior, Antony and Raphinha have excelled and excited.
They have gelled alongside veterans Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Casemiro, not to mention Neymar.
“This is the best time,” a confident Tite, who hopes to coach in Europe next, told Globo newspaper.