Brazil’s loss on penalties to Croatia at the 2022 World Cup marked the end of an era. As Marquinhos’ penalty hit the post and the Croatian team celebrated in front of a stunned Al Rayyan crowd, dreams were killed. Brazil, which entered the tournament as the favorites, was not as mighty as believed. A remarkably human side with alien expectations was not the best.

Brazil’s early exit brought harsh consequences. Domestic media criticized and villainized the team, calling the coaching staff donkeys. It slammed the Brazilian blunders that led to Bruno Petkovic’s 117th-minute goal. Tite, the head coach since 2016, resigned.

The impact of Tite

Brazil without Tite will look very different. When Tite took the job, the team looked very different. A Dunga-led side was still recovering from that game and had experienced big disappointments in the last two Copa Americas.

But Tite’s impact was immediate. Brazil immediately went seven games without conceding a goal and a nine-game win streak. They had just one loss in 26 games during a 673-day stretch.

Under Tite, Brazil looked special. It differed from the raw talent of Brazil entering each World Cup. His side has played some of the best-attacking soccer Brazil has seen since the Ro-Ro duo that plagued defenses at the 2002 World Cup. Tite had Brazil playing seamlessly, even though each player had a specific role on the pitch. They are the opposite of rigid. If Tite continued with the team, they would likely win another Copa America and contend for the 2026 World Cup.

But again, it was just an if. As Tite confirmed in late February 2022, and reinforced after the defeat, Tite would resign after the World Cup, regardless of how his team did.

“I have no reason to lie here,” Tite said after the loss to Croatia. “I don’t want to win anyway. I’ve won everything in my career, the only thing missing is the World Cup.”

Prestige and impatience

To understand what Brazil is missing, you must know Tite’s predecessors. Before the former Corinthians boss came around, Brazil did not have a gifted tactician. Rather, it was ordinary title-winning Brazilian coaches.

Not only do his predecessors show the depth, or rather shallowness, of the Brazilian coaching pool. They also demonstrate how tough it is to keep a Brazilian in charge of the national team. The five coaching stints since Luiz Felipe Scolari after the 2002 World Cup win show the CBF’s impatience that prevent Brazil from winning a World Cup without a generational pool of talent, an issue that could use a foreign coach.

Lack of a foreign coach in Brazil

Carlos Alberto Parreira lives in lore for leading Brazil to a World Cup in 1994. His second stint was forgettable. Despite winning the 2004 Copa America, the Confederations Cup in 2005, and all three group-stage games in the 2006 World Cup, Brazil collapsed in the quarter-finals against eventual finalists France.

In 2006, the CBF replaced Parreira with Dunga, even though he had no coaching experience beforehand. Surprisingly, he led Brazil to a Copa America title in 2007 and the Confederations Cup in 2009. Despite his success, he was fired after the 2010 World Cup. That was another quarterfinal exit to an eventual finalist in the Netherlands. He was widely criticized for not selecting Neymar or Alexandre Pato. Plus, his naturally defensive playstyle did not suit the flair of Brazil.

That brought in Mano Menezes, a coach known for successes at Gremio and Corinthians. Menezes was not the CBF’s first choice. Yet, he was good enough to land the job in 2010. Brazil’s aging core yielded considerable patience from the CBF so Menezes could rebuild. Perhaps that explains Brazil’s mediocre finish in the 2011 Copa America, as they lost in the quarter-finals to Paraguay on penalties. A final loss to Mexico in the Olympics only increased complaints. Still, his eventual sacking was controversial. The team was in good form, but Menezes’s tactics resembled those of Dunga.

For the 2014 World Cup, Luiz Felipe Scolari returned to Brazil. Scolari was the fan-favorite to coach the side. He was the head coach the last time Brazil won the World Cup in 2002. Brazil won the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and made the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup. Regardless, the Mineirazo was enough to make him hugely unpopular and get him fired.

That brought back another familiar face in Dunga, but his second stint was no better than his first. Despite a big winning streak, his side lost to Paraguay in the 2015 Copa America on penalties. The Copa America Centenario got even worse, as Brazil fell in the group stage for the first time since 1987. Dunga’s refusal to pick Thiago Silva made him unpopular, and the disaster in 2016 was enough to drop him from the spot. That brings us to the era of Tite.

The Brazilian coaches’ loop

On most occasions, the CBF sacked managers after one big disaster. This makes having a long-term vision extremely difficult. At the same time, it cultivates a level of fear and stress that qualified coaches want to avoid.

Patience and continuity pay off. For example, a number of coaches with relative success over recent years have been at their posts for extended periods. Aliou Cissé in Senegal, Deschamps in France, Southgate in England can assert. All coaches have suffered setbacks. But, the federation stood with them, protecting that long-term vision and easing stress off the manager.

Combine that with Brazil being insistent on avoiding a foreign coach, and there is an endless loop. This is not exclusive to Brazil Italy, Spain and Germany regularly only use domestic nationals to lead the squad. However, this policy has hurt Brazil over recent years.

Pride and ignorance

There’s the prideful “we don’t need any help” argument presented by Rivaldo.

I don’t agree with it, I think it shows a lack of respect for Brazilian coaches that the hiring of a foreign coach for our national team is being considered. I believe we have coaches capable of taking over the national team at this moment and doing a good job. Bringing in a foreign coach does not guarantee that we will be world champions… Foreigners are undoubtedly very good coaches too, but the Selecão is ours, our nation’s, and has to be managed by someone who has Brazilian blood running through his veins.

Rivaldo on hiring a foreign coach

There’s a cautious approach that acknowledges Brazil’s tactical inferiority, presented by CBF president Ednaldo Rodrigues.

When we are on the same level as the European teams in tactical terms, Brazil will always win because of the talented players we have and their individual skills.

Rodrigues on Brazil’s might in world soccer.

Either way, the long-held tradition of picking coaches solely from Brazil seems hugely controversial, regardless of whether it would help Brazil. It seems the CBF is leaning toward picking someone like Carlo Ancelotti or Pep Guardiola for the job. But, the players and fans would not like the decision.

The search for the spot

The search for a spot as Brazil’s head coach still rages on. Guardiola and Ancelotti are the candidates for the role, seeing as there is discontentment at Real Madrid and Manchester City. However, there are still rumors of another home-based coach getting another pick.

Palmeiras’ Abel Ferreira is a name in the race, with Fluminense’s ball-possessing manager Fernando Diniz and Fenerbahce’s Jorge Jesus in the mix. Ramon Menezes, the manager for the Brazil U20s, could be a candidate thanks to the team’s victory in the South American U20 Championship. However, a recent 2-1 loss to Morocco will not help his case.

As the sun sets on Brazil under Tite, it’s time to look towards the future with the 2026 World Cup on the horizon. When the Seleção takes the pitch against Bolivia and Peru in September, a new coach will be appointed. It will be intriguing to see whether Brazil breaks free of tradition in one of its most urgent moments and hire a foreign coach, or whether the decades-long streak will continue.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sports Press Photo