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Brazil's World Cup Xl battles: Raphinha, Vinicius Jr, Gabriel Jesus & the big battle to play alongside Neymar

16:24 BST 20/09/2022
Brazil boast some of the best players in the world, but not all of them can start in Qatar.

The Selecao are always well-stocked with talented forwards. From Pele to Rivaldo to Ronaldo, the yellow and green colours are synonymous with incredible attacking football - a daunting standard for their current generation to meet.

Tite's 2022 group are fearsome in their own right, but the manager must make difficult choices to get the most out of them. Everyone knows Neymar is going to start. Will he be joined by Antony, Raphinha, Vinicius Junior or a combination of those options?

There is also an overflow of quality in defence and midfield, which Tite must sort through over the next two months as he crafts his preferred XI.

Here is the latest on Brazil's most interesting starting line-up battles as of the start of the September international break, including the three-way fight to play alongside Neymar...

  • Alisson Brazil 2022

    Alisson vs Ederson

    Tite can be confident in either Liverpool’s Alisson or Manchester City’s Ederson, two goalkeepers in their primes who play for elite clubs and have experience in some of the biggest matches of the past decade.

    They split duties at last summer’s Copa America, with Alisson starting group matches against Venezuela and Colombia and Ederson starting four other games, including the 1-0 final defeat to Argentina in which Angel Di Maria broke his 616-minute international scoreless streak. Weverton also made one start at the tournament.

    Since then, Tite has preferred Alisson to guard the Selecao net, giving the Liverpool man eight starts to Ederson’s two (though the latter missed a set of spring qualifiers because of illness).

    Form could matter down the stretch, but it's Alisson's job to lose.

    As it stands: Alisson

  • Thiago Silva Brazil slide

    Thiago Silva vs Marquinhos vs Eder Militao

    Thiago Silva and Marquinhos will start at centre-back in Brazil’s Group G opener against Serbia. Write it down.

    But 24-year-old Eder Militao is just behind, ready in case one of the veterans sustains an injury or begins the tournament in poor form. At club level, Militao helped keep the back-line at the Santiago Bernabeu from crumbling after Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane left Real Madrid. He won La Liga and the Champions League. There are no longer questions about his status as a starting calibre defender on a major squad with high expectations.

    Militao participated in Brazil’s World Cup qualification process, starting when Tite rested Silva or Marquinhos. That was an intentional move to get the centre-back comfortable with the head coach’s system and his Selecao team-mates.

    There’s also a slim chance Militao starts at right-back, a relatively weak position group for Brazil at the moment.

    In any case, he’s up to speed, ready if Tite needs him.

    As it stands: Silva and Marquinhos to both start

  • Dani Alves Brazil 2021

    Dani Alves vs Danilo

    That Dani Alves is still in the picture for a starting World Cup place at age 39 says more about Brazil's void on the right side of their defence than his own abilities. Sorry Dani, but that's the truth.

    Tite named only one right-back to his squad for the September international break, picking Juventus 31-year-old Danilo, but Alves is considered to be in the conversation despite that omission.

    Alves, now at Pumas in Liga MX after a brief return to Barcelona, has played in six games with the Selecao since the start of 2021. He started friendlies against South Korea and Japan in June. The veteran remains in the mix, then, even if he isn't the frontrunner.

    As it stands: Danilo

  • Fred Neymar slide 2022

    Fred vs Bruno Guimaraes

    Casemiro is one of the first names on Brazil’s team sheet as their midfield anchor, while new West Ham signing Lucas Paqueta is locked into a starting role because of his versatility. Tite can use Paqueta at almost any width or depth in the midfield or attack and feel comfortable that he can deliver a solid performance - an invaluable trait at a World Cup.

    If Tite uses a third central midfielder, then Fred and Bruno Guimaraes would be the likeliest choices.

    Fred gets stick at Old Trafford, but Tite trusts him. He started in the Copa America final - though his manager took him off for Roberto Firmino at half-time in search of more attacking firepower - and the Manchester United midfielder continued to be picked throughout World Cup qualifying. The 29-year-old is well-positioned to keep his place, then, particularly if Erik ten Hag keeps giving him club minutes this term.

    That said, Guimaraes is one of the fastest rising players in the Selecao camp, suddenly thrusting himself into the line-up picture. From an outsider to even make it to Qatar - he wasn’t part of Brazil’s last Copa America squad - to a contender for the starting XI, it’s been a meteoric rise.

    Some people who follow the Selecao wish Tite appreciated Guimaraes more.

    “Tite just loves Fred too much,” says Allan Lima, a member of GOAL’s Brazil bureau. “But we over here can dream of Bruno Guimaraes starting!”

    Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, one of Tite’s final picks for his Copa America squad, is also a fringe part of the conversation. And if Casemiro sustains an injury, Fabinho would be next-up in the defensive midfield role.

    As it stands: Fred

  • Antony Brazil 2021

    Antony vs Raphinha vs Vinicius Junior

    Manchester United. Barcelona. Real Madrid.

    A clash of players on three of the world's biggest clubs, all 25 or younger and all good enough to start for most countries.

    Right now, Lima says, Tite is expected to choose Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior at his natural position on the left wing and select Barcelona's Raphinha on the right with Neymar playing through the middle in a fluid front-three.

    In that set-up, Manchester United's Antony, a natural right winger, would be competing directly with Raphinha for a starting role. He has two more months to make his case.

    As it stands: Vinicius Junior and Raphinha to both start

  • Gabriel Jesus Brazil 2022

    Gabriel Jesus vs Richarlison

    It’s possible that Tite spurns a traditional No. 9 because of the world-class wingers at his fingertips. But if the manager does tap a centre-forward to lead the line, Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus and Tottenham’s Richarlison are his top choices.

    Jesus is not in Tite’s squad for friendlies later this month, but don’t read too much into that, as the manager prioritised long-shot options such as Pedro, Matheus Cunha and Rodrygo. Lima says Jesus will probably go to Qatar - and he could push for a starting place if his club form continues.

    "Tite already knows Gabriel Jesus well and has a close relationship with Arsenal's Edu Gaspar, so there's no need for seeing him again now that he's playing well," Lima adds.

    The 25-year-old has scored four goals and supplied three assists in seven Premier League matches this term while providing a more direct approach than many of his Selecao counterparts. He doesn't sound too worried about his situation.

    Richarlison, meanwhile, played regularly at the Copa America and has made his mark since joining Tottenham in the summer. An adept presser, he could strengthen Brazil even when they aren't in possession.

    As it stands: Toss-up

  • Tite Brazil 2022

    Projected Brazil starting XI

    Goalkeeper: Alisson

    Defence: Alex Sandro, Silva, Marquinhos, Danilo

    Midfield: Fred, Casemiro, Paqueta

    Attack: Vinicius Junior, Neymar, Raphinha