Tite’s rebuilt Brazilian squad is winning back fans

SAO PAULO (AP) – Every time Brazil scores a goal at home now, the crowd chants “the champions are back.”

It’s a relatively recent phenomenon, only gaining momentum after Adenor Leonardo Bacchi — universally known as Tite — became the Selecao coach in September last year.

Tite’s tenure followed a gloomy period, when there were concerns among Brazilians that their revered national team may not qualify for the World Cup just four years after hosting the sport’s marquee tournament.

But with the unbeaten run under Tite stretching to 12 games with a 3-0 win over Chile on Tuesday, the five-time champions have re-emerged as contenders for the World Cup title.

“Tite is responsible for the change and for our great moment,” defender Dani Alves said after the win over Chile in Sao Paulo. “When it comes to tactics, he is well ahead of any other coach in Brazil these days. He is a great manager of people, too. And he will be key for us to keep that momentum until the World Cup comes.”

Tite was the people’s favourite to take over in June 2016 after a series of bad results for Brazil under Dunga.

At that point, Brazil had nine points from six games and was out of the World Cup qualification positions. The performances were below par, star Neymar was having difficulties, and fans were still traumatised from Brazil’s 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

It was quite a transformation in 12 months. And Tite’s new Selecao did more than merely win on the field. It won back its demanding fans with convincing victories over Argentina and Uruguay.

He also gave opportunities to players like midfielder Paulinho. The box-to-box player scored six goals in qualifiers, as many as Neymar, and was signed by Barcelona in
the process.

“Tite’s team made me like to watch Brazil again,” said Juliana Moritz, a psychologist.

“After the 2014 World Cup I promised to stop supporting Brazil, it was too much for me.

Now it is different, we have the talents like Neymar and Gabriel Jesus and the coach is a nice, competent guy.”

When he was hired, Tite made it clear that he didn’t think Brazil lack talented players, only that it needed to find some balance.