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How Brazil’s misfit midfield transformed their country into World Cup favourites

Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho have had to overcome footballing adversity to star for Brazil under Tite

Adversity.

If you were to pick a word to describe Brazil’s midfield trio and their route to the international stage it would be adversity.

Casemiro, Renato Augusto and Paulinho have all become Tite’s trusted midfield soldiers.


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Renato Augusto never strays far from Neymar

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Renato Augusto never strays far from Neymar

They’ve been the bodyguards for Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho as Brazil breezed through the notoriously tricky arm of South America’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

Injuries and loss of form aside, they are nailed to start together in Brazil’s first game out in Russia next summer.

But a few years ago they all looked lost.


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Making friends in high places

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Making friends in high places

Saved by Zizou

Were it not for Zinedine Zidane then Casemiro wouldn’t be playing for Real Madrid or Brazi.

He was loaned out by Carlo Ancelotti and unloved by Rafa Benitez but Zidane, who relied on Claude Makelele as a player, understood his importance.

Under Zizou Casemiro has transformed into an authoritative defensive midfielder who understands his role inside out and knows what he’s been put on the pitch to do.

Just like Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo had Gilberto Silva, Neymar and Coutinho have Casemiro.

The smiling assasin

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The smiling assasin

Laughed out of Spurs, chatted up by Lionel Messi

It’s become something of a cliche to talk about Paulinho’s time spent in north London, but there’s no getting away from the fact he was poor, and that’s being kind.

A spell in the Chinese Super League was meant to allow Paulinho to wind down his career while picking up an absolute fortune.

But while some players *cough Carlos Tevez cough* watched their waistline balloon quicker than their wallet, Paulinho used the sweltering conditions to improve his shape.

Lionel Messi wasted little time in telling Paulinho he was needed at Barca when Brazil played Argentina and what Lionel wants, Lionel gets.

No one can get close to Messi now Paulinho is in town

Reuters
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No one can get close to Messi now Paulinho is in town

Home and away

Getty - Contributor
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Home and away

Tite’s sticky tape

The final, and least glamorous, of Brazil’s trio is the most valuable to Tite.

Renato Augusto, who had an unspectacular four years at Bayer Leverkusen, is still out in the Chinese Super League, playing for Beijing Guoan.

Tite and Augusto spent four years together at Corinthians in which the midfielder earned his manager’s trust.

He might not do anything out of the ordinary but that’s because he’s got three of the most explosive players in world football ahead of him.

Life is a blur at the top

EPA
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Life is a blur at the top