Robbie Blakeley enjoys a ‘game of friendship’ that leaves puzzles for Brazil to solve.
It was billed the jogo da amizade, literally the game of friendship. Last Wednesday night (25 January), Brazil and Colombia met at Rio de Janeiro’s Engenhão Stadium, in honour of the Chapecoense players as well as the journalists who tragically lost their lives in the plane disaster prior to the Copa Sul-Americana final.
Meetings between these two over recent years have been anything but friendly, yet in front of what looked like an optimistic estimate of 18,000 fans – all proceeds went to Chapecoense Football Club – Brazil edged the game 1-0 with a goal from Pameiras midfielder Dudu.
It meant that new seleção boss Tite maintained his 100 per cent record in charge, as well as meaning that Brazil returned to the top of the FIFA world rankings, which should tell you all you need to know about the FIFA world rankings. Just to make it clear, Brazil haven’t reached the final of the World Cup since 2002.
But the most interesting aspect of last night’s result and performance was that it gave Tite food for thought. With both sides only permitted to pick players plying their trade in domestic competitions, it gave the former Corinthians coach a chance to look at some of the players from the Campeonato Brasileiro who are making a push for international recognition and a chance to wear that feted yellow shirt.
Famously, the Brazilian public generally favour home-based players to the estrangeiros playing their football stretched across the globe, and Wednesday evening was a perfect opportunity for those employed in Brazil to show just what they can bring to the table.
Fagner, Walace, Camilo and Gustavo Scarpa were all given a chance to impress, but there were two players in particular who stood out in Rio; the central defensive partnership of Geromel and Rodrigo Caio.
When Tite enjoyed his greatest success at the helm of the Corinthians ship, taking the 2011 Campeonato Brasileiro, 2012 Copa Libertadores and 2012 FIFA World Club Cup crowns, the team’s triumphs were built around a rigorous back line. With Thiago Silva and Miranda both entering the twilight stage of their careers, the pair put in a more than competent display to demonstrate their credentials.
Caio indeed made the tackle of the game in the first half, timing his sliding challenge to perfection to disarm his opponent and steal the ball. The slightest error and he would surely have been sent off for what is described as a professional foul.
After all the negative press which has seemingly been swirling around the Brazilian national side for nigh-on three years, the last few months feels like a real breath of fresh air. In this corner of the world, melodrama is never exactly in short supply.
There have been two disappointing World Cup quarter-final exits and that semi-final-which-must-not-be-named from Belo Horizonte, 2014. But the idea that the talent pool in Brazil is drying up has surely been discarded as an idea of the wildest folly. As if in a defiant throwback to the old school, Robinho and Diego, old teammates and friends from the exhilarating Santos side of the early 2000s, both threw their hat into the national ring, the latter in particular proving that the passing of time has done nothing to dampen his sharp football brain.
Tite next makes a squad announcement at the beginning of March, for the World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Paraguay, on the 23rd and the 28th of that month. Last Wednesday night may well have given Tite some pleasant but perplexing problems to solve.