Friday 20 July 2018

Tite declares himself ‘at peace’ after Brazil find their rhythm against Serbia

Serbia coach congratulates Brazil on their deserved win but declines to reveal what he said to Neymar after a theatrical roll along the touchline.

Neymar enjoyed his best game so far at Russia 2018 but still managed to annoy some with his play-acting (Tim Goode/Empics)
Neymar enjoyed his best game so far at Russia 2018 but still managed to annoy some with his play-acting (Tim Goode/Empics)

By Matt Slater, Press Association Chief Sports Reporter, Moscow

Brazil coach Tite said he would have a Caipirinha on the plane back to the team base in Sochi on Thursday night after his side booked their place in the last 16 with a 2-0 win over Serbia.

Paulinho and Thiago Silva provided the goals at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium but this was by far the most complete team performance Brazil have turned in at Russia 2018 so far.

Speaking to reporters after the match, the 57-year-old said: “I am at peace and I will definitely have a drink tonight, a Caipirinha.”

Asked how he felt about the bookmakers reacting to Germany’s shock exit earlier on Thursday by making Brazil the clear favourites to win Russia 2018, Tite said: “We don’t live off expectations, we live off reality – we are getting better.”

He had much more to say about how his team has developed in the two years he has been in charge, how hard he finds it to leave such great players as Manchester City’s Fernandinho or Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino on the bench or the perils of reading too much into match statistics – Tite is known for his rhetorical flourishes and he was in full flow here.

He did not, however, answer a question about how well Philippe Coutinho is playing at the moment, because he said he does not like to talk about individuals, or shed much light on the injury that saw Marcelo limp off after 10 minutes.

A team official, though, was able to explain that the Real Madrid defender had suffered a spasm in a muscle in his back. It is too early to tell if he will be unavailable for Monday’s last-16 game against Mexico in Samara.

Paulinho was named man of the match, largely for his willingness to run beyond Serbia’s defence and it was on one of those forays forward that he was found by Coutinho for Brazil’s first goal after 36 minutes.

A reporter asked the former Spurs man if his time in the Chinese Super League was crucial to his rebirth as a goal-scoring midfielder.

Paulinho is not as loquacious as his boss but said: “Leaving England for China was good for me because I regained my self-confidence – I played well there and helped the club. But I’m here because I worked hard and I deserve it.”

That was the overall assessment of Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, too.

“I would like to congratulate my opponent on their deserved win and congratulate on my team on the effort they put in and the way they fought,” he said.

“We were on the front foot until the goal but you’ve got to concentrate and this is how individual talent affects and changes games.

“In the second half we took more risks but we missed our chances. We tried to beat a powerhouse in football but came up short. It happens.”

And there was not much more that could be said about a contest that Serbia made a decent fist of, without ever really looking like they were going to cause another upset.

He was, however, asked what he said to Neymar when the Brazilian was fouled right in front of him on the touchline. It was undoubtedly a foul, and Adem Ljajic was booked for it, but Neymar rolled over five times.

“Ask Neymar,” grinned Krstajic, a no-nonsense defender as a player, before adding “I didn’t say anything untoward”.

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport