Despite already securing their place at next year’s tournament with time to spare these last three games still mean a great deal for the Selecao
Even with qualification for the World Cup next year in the bag, Brazil coach Tite will not slacken the pace he demands of his players. Indeed, after a year focused wholly on securing passage to Russia 2018, the trainer now wants attentions turned wholly on the tournament itself and has publicly stated that, for his team, the World Cup has already begun.
With a large part of the squad that will travel to Russia already decided, Tite left a message that was heard clearly by his players during a press conference prior to beating Ecuador on Thursday.
“The World Cup has already kicked off. The team should feel the pressure. I want to see my players under pressure, I want the team to play well, showing strong performances, I want to find the balance between joy and responsibility,” he underlined.
As well as showing Tite’s commitment to a strong World Cup showing, the qualifiers still have great value for the Selecao. First of all, with so few games scheduled in preparation for next year’s tournament, these last CONMEBOL clashes are a terrific shop window for anyone looking to restate their case for a place in the Russia squad.
Also, after breaking several records in their last nine qualifiers, all of which ended in victory, Brazil can still reach other landmarks such as recording the best qualifying campaign in history since the current format was introduced for the 1998 World Cup.
Winning the next three games against Colombia, Bolivia and Chile, the side will reach 45 points, smashing the milestone set by Marcelo Bielsa’s Argentina who for the 2002 edition in South Korea and Japan took a total of 42 points.
The team could even break a record already held by a previous Selecao. In the 2010 qualifiers Dunga’s men conceded just 11 goals; right now Brazil stand on 10, meaning three more clean sheets would see that mark shattered.
But, aside from those statistical considerations, the big motivation comes in the fight for places in this supremely talented Brazil side. Tite has made it clear that he will be judging not merely on the games themselves, but also on attitude shown in training when he puts together his squad. Brazil have come to a point where Tite has the chance to decide who is really committed to the project for the next World Cup.
Players who have received a chance to shine, as is the case for Alex Sandro and Jemerson, late call-ups to the current squad, need to take what may be their only chance to make an impact on the coach and leave Tite with pause for thought.
With 36 points so far, Brazil have three more qualifiers to continue their Russia preparations. The Selecao take on Colombia and Bolivia away from home and close their campaign finally in Sao Paulo against Chile.