How Tite salved Selecao wounds
Move over Neymar – it’s no longer all about you. New boss Tite has rebuilt the Selecao after their 2014 pain and is proving to be Brazil’s real star
Every Brazilian knows where they were on the evening of July 8, 2014. “I was at my flat in Sao Paulo with my wife,” says Tite, the man who will lead the five-time World Cup winners at this summer’s finals in Russia. “What did I feel? A mixture of consternation and sadness. My wife was crying. She looked at me and asked, ‘What is going on?’ I told her that I didn’t know.” To be clear, this wasn’t the day of some horrific natural disaster or massive civil unrest. “When Germany scored all of those goals in such a short period of time, she burst into tears,” reveals Tite. “That was very emotional for me.” Recovering from the 7-1 thrashing to Germany in the semi-finals of their own World Cup has not been easy for Brazil as a team or nation, but in Tite they appear to have found the man to heal those wounds. Having replaced Dunga as Selecao manager in June 2016, Tite – full name, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi – has put the smiles back on the faces of not only Brazil’s fans, but also the players.
Having struggled in the early stages of their qualification campaign for this summer’s tournament, Brazil were a team reinvigorated under the former Gremio, Internacional and Corinthians boss. Eight straight wins helped the Selecao seal a spot at Russia 2018 before any country other than the hosts themselves. Just when it looked like Brazil could be on the ropes, the new coach has got his charges playing with the kind of swagger that has made them a must-watch side at so many World Cups over the years.
“Tite built a very solid tactical structure, so we had positive results quickly and regained confidence,” Brazil and Inter defender Miranda told FFT last month. “He knows how to get the best from every player. He’s a charismatic man and everybody gets on with him. Sometimes a manager has only 11 friends in the squad, but even the players who are on the bench like Tite.”
If Brazil’s boss can guide his country to a sixth World Cup triumph, he will find himself with even more new friends. And his wife might be a bit happier, too... How does it feel to be the Brazil coach going into a World Cup? It’s hard to describe how proud I am to lead my country at the World Cup. It’s a huge responsibility, and I’m aware of how this competition interferes with the mood and pride of the Brazilian people. But at the same time, it’s a dream come true.
You were almost given the job before Dunga’s return in 2014. Was it frustrating to miss out then? Very much so. I can’t deny that I was expecting an offer, based on my solid work at club level. Everyone in Brazil was saying I would be the chosen one. I couldn’t go out on the streets – people would come and say, ‘It’s your time, we want you!’ Just after the 2014 World Cup there was some interest from the Japanese national team, but I didn’t want to negotiate with Japan as I was still waiting for Brazil. But that’s life. I suffered for a couple of days when Brazil took the decision, and then I got back to Corinthians and helped the team win the league, playing beautiful football. I didn’t know it then, but staying at Corinthians for a bit longer was great for my development.
Brazil were sixth in South America’s World Cup qualifying group when you took over. How did you turn things around? Qualifying in South America is very tough but I had another difficulty, reinventing myself as a national team manager, which is completely different to managing a club side. I had to learn quickly, so I talked to many colleagues to learn about their experiences. Last but not least, I had to bring the confidence back into our squad.
Assessing it as a manager, what did Brazil do so horribly wrong in the 7-1 defeat to Germany four years ago? It’s not possible to dissociate coach and man. I would repeat to you what I told my wife back then: I don’t know. It’s easier to assess things from outside and point out things that could have been done differently, but we don’t know the reality of that moment and all of the difficulties they were facing. I have only one certainty about it: any person who defines one or two reasons for that result has a really low capability to understand the