Brazil stumble on a major Croatian block as Tite’s wisdom is questioned

The Samba fell off the World Cup dance floor in disgrace as Brazil head coach Tite’s decisions came under scrutiny after the Croatia defeat.

Brazil exited the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the quarter-final stage, which came as a shock and surprise in equal measure. The Selecao were ousted in yet another quarter-final, this time by Croatia on penalties. And Tite’s decision-making will have come under scrutiny as Brazil could have had better control of the game against Croatia.

The Selecao were on the cusp of victory after Neymar broke the deadlock at the end of the first half of extra time. The wild celebrations of a brilliant goal oozed confidence and probably showed desire from Brazil, who felt they had made a statement of intent.

They knew little of Croatia’s prowess to rally back and snatch an equaliser in the next phase. Bruno Petkovic’s slightly fortunate strike opened up a world of possibilities for the Vatreni while puncturing Brazil’s confidence at a crucial stage of the game.

Among neutrals, there was a feeling Croatia might snatch the game out of the hands of Brazil if they managed to take it to penalties. As the Selecao were seemingly comfortable knowing they were destined for victory, Bruno Petkovic finished a thunderous move from the Croatians to level the contest.

While the penalty shootout got off to a horrendous start, there need to be reflections at multiple levels of what transpired in the game to reach the shootout in the first place. Brazil cannot ward off the ‘European curse’ bestowed upon them, and Tite’s questionable decision only made it worse for them to go beyond yet another quarterfinal game.

Brazil’s European Curse and the quarterfinal hoodoo.

The 2002 World Cup was effectively the peak of Brazil’s golden generation, with none of the teams managing to come close to that group after that. Tite’s once Copa America-winning side have faltered at the quarter-finals yet again, which is also Brazil’s fourth loss at this stage in five World Cup appearances.

The quarter-final hoodoo now seems like a real thing, and Brazil may have taken over from England as the torchbearers for this crown. All their losses in the five tournaments succeeding the 2002 editions have come against European nations, which should be a real concern for those in charge of CBF.

Of all the opponents they have lost to since 2002, Croatia could be perceived as the least threatening. Yet, this Luka Modric-led team caused the most hurt in the manner of their defeat. Brazil need a restructure and plan to come into each game rather than deploying the same tactics for every clash at World Cups.

Croatia might have dealt a hard lesson to the Selecao, but this was a test of character for Tite. They showed tactical naivety and nerves in their quest to enter the semi-finals. The Selecao were far from showing the required character to beat a stubborn team in a crunch situation, let alone being favourites to win the grand tournament.

Tite’s tactics come under scrutiny

Tite showed good signs earlier in the World Cup by resting and rotating his pack. The tactics were strange against Croatia, and some of those decisions cost them a place in the semis. Moreover, the solution needed to get ahead in the game was beating Croatia’s low-block defensive unit.

The game begged for a player like Gabriel Martinelli to exploit the Croatian backline, and Tite had the youngster on the bench. Throughout this tournament, the Arsenal star has consistently come on at different stages to replace Vinicius Junior on the left, but not this time.

For starters, in a huge game like this one, Vinicius could have proved a point in the latter stages of the 90, and it made no sense to take him off before the 70th-minute mark. Moreover, replacing him with Rodrygo Goes made little sense from a tactical perspective, considering how Croatia had set up at the back.

Martinelli could have made a huge difference with his pace and direct style of play. Tite should have focused on bringing Rodrygo into a more central position, possibly to replace Richarlison at some point.

The Samba were nervy on the biggest stage

Taking the lead in stoppage time of extra time should have been the cue for Tite to restructure his system for the next 15 minutes and shore up any possible leaks. Instead, the Brazil head coach continued to trust the existing players, considering he had plenty of fresh defensive legs rotting on the bench.

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Gleison Bremer, Bruno Guimaraes, and Fabinho were all sitting there waiting to play a part in the final stages. Instead, Tite only made two significant changes to freshen up things in midfield and defence by replacing Lucas Paqueta with Fred and Eder Militao with Alex Sandro.

Bremer could have been worth the bet, especially when you need to protect the lead considering the timing of the goal scored. He could have done similar things in midfield by bringing on Bruno Guimaraes. The Newcastle United talisman might have done more to protect a threat from a counter than Casemiro, who may have become tired after a grueling period.

They seemed nervous after scoring the goal and lacked someone who could come in a push with confidence. By seeing open space to exploit in the final 15 minutes, Croatia grew in confidence and took the game to Brazil. They scored from their only shot on target, which not only turned the game on its head but effectively booted the Selecao out of Qatar.

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