Tuesday’s game at the MCG just got more interesting.
That 1-0 defeat to Argentina means that Brazil coach Tite has now lost his 100% record.
That is not a problem. It had to go sometime – and far better in a friendly than a competitive match.
Indeed, with a place in Russia already assured, far better in any kind of game now rather than next year in the World Cup when it really matters. Losing a game is always an opportunity to learn.
What might Tite have learned from the first 90 minutes in Melbourne?
The watchword for this trip to Australia is ‘opportunity’ – with so many of the usual starters being rested there is a chance for fringe players to push their claims.
Tite seems haunted – justifiably so – by what happened to Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari in the previous World Cup.
Scolari solidified his starting line up a year ahead of the competition and basked in confidence that the hard part had been done – the story of Brazil’s 2014 campaign is of that confidence evaporating on contact with harsh reality.
Perhaps, then, it was more complacency than confidence. Tite cannot afford to make the same mistake.
There will be competition for places, to keep everyone on their toes, until Russia 2018 kicks off.
Two groups of players are receiving opportunity on this trip.
The Argentina game was for those who are already in the squad, the immediate reserves of the usual starters. Some of them might fall away now.
Right back Fagner, for example, had a poor game against Angel Di Maria – indeed, it was down that flank that Argentina won the game in the first half.
Centre back Gil did not look entirely convincing and has little to add with the ball at his feet.
Goalkeeper Weverton did nothing wrong, but will not find it easy to keep his place. He will surely come under pressure from Ederson, in the news after his big money move to Manchester City.
Tuesday night should belong to players like him, who have been brought into the squad more recently.
Centre backs David Luiz of Chelsea and Jemerson of Monaco might get a chance, along with Juventus left back Alex Sandro and Corinthians midfielder Rodriguinho.
Tite, though, might be a little more concerned with the performance against Argentina of the four players who are normal starters in his first team.
Gabriel Jesus came very close to an equaliser when he rounded the keeper only to hit the post, but this was his worst game for his country since being promoted to the senior ranks.
Phillippe Coutinho was unable to stamp his authority on the game, and the Chinese based midfield duo of Paulinho and Renato Augusto, so good in qualification, were also disappointing.
The thread linking them is the undeniable fact that Brazil proved unable to play their passing game through the middle of the field.
The team had two glorious first half moments, when a quick exchange of passes enabled a wide player to be slipped behind Argentina’s high defensive line.
The first time, from a pass played in from the right, Renato Augusto shot over. And Willian was played in down the opposing flank, and squared for Phillippe Coutinho who was blocked by a scrambling Argentina defence. But Argentina found it relatively easy to block Brazil through the middle.
True, Argentina had a rocky few minutes early in the second half when coach Sampaoli switched to a back four.
By taking a man out of the midfield block Argentina had made it harder for themselves to stop Brazil’s attacks at source, and nearly paid the price. The ship was steadied when defensive midfielder Guido Rodriguez was sent on to plug the gap.
But the ease with which Brazil were stalled may be a cause for concern for their coach.
Tite’s Brazil have been imperious in World Cup qualification. But it does seem that the current crop of South American national sides is weaker than in previous campaigns – and it is also worth remembering that five of the last six World Cup finalists have come from Western Europe.
Next year Brazil will be taking on the likes of France – worryingly strong in their recent 5-0 massacre of Paraguay – Germany and Spain.
Can his team impose itself on that level of opposition? Does he need to look at alternatives for Paulinho and the injury prone Renato Augusto? Are his team able to pass their way through strong and competitive opponents who seek to block them down the middle?
Perhaps the Socceroos will help answer some of these questions.