When Brazil manager Tite stated that he would take nine strikers to the World Cup, many worried if that was too many and if he would actually dare to abandon his normally defensive tactics in order to unleash so much offensive talent.
The answer came in the form of a 2-0 victory over a powerful and well-organized Serbian team that did not make things easy for Brazil and frustrated them in a goalless first half.
Tite’s choice to start Vinicius Jr. alongside Neymar, Richarlison, and Raphinha should come as no surprise, as the Brazil coach has recently been much more willing to unleash his gifted young strikers together.
Thinking that he would leave Vinicius on the bench was an assumption of those looking at the 61-year-old manager’s past rather than his present.
Tite is a bright coach. He was the last South American to lead a Copa Libertadores champion to the FIFA club championship, winning 1-0 with Corinthians against Chelsea in 2012.
But his accomplishments then were achieved with more caution then daring. His 2022 version seems to acknowledge the talent he has at his disposal.
The 22-year-old Vinicius scored Real Madrid’s winner in the Champions League final against Liverpool and finished eighth in the Ballon d’Or ballot last month, elevating him to world-class level in his fifth season with the La Liga side.
Leaving him out of the team would have been madness.
Though Richarlison scored a brace, Vinicius was arguably the best player on the pitch, creating most of Brazil´s chances.
Tite evolved while his team progressed over the last four years, moulding his squad to find new ways to adapt his system to his players.
But it was the emergence of a new generation of talented youngsters in the last two years that finally made Tite leave his background as a defensive coach behind, embracing their youth and giving them the freedom to flourish together.
The result is a team faithful to Brazil’s traditions in the beautiful game.
Tite does not only want to win. He wants to win playing a style of football that for many years seemed to get lost among pragmatic coaches who believed Brazil had to be solid rather than joyful.
Tite has a plethora of talent in every department and, with a goalkeeper like Alisson and centre backs like Marquinhos and Thiago Silva sitting behind a rock-solid defensive midfielder in Casemiro, he can have the luxury of starting four forwards.
That is exactly what he did against Serbia, relying on a superb Casemiro who won every challenge to keep Serbia as far away from Alisson’s goal as possible.
Meanwhile, he left his four strikers to work out their way through Serbia’s five-man deep defensive line.
They kept their cool and ended up breaking down their opponents thanks to talent and confidence.
Brazil sent a clear message to their World Cup rivals. They came to Qatar to try to win their first world title in 20 years and to stay true to the style that Brazilian football is famous for.