- Tite talks about his year of studies, far from the land
- He shares his admiration for Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne and Mancini’s Italy
- “A duel between Brazil and Argentina is already a competition in itself”
“You can’t survive very long in a country with 200 million coaches,” said Luiz Felipe Scolari, when asked about a position that many consider the most demanding in the world of football.
In fact, meeting the expectations of Brazilian supporters, always eager for entertainment, is sometimes akin to crossing the Desert of Lout. Clearly, for the Selection, victory is not enough; if she wants to satisfy her fans, she has to win with style.
Mario Zagallo was thus the eighth man to occupy this high-risk position in the five years preceding Mexico 1970. When he took the helm in 1991, Carlos Alberto Parreira took over from three other technicians in just over a year. Ten years later, Scolari was the fourth in nine months. Only one person has served more than five years at the helm of the Selection, Flavio Costa, remained in command between 1944 and 1950.
Author of remarkable performances since his appointment, Tite seems set to do much better. It must be said that Brazil has won 38 of the 52 matches played under its orders, for only four defeats. He remains on 21 unbeaten matches in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup ™, including 16 victories.
At 59, the Brazilian strategist gave his country the best start in its history in the preliminaries of the supreme event, relegating to oblivion the record set by Junior, Socrates, Zico and the others in 1981. But also and above all, in a country where aesthetics and results are inseparable, it is unanimous … which is no small feat!
Despite a very busy schedule (he analyzes matches at the rate where his fellow citizens drink coffee), Tite took the time to answer questions from FIFA.com to evoke the shocks to come against Colombia and Argentina, Diego Maradona, Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Alisson, his admiration for the Italy of Roberto Mancini and Kevin De Bruyne, but also his sabbatical year spent to deepen his vision of football .
Tite, four matches, 12 points, 12 goals for and 2 against: what is your assessment of the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign?
Each match, each phase, has its truth. I think you have to know how to take a step back. The pandemic has taken something away from us; it affected the quality of football. To sum up, I would say that my team exceeded my expectations in three of these games, but suffered tremendously against Venezuela. We are moving step by step. The figures you mention reflect our performance and I must admit that I am impressed.
You are about to face Colombia and Argentina, unbeaten since their defeat against … Brazil, in the Copa América. With players like Dybala, Correa, Messi, Martinez and Agüero, theAlbiceleste can it cause you problems?
These two matches will undoubtedly be very important for the future. For the moment, nothing is played. Technically, our two matches against Colombia were arguably the most interesting of the last qualifying round. Both teams sought to attack, create and pose problems for the opponent. Each time, the victory could have changed in one camp as in the other. We had enormous difficulties. The big South American derbies like Brazil – Argentina or Brazil – Uruguay have, for their part, a historical dimension. As you pointed out, Argentines have some excellent individuals in their ranks. Beyond the qualifications, for me, a duel between Brazil and Argentina is already a competition in itself.
Unfortunately, Diego Maradona passed away recently. What did you think of him?
To answer you, I will echo the words of Careca, with whom I get along very well. His technique, his sense of improvisation, his creativity were extraordinary. On the pitch, Careca needed to concentrate as much as possible to live up to a player of this level. Maradona was an exceptional footballer.
Speaking of exceptional players, how do you see Neymar?
He has matured a lot. When he was playing in Barcelona and when I started at the head of the Selection, he was above all a winger. He was looking to make a difference with his speed, his sense of dribbling and his individual exploits. He has enormously enriched his repertoire; he is no longer content to score, he also knows how to create opportunities for others. As we say at home, he is both the bow and the arrow: he can just as well conclude as serve his partners. He has become a very complete striker.
What role does Philippe Coutinho play in the national team?
Since my appointment, the Selection has gone through several phases. The most memorable is undoubtedly the one we went through during qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. This version was undoubtedly the most successful. We gave ourselves a lot of chances, we scored a lot of goals and we conceded very few. We regularly produced a quality game. At that time Coutinho was what I call a “float”. At first, he played on the right, without too many constraints. Then when Renato [Augusto] got injured, he moved back to the center, in order to occupy a position quite similar to that which was his in Liverpool. He was very good there too. He’s had some ups and downs, but he’s still a great player and he’s in good shape.
Do you think Alisson is the best goalie in the world?
You have to distinguish between talent and circumstances. Is he one of the three best goalkeepers in the world? For me, without a doubt. I am one hundred percent sure. Now, to tell you that he is indeed the best today, I would have to do much more careful comparison work. Anyway, over the last year, I think he was over it. Was he better than Neuer? Yes. Was he better than Ter Stegen? Yes. Was he better than Oblak? Yes.
Who do you think is the best team in the world right now, outside of Brazil?
It’s hard to say. Since the start of the pandemic, many teams haven’t really had the opportunity to show what they are capable of. Brazil, Argentina and Colombia haven’t played much. The Europeans have played eight matches, four more than us. In my eyes, Italy plays quite pleasant football. Mancini is doing a good job. He is founding a school, like Arrigo Sacchi before him. I find the balance to be much better between attacking and defensive play, which has traditionally been one of the strengths of Italian football. Belgium is still carried by an extraordinary generation. It’s a great team, with a lot of talent. De Bruyne is arguably one of the best individuals around. France also has arguments to make.
Who are the three best players in the world today?
The three I voted for [lors de l’élection du The Best – Joueur de la FIFA] ! Neymar first, Lewandowski second and De Bruyne third. Before his injury, Neymar was in dazzling form. Lewandowski is a fabulous striker and De Bruyne is able to do things other players don’t even think about. His sense of improvisation and his determination impress me. I love to watch him play.
At the end of 2013, you took a year off to travel and study football. Can you tell us more about this?
I always seek to deepen my knowledge and open my horizons. As I left the Corinthians, I felt the time had come for me to observe the work of other coaches. I wanted to devote more time to it. I had won everything in club: the Brazilian championship, the Libertadores and the Club World Cup, beating Chelsea in the final. The following should logically lead me to take charge of the Selection, but I still wanted to improve before taking on this challenge. I read books on Simeone and Guardiola. I was interested in the work of Bianchi at Boca Juniors and that of Cruyff in Barcelona. Football is very different from country to country. There is a lot to learn. I met Bianchi, who told me about his philosophy. It was passionate. I watched Arsenal. I spent time with Ancelotti at Real Madrid. I studied Manchester City, the English champion, and Bayern Munich, the German champion. I wanted to know everything: behind the scenes, the training, the tactics and what was happening on the pitch. All. I watched all the matches at the 2014 World Cup, took notes and went through every action. This period was very important in my career.
Who is the coach who taught you the most?
Ancelotti. The way Simeone organizes his team is very interesting. I was also fascinated by Guardiola’s work and the way he goes about finding the loophole in the opponent. Bianchi always manages to get the best of his players in big events. Some of Cruyff’s tactical ideas were great. But I still think it was from Ancelotti that I learned the most. He has his own way of thinking about football.