Saturday 22 September 2018

After tears of pride, Brazil hope to avoid a fall against Serbia

Willian looks set to keep his place. Photo: Reuters
Willian looks set to keep his place. Photo: Reuters

Sam Wallace

They only need to avoid defeat to Serbia to go through to the second round, but as Brazil approach their last group game the pre-tournament confidence that their coach Tite had solved many of the problems evident at their home World Cup in 2014 are starting to fray.

It was not just the look-at-me tears at the end of the Costa Rica win from Neymar or the injury to Dani Alves before the tournament that deprived them of one the key figures in their team.

On top of all that, Tite is now looking at juggling his current resources to make up for shortcomings across the team where some of the big names are not performing and the challenge of taking just a point off the Serbs has forced Brazil to assess some of their weaknesses.

One of them is at right-back where the Corinthians player Fagner has deputised after the injury to Danilo but his relatively small stature makes him a concern for the Brazilians who recognise they are up against the threat posed by a taller and more physical Serb starting XI.

Another concern is Willian who was thought to be in danger of losing his place to Renato Augusto but will stay in the side now, with the team likely to be the same that beat Costa Rica.

Although all these concerns pale in comparison with the hope that Neymar is in the right frame of mind to do the business now and at in the later rounds of the tournament.

Tite defended his star player in his press conference at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow yesterday although as ever there are suggestions that Neymar operates under different set of rules.

The team have been based in Sochi, once the Soviet Union's "summer capital" on the Black Sea, which went into decline in the 1990s before the huge investment of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The players' families have been staying in a hotel nearby, including Neymar's father Neymar senior and his girlfriend Bruna Marquezine.

Having come back from a fractured metatarsal in February, there are doubts as to whether Neymar can carry the team again but Tite said he should not be expected to do so.

"There is an excessive responsibility (on Neymar) in terms of success and that is not the way to go, and the coach is not going to do that," he said.

"Each one of us has our own responsibility. We should not place it all on his shoulders, the whole group will solve it. Can he do it? Of course he can, in some circumstances, yes.

Maybe we need one more match and he will be in his full form physically and technically, having his full potential, because he is outside the normal standards."

Tite also said that he too had wept, like Neymar, after the team beat Costa Rica.

"I cried because I was happy and satisfied - that is our emotional characteristic.

"I cried of pride and pleasure in a moment of so much pressure to be able to play a great match.

"I am showing the other side, of a coach who also has his feelings and understands that reason and emotion have to be balanced, and adjusted."

Tite is unlikely to have Douglas Costa back from injury unless the team reach the final and perhaps not even then.

Yet before that Brazil face a potential second round meeting in Samara with their old rivals Germany, whom they lost that infamous Maracana semi-final to 7-1 in 2014. That would certainly focus minds on past embarrassments.

"We mustn't think that a moment of emotion is a sign of emotional imbalance," Tite said.

"I understand that there has to be a balance between reason and emotion, and there is a moment when you need ice, calm and lucidity."

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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