Monday, November 21, 2022

Weighing up Tite’s attacking options for Brazil’s opening World Cup fixture against Serbia

Weighing up Tite's attacking options for Brazil's opening World Cup fixture against Serbia

With the latest renewal of the FIFA World Cup just a matter of days away, it is no surprise to see five-time winners Brazil at the fore of the outright winners’ market. With their prowess, they are there or there abouts every four years, but this time it feels slightly different.

It’s been exactly 20 years since the Samba nation last lifted the famous gold trophy. However, the squad they have accumulated for this year’s tournament in Qatar is perhaps their best in the last two decades and they are more than capable of getting their hands back on the prize this winter.

There a no question marks surrounding this group of talented players, with strength and depth in all areas of the pitch — particularly in attack, where Brazil have largely struggled since the retirement of the likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, with Neymar having to carry a lot of the burden for the last decade.

The wealth of options in attack is sure to give Tite a selection headache ahead of the Seleção’s opening game of Group G, a match they are expected to win in the Brazil v Serbia odds. So, aside from the obvious choice in Neymar, let’s take a look at who could lead the line from the off for Tite’s side.

Vinicius Junior

After a couple of campaigns underachieving at Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior finally started setting the world alight last season — scoring 22 goals and assisting 20 in 52 appearances across all competitions as Real Madrid won the Champions League and La Liga titles.

That form has resulted in him becoming a regular starter for Tite over the last 12 months, featuring in all but one of Brazil’s last 10 games. He will likely get a start on the left-wing, but he will need to up his contribution if he wants to nail down that place after scoring just once in 16 appearances for his country.

Raphinha

From Madrid to their fierce rivals Barcelona, Raphinha is in with a shout of starting down the opposite flank to Vini Jr. The 25-year-old made a name for himself at Leeds United and has featured in 11 of Brazil’s last 13 games — only missing out because he tested positive for Covid-19 in March.

He hasn’t exactly hit the heights expected of him at the Nou Camp, however, with just one goal in over 15 appearances. Hopefully his four goals and two assists in his last four games for Brazil will be enough for Tite to overlook those lacklustre Barca performances, or Manchester United’s Antony could sneak in his place.

Richarlison

A doubt for the World Cup after suffering an injury while playing for Tottenham Hotspur, it looks like Richarlison is going to make the plane to Qatar after all. It’s good news for Tite and Brazil fans, as the 25-year-old has a stunning record of 17 goals in 38 games for his country.

With Neymar dropping back to a more attacking midfield role for some of Brazil’s most recentfriendlies, Richarlison could play down the middle of a Vini Jr x Raphinha-led attack. But his fitness levels could still be an issue ahead of the Serbia game, as he’s been side-lined since mid-October.

Gabriel Jesus

With Richarlison fighting for fitness and the possibility of Neymar dropping back a bit, that would leave Gabriel Jesus as the man to play the No.9 role. There was shock when the striker was left out of Brazil’s final warm-up games against Ghana and Tunisia, but he is expected to be recalled for the World Cup.

Jesus, who has scored 19 times in 56 games for Brazil, started the season in fine form for Arsenal — finding the back of the net five times in their opening eight league games. But the goals have dried up lately and the 25-year-old will be hoping he can find his shooting boots before jetting off to the Middle East.  

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