Tite has Brazil in an enviable position, but there are five areas for concern
Spare a thought for Tite. No, seriously.
Barely a year after taking over a Brazil side on the ropes in the South American World Cup Qualifiers, he has engineered an amazing comeback that has even some of the most cautious commentators in the country daring to mention the side amongst the candidates for the title in Russia next summer.
Even before last Tuesday's match against Colombia in Barranquilla, the Selecao had already guaranteed not only a place in the 2018 World Cup but also put enough distance to the other continental teams to finish the long campaign in first place, with three games to spare.
There's no dissent in the camp, no proper long-term injury worries. He can count on even the added entertainment of seeing traditional rivals Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina and Chile in a mad scramble for the remaining three automatic places awarded to South America.
So why worry?
There's a simple reason: While in football nine months seem an eternity, just like for couples waiting for a baby, it is also paradoxically a short time. In this period, Tite will have only six games to arrive in Russia with a closed squad.
True, scarcity in international dates are not only a burden for him. However, contrary to some of his colleagues expecting to go far into the Russian summer, his mileage with Brazil will look very low. Think, for example, of how long Joachim Low has worked with most of his German players.
Starting in two weeks time, when he needs to produce a list of names for Brazil's final qualifiers against Bolivia (away) and Chile, Tite will be under pressure to get closer to a group of at least 15-16 players that could be used no matter the circumstances in Russia. There is a starting XI taking shape, but as Brazil learned very painfully in the last World Cup -- when a injured Neymar and a suspended Thiago Silva were sorely missed in that gruesome semifinal defeat against Germany -- you need replacements if you want to make it to the end.
Has he got them? Where is Brazil exposed? This is what we can conclude so far.
Young inexperienced goalies
Four years ago, Luiz Felipe Scolari took a gamble by picking then-QPR reserve Julio Cesar, who was 34, as the Selecao No. 1. Cesar, blamed for Brazil's departure from South Africa-2010, vindicated the manager by saving the team in a nervy shootout against Chile in the round of 16. Tite, on the other hand, has nobody that experienced to rely upon if needed. And his choice of No. 1, Alisson, who spent most of last season watching Roma's matches from the bench. It looks likely that Manchester City's Ederson will be a shadow to consider. Veteran Diego Alves, who rose to fame in Spain for saving penalties from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and now plays for Rio de Janeiro side Flamengo, hasn't really earned enough call-ups with Tite. Even if he does make the list, Brazil are likely to take a trio of rookie goalies to a World Cup for the first time since 1990.
We need to talk about Luís
Nope, not the Chelsea defender who spells his name with a Z and has barely played under Tite. We are talking here about Filipe Luis. The Atletico Madrid player will not add many more caps to the 31 he's got if the match against Colombia is anything to go by. Brazil were properly tested by their northern neighbours and the Atletico Madrid man didn't really seize the chance to deputise for the suspended Marcelo, who now seems even more absolute as first choice as left-back. On the right, Dani Alves owns the joint.
The crying game in central defence
If the World Cup was tomorrow, Brazil's captain from the last tournament would be biting his nails on the bench. But Thiago Silva has slowly clawed his way back into the squad again and is the immediate reserve to either Miranda or Marquinhos. The fourth spot is so up for grabs that we could end up with the weird situation of seeing the Selecao's most successful partnership in recent memory in terms of stats -- Silva and David Luiz -- as understudies.
Piggy in the middle
Even if you are a Liverpool supporter you'd have to give it to Philippe Coutinho: Despite being sidelined thanks to a mysterious and very convenient back injury, the Anfield man made Tite happy during this international break. He led the Selecao in a victory against Ecuador and gave the team more impetus against Colombia, both times coming from the bench.
But unless Jurgen Klopp really punishes him, Coutinho will be occupying the right side of the pitch in Tites' 4-1-4-1 system, in which Neymar pushes from the left and three holding midfielders watch the chickens. After two non-descript performances, Renato Augusto, one of Tite's initial stalwarts, seems to have been overtaken by Fernandinho, now the favourite to play alongside Paulinho under the careful eyes of Casemiro.
Roberto Firmino is very likely to play in Russia. But unless Gabriel Jesus really drops in form, it is also likely he will be the second option as a main striker. Given how short of options Brazil have had in the last few years in this department, the Selecao look spoiled for choice...for now.
Fernando Duarte is a U.K.-based Brazilian football expert who has reported on the Selecao for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @Fernando_Duarte.