By Assi Alghazali
The Selecao have postponed the announcement of their latest squad following the PSG man’s injury and will continue to prepare an approach without him.
Though nobody – Neymar aside – would have felt it as much as his two coaches – PSG’s Unai Emery and Brazil’s Tite.
The Selecao meet Russia and Germany next month as the Brasil Global Tour returns to Europe, and the 23-man group will now be announced on March 12 – just 13 days before their clash in Moscow – with as many as five players now recovering from various physical problems.
Tite, however, will be well prepared should Neymar not make it to the Russian capital next month. The head coach has led four Neymar-less Brazil sides since his June 2016 appointment, winning three and losing just once.
Moreover, reducing Brazil’s ‘Neymardependencia’ was a task on which Tite has focused heavily since his arrival and, having seen the Selecao collapse without their talisman in the 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany in 2014, the coach has been keen to find a Plan B that doesn’t include Neymar.
His preferred approach would be to move Philippe Coutinho from the right to the left, and return Willian to the right-sided midfield role in Tite’s 4-1-4-1. The Chelsea man is the only player to have lost his place in the starting line-up under this coach, and is undoubtedly Brazil’s ‘12th player’.
Tite has also repeatedly trialed Coutinho in a central midfield role, operating in a similar playmaking function to regular starter Renato Augusto. Should he take that decision in the eventuality of being without Neymar, Douglas Costa could slot back in on the left, or even Taison.
“A team has to be prepared for the various situations in the game,” said Tite in May when he was without Neymar for the Brasil Global Tour matches versus Australia and Argentina. “Whether we are winning, losing or drawing, we have to be ready to adapt and not sink into a comfort zone.”
While ‘Neymardependencia’ became a buzzword under the previous coach, it is certainly not being identified as a defining characteristic of Tite’s Brazil.
A number of other players have stepped up to make the difference, including Paulinho, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho and Willian.
With the full extent of Neymar’s injury still unknown, Tite will once again be thinking about how to approach March’s friendlies without his No.10.