Tite's contract extension with Brazil well-deserved, gives him a chance to resolve unfinished business
An agreement has been reached, and Tite is set to continue as Brazil coach, with his new contract set to take him through the 2022 World Cup.
It is surely the right decision. When he took over two years ago, a third of the Russia 2018 qualification campaign had been played and Brazil were down in sixth place. There was real concern that they would lose their proud record of being the only country to have appeared at every World Cup. Instead, they coasted to Russia, where they could easily have gone further than the quarterfinals. Their 2-1 defeat to Belgium was a string contender for game of the tournament, and it could have gone the other way with a bit of luck.
It was the only defeat that Tite’s Brazil have suffered in a competitive game. The lone other reverse came in a friendly against Argentina, staged in Australia, where Brazil fielded an experimental side. The results, and the manner in which they were achieved, clearly justify Tite staying on in his current role.
The only impediment was whether he wanted to continue. Here he found himself in an awkward position.
A huge part of the Tite story is his capacity to learn — and an important component of this process has been the time he spent studying top-class European football. But for years he said that he would not be interested in working in Europe. He could not, he said, imagine himself achieving excellence in a second language.
He has perhaps softened on this over the past few months, and with obvious motives. He could, of course, return to Brazilian club football. But, after working with the calibre of players available to the national team coach, that would be a giant step down.
Had Brazil won the World Cup, then the temptation to try his luck in Europe surely would have existed, and, presumably, there would have been no shortage of offers. But with Brazil failing to reach the semifinals, he has not been swamped with offers, and so his best course of action is to stay put in a job where he has plenty of unfinished business.
In the past three World Cups and the past three Copa Americas, Brazil have only once made it to the last four — and no one needs reminding of the result.
Next year, Brazil host the Copa America. The pressure will be on the hosts to win it. For the other countries, the competition will serve as a warm-up for the next cycle of World Cup qualifiers. The demands on the hosts are always different — and that will apply all the more to Brazil next year. Coaching Brazil is like sitting in a coconut shy — lots of things will be thrown at Tite. There are no guarantees that he will keep his job all the way to 2022. A disappointing Copa 2019 or a few setbacks on the road to Qatar could derail him. Results, then, are fundamental.
But there are also plenty of questions to be answered about how Brazil will play over the next few years — and Tite will surely relish being in at the start of a new cycle. Last time he stepped in as a fireman with the house ablaze. This time he can build the foundations his way.
So how will he now deal with Neymar? The celebrity status of the star man at times threatens to overwhelm the team. Can a better way be found to ensure that Neymar’s undoubted individual genius is consistently aligned with the needs of the collective? Is there a more effective solution to the long-running doubts around the centre-forward position? And can the team improve in central midfield?
In a tournament in which Paul Pogba, Luka Modric and Kevin De Bruyne starred, Brazil’s attempt to shoehorn Philippe Coutinho into the role of box-to-box midfielder was not a success. Could Barcelona’s new signing Arthur be the man to get Brazil’s midfield ticking?
Fascinating questions all — and the U.S. public will get the first chance to appraise the initial answers when Tite brings his squad north in a few weeks’ time. On Sept. 7, Brazil will face the USMNT in New Jersey, before moving to Washington for a game on the 11th, probably against El Salvador.