Brazil can already start planning for Russia as Tite's golden reign continues
The second of South America's World Cup qualification campaign has flown by in the space of two and a half months -- two rounds in September, two more last month and another couple now. It is very interesting to glance at the table as it was then, after six games, and compare it with now, after 12.
The similarities are striking. Almost everyone is in the same position, or very close to it. There are only two exceptions; Argentina have fallen from third to fifth -- which shows the importance of Tuesday's win over Colombia, because they would have been a place lower with any other result.
Then there is the case of Brazil, who were down in sixth, and now find themselves with a clear lead at the top of the table. Given that in previous campaigns a total of 28 points has always been good enough to secure an automatic qualifying slot, now that Brazil have reached 27 with six games still to come, it would seem fair to assume that they can make solid plans to travel to Russia for the 2018 World Cup -- and on current form they can carry with them realistic hopes of coming back with the trophy.
The King Midas reign of coach Tite moves on. The 2-0 win away to Peru was the sixth out of six, with 17 goals scored and just one -- an own goal -- conceded.
Brazil's boss will be delighted with the way this latest victory was achieved. Buoyed by last Thursday's stunning second-half comeback against Paraguay, when they swapped a 1-0 deficit for a 4-1 triumph, Peru took the field full of confidence. Brazil had to work for their win. The Selecao needed to establish control before they could press home an advantage in the second half.
True, there was a modicum of luck about the opening goal, coolly steered home by centre-forward Gabriel Jesus shortly before the hour. It was a little fortunate that a loose ball ran to him in the penalty area. Then again, it was proof of the old adage that the harder a team works, the luckier it can get.
Brazil in recent years have usually had a devastating counter-attack. They still do, but under Tite they have added so much more. There is now much more controlled possession, and, increasingly there are little variations that can make a difference.
This time, early in the game, Tite swapped round his central midfielders Paulinho and Renato Augusto. He had done the same thing against Argentina last Thursday, but with slightly different intentions. In that game, the main aim was to reinforce Brazil's man-marking by getting Paulinho to drop and give Fernandinho a hand.
Against Peru, this was also an objective -- Fernandinho picked up a knock in the early stages and needed a few minutes to run it off. But there was also the aim of moving Renato Augusto wide on the right, where Brazil's midfield organiser could find space and combine outside the two defensive midfielders in Peru's 4-2-3-1 formation. Having him on the right also made it easier for Philippe Coutinho to wander infield.
All of this was key to Brazil taking the lead. Renato Augusto played infield, and Coutinho's driving dribble into the penalty area tied up four Peruvian defenders. One of them laid a tackle, but so many had been drawn across that there was no one close enough to Gabriel Jesus, and the young centre-forward had plenty of space to pick his spot.
The breakthrough goal, then, came in the context of a tactical plan. It would, though, clearly have been interesting to see what would have emerged had Peru enjoyed a little bit of good fortune on the two moments they threatened the Brazil goal.
In the first few minutes, Andre Carrillo played a one-two with Cristian Cueva and got in behind Daniel Alves, Brazil's right-back. A right-footed player, Carrillo had to open up his body to shoot towards the far corner. He could not do it quite enough, and his shot glanced away off the post. And then, shortly after Brazil took the lead, there was panic in their defence from a Peru corner. Keeper Alisson could only push it out onto the head of Peru centre-back Cristian Ramos, and the ball rolled narrowly wide of the far post.
A largely enthralling game would have been even more fascinating with a Peru goal because, as Tite is well aware, his swashbuckling, enchanting, victorious Brazil team have yet to be placed under the microscope. The true test for any team comes when it goes a goal behind -- not a situation that Tite's Brazil have so far had to confront.
It will inevitably happen one day. How will they react? Some of the side are given to attacks of petulance. Can they keep their discipline and tactical focus under scoreboard pressure?
This is something for Brazil to think about. But it is a lovely problem to have. Tite and his coaching staff can already ponder on how the team will cope with the demands of a World Cup. When he took over, the burning question was whether or not Brazil would qualify.
Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.