Brazilian football finds itself in a state of crisis.
Objectively, things aren’t quite that bad. But it finds itself there anyway.
With the five-time World Cup winners starved of the trophy for more than two decades, and beaten to it by fiercest rivals Argentina last year, floundering through the opening rounds of 2026 qualifying cuts deeper than ever.
Losing a home qualifier for the first time in history, to said Lionel Messi-led rivals, stings even more.
Brazil’s last six CONMEBOL results
- September 9: Bolivia (H) Won 5-1
- September 13: Peru (A) Won 1-0
- October 13: Venezuela (H) Drew 1-1
- October 18: Uruguay (A) Lost 2-0
- November 17: Colombia (A) Lost 2-1
- November 22: Argentina (H) Lost 1-0
That was Brazil’s third consecutive defeat – an ignominy they have not suffered since 2001 – suffered under their second interim coach in less than a year, with the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti as Tite’s permanent successor still yet to be ratified.
The Selecao certainly are in somewhat of a mess. But not at crisis levels yet.
By the time of their next World Cup qualifier, at home to Ecuador in 10 months’ time, their new head coach will almost certainly be in post. The likes of Richarlison and Vinicius Junior will be back from injury, and they may even enjoy a strong run in next summer’s Copa America.
Besides, Brazil rarely begin these campaigns well. They will almost certainly line up in the World Cup finals in three years’ time – Brazil are the only nation to have appeared in all 22 tournaments to date, and it is objectively harder to miss out than qualify through the CONMEBOL format, where six out of 10 teams progress.
It is also worth remembering the last time Brazil won the tournament in 2002 they scraped into the finals after losing to Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay – all of whom missed out on automatic qualification. Less than a year later, they turned on the samba style in Japan and South Korea to go all the way.
Concerns do run deeper than results. That team had Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho… You could go on. Despite the emergence of Real Madrid-bound Endrick, the latest wonderkid off the production line, that and any other golden generation feels as far away as ever – if not further.
But this is still a team with quality it would swap with few nations, at least when they are all fit.
Their concerns are a puzzle for management as well as the wider fanbase; the issue of the interim manager has played its part in their current predicament.
The team selection is chaotic. Brazil have used more full-backs in six games than in their entire 2022 qualification run.
Right-back Emerson Royal is a prime example of a player not seen to follow in the footsteps of Cafu or Capita, but there are few alternatives knocking down the door to claim his place.
The choice of manager isn’t much more serene. Incumbent caretaker Fernando Diniz was only handed the role in September, having spent the last few years revolutionising the domestic game with Fluminense.
Here his task is exactly the opposite, keeping things ticking over until his permanent successor is appointed. He has now lost three of his six games in charge after this Argentina humbling.
But perhaps the most painful feeling for Brazil right now is the sight of Messi leaving the fabled Maracana as a victor on Wednesday morning.
It allowed the 36-year-old to exorcise some demons on the same ground where his Argentina side lost the 2014 final to Germany, a wrong which looked like it may never be righted until he lifted the trophy in Qatar last December.
How Brazil could do with something similar. If anyone can provide it then Ancelotti will give it a good go. Otherwise, Brazilian football certainly will be in crisis.
‘Diniz caught up in own hubris’
Tim Vickery speaking from Rio de Janeiro following Brazil’s 1-0 loss to Argentina:
“I was there when history was made – Brazil losing a World Cup qualifier at home for the very first time. But it’s not something that’s going to live in the memory for the right reasons.
“I’ve been in the stadium for most of Brazil’s qualifiers with Argentina and some have been the finest games of football I’ve ever seen. Magnificent occasions. This was not one of them.
“Brazil have now lost three in a row – they’d never lost two in a row in World Cup qualification before now. It was clear that when Fernando Diniz took over it was going to be difficult for him. He’s a very unorthodox coach – very bold.
“National team football tends to be more cautious than club football because you don’t have the time on the training field, and Diniz has no experience at this level. He’s perhaps caught up in his own hubris. That’s a problem.
“There’s not a lot of organisation. Brazil are sixth in qualifying, if this was any other World Cup campaign they’d be struggling – fortunately this edition has 48 teams so I don’t think they’re in any danger.”