The Liverpool playmaker was the best player on the pitch from a more withdrawn role, while Neymar slipped back into bad habits against the Tricolor
Just as in Tite’s very first game as Brazil coach, the Selecao proved too strong for Ecuador as they continued their relentless match towards the 2018 World Cup. Neymar and his men defeated Ecuador 2-0 in a game that was always under control, even if the goals took their time in arriving.
Now not only have Brazil already secured their place at Russia, but with nine straight qualifying wins they are guaranteed to finish top of the pile amongst their South American peers.
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Tite came up against a determined Ecuador side, that gave little away early on. But the coach mixed up his side, changed his tactics and Philippe Coutinho pulled through to inspire the Brazilian victory, also scoring the second goal of the evening. The other strike came from Paulinho, the new-found goal machine of this Selecao.
Brasil Global Tour takes you through the key lessons from Thursday’s battling win…
COUTINHO, NEW POSITION BUT SAME OLD BRILLIANCE
Tite had made it clear that he wanted Philippe Coutinho to play in a different role when he pulled on the Brazil shirt. In the friendlies against Argentina and Australia the coach took the opportunity to try the Liverpool man in a more withdrawn position, the role usually played by Renato Augusto. And while his future might not be certain on the other side of the world, here Coutinho looked supremely comfortable pulling the strings for his nation.
Coutinho managed to turn the course of the game, moving with freedom and creating space and play wherever he set foot. A stunning goal following neat interplay with Gabriel Jesus was richly deserved, and put Brazil out of sight against Ecuador at 2-0 up. Whether he plays in Liverpool or Barcelona this season, he will remain indispensable for Brazil.
NEYMAR AGAINST THE WORLD
Ever since Tite took the reins of the Selecao, Neymar has tempered his individualist instincts to become much more of a team player. Thursday’s game, however, the first since his world-record move to PSG, saw the most expensive player in the world suffer a relapse into his selfish ways. Neymar held onto the ball to long against Ecuador and looked to go it alone in the opposition area, overlooking Luan in a golden chance in favour of trying for goal himself. It was an off-night for the No. 10, who has been fantastic for his nation since teaming up with Tite.
FROM 4-1-4-1 TO 4-2-3-1
With the same team picked a year ago in his Selecao debut, Tite opted for the same formation, which has helped Brazil guarantee their place at the next World Cup. This time around it did not work as planned, but the coach proved he has a trick or two up his sleeve. For the second half, seeing that play was not flowing, Tite switched from 4-1-4-1 to 4-2-3-1 and changed Brazil’s fortunes. The spaces suddenly opened up and yet another victory was on the way for the unbeatable Selecao.
Ever since the coach took over the bruised Selecao from Dunga, they have been setting records with impressive consistency. Thursday was no exception. With three games to go in these qualifiers, the already-qualified Brazil have recorded their best campaign in the history of the competition. The team now sit on 36 points, beating the 34 set in 2006 and 2010. They are also the only team to have managed nine straight victories in CONMEBOL qualifiers.
PAULINHO THE GOAL MACHINE
Not even the lengthy break in qualifying was capable of slowing down Paulinho in front of goal. The new Barcelona signing hit his 10th in Brazil colours and cemented his position as the highest-scoring defensive midfielder in Canarinho history. When Brazil most needed him, he was there to turn home a corner and open up the game in his side’s favour.
Paulinho returned to the Brazil ranks exactly a year ago, and has been unstoppable – hitting five goals and adding another three assists in just 10 games to make himself an undisputed part of the Selecao.