The 2002 world champions arrive at the World Cup in Russia as one of the favourites. In truth, in the build-up to any major tournament that Brazil is competing in, they tend find themselves among the favourites.
The five-time World Cup winners have a habit of producing some of the world’s best players decade after decade, so it’s no surprise that the current Brazilian team is filled with immensely talented players.
Due to this, head coach Tite has a number of key personnel decisions to make ahead of his country’s first game of their World Cup campaign. Perhaps the hardest decision the Brazilian manager faces is: who will start up front? Will it be Roberto Firmino, or Gabriel Jesus?
Why Roberto Firmino?
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Roberto Firmino comes into the World Cup on the back of his best season yet. The Brazilian forward scored an astonishing 26 goals in all competitions and assisted a further 14. At club side Liverpool, he partners Sadio Mane and Mohamad Salah in a front three playing a deeper false nine role. The fluidity of the reds attack means he often finds himself interchanging positions with his fellow forwards.
Firmino, as well as an outstanding offensive talent, is also capable of leading the defensive charge from the front, pressing defenders high in their own half. This is accentuated by the fact that Firmino was the only player to make 60+ tackles and create 50+ chances in the Premier League last season.
Julian Nagelsmann, the head coach of Firmino’s former club Hoffenheim described him as “one of the top five strikers in the world,” (via Goal) and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry labeled Firmino “the most complete striker in the [Premier] League.”
Why Gabriel Jesus?
Gabriel Jesus is more of an out and out striker than Roberto Firmino. The Manchester City forward scored thirteen goals in just nineteen starts and ten substitute appearances in the Premier League, and four goals in nine Champions League appearances.
Gabriel Jesus is also – incredibly – still just 21 years old; five years younger than Roberto Firmino. The long-term outlook is one that coach Tite has to take into consideration.
The strongest case for Gabriel Jesus is that he seems to be favoured by Brazil’s coach Tite. He
has started Brazil’s last eight games, scoring five goals in the process.
Who will start?
Although Roberto Firmino has done enough to justify the starting spot, Gabriel Jesus will likely start for Brazil in the first game against Switzerland. His form has been good in the build-up to the tournament, therefore it is expected that Tite will place his trust in the young Manchester City forward.
However, Firmino will be given a chance off the bench, and if he performs, he could dislodge Jesus from the starting XI.
The question of who is Brazil’s first choice striker is one that’s not clear, which can only be a good thing for the Selecao. Both Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus are going to be doing everything they can to perform at their highest levels in Russia, and that’s exactly what Brazil fans will want as they look to bring the World Cup back home for the sixth time.
Brazil play their first game at the World Cup against Switzerland on the 17th of June, followed by two further group games against Costa Rica and Serbia.