If, on the eve of a quarter-final against a team that had caused the first tremor of their World Cup on home soil, an ignominious and quickly grazed under his own goal in the 2014 opener talks about dancing, then Tite has the easiest job in world football. . To think, they are here in Qatar chasing a world title that eluded them for two decades, the last one coming in 2002.
“Hey, they’re like my grandchildren, almost, the ones who really know me,” Tite would say, hair slicked back, eyes exploratory, easy wisdom pouring out like a household elder in post-independent India 1950s, laughingly would say. “I have a connection with the younger generation. I like to be with them, so if they want to include me in their plans, if I have to dance, I will dance, even if I will do it subtly and I have asked them to hide me. It’s not my way.
“I’m going to use a metaphor,” Tite explained, “When you paint, the ink you use is the athlete. In the end, the final table is the athletes. In this sense, we are all contributors.
“It’s not my national team. It’s the Brazilian national team for which I have responsibility as a coach,” Tite said. “I feel sorry for people who don’t know the history and culture of Brazil and our way of being.”
Compare that to Zlatko Dalic, his counterpart in the quarterfinals on Friday. “It’s nice to watch”, said the Croatian coach, “But I wouldn’t like to see my players doing it.”
“It’s the Brazilian identity. It’s not me, or of me. It’s been going on for ages”, Tite would continue to defend his team’s goal dance, without telling us if it would be Danilo or alexander sandro which would be available against the rate of Ivan Periscic and Luka Modric’s trickery on Friday. What he wouldn’t tell the world it could be Danilo given Perisic’s threat down the wing and his willingness to step in.
The other question around the Brazilian circle of life was that of the circle of life. “We wish Pele good health,” said Tite reverently. “The World Cup and Brazil’s performance is a way for us to show that.”
“The World Cup showed solidarity, living in harmony, accepting differences. That’s what Pelé has always shown as a human being, too, as the greatest of all time.
Croatia seemed furthest from Tite’s mind, or he just didn’t show it. He let Kleber, his assistant, do the ventilations, even nudging him, with a “Kleber, be careful, don’t say too much”.
“Croatia are very resilient,” they said, “Brazil could have had an advantage in terms of fitness.”
“We are lucky to have Ricardo Gomez giving us information about Croatian resilience. Our modus operandi is that we increase and decrease the intensity of the game. You see, they are in their thirties, we want to score early.
The Croats, Dalic and Luka Modric, for their part, approached this with typical professional caution. “Our team is a new national team, so I believe it’s a great opportunity. The one in 2018 was a more prestigious team,” Dalic would say.
“We played them and we didn’t win, maybe we can turn it around. They are all great players and we have to have a very high pace to keep them under control. We have to destroy, we can’t not let them disappear from our sight.
“You beat Messi in 2018 and there’s Neymar now, how do you see that,” Modric was asked.
“These are not similar matches. It’s a different game, you have to apply the same recipe. Messi had no support (in 2018), but Neymar has, this time.
“Brazil are the favourites, that goes without saying… but the favorites can also lose,” said the cunning old fox, dressed as a Croatian number 10.