Tuesday 25 September 2018

Willian defends Jesus amid calls to drop Brazil striker for Firmino

Willian answers questions during a Brazil press conference at Yug Sport Stadium, in Sochi. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Willian answers questions during a Brazil press conference at Yug Sport Stadium, in Sochi. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

James Ducker

Willian has jumped to the defence of Gabriel Jesus amid criticism of the Manchester City striker's lack of goals for Brazil at the World Cup.

Tite, the Brazil coach, is coming under pressure to drop Jesus and start Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino in the Selecao's quarter-final against Belgium in Kazan tomorrow night (7.0).

But Willian, who sidestepped questions over his future amid reports of Chelsea rejecting a £50 million (€57m) bid from Barcelona for the forward, gave his staunch backing to Jesus.

The 21-year-old has yet to score in Russia and watched Firmino come off the bench to claim Brazil's second goal in their 2-0, last-16 win over Mexico.

"He has the confidence of everyone around here," Willian said of Jesus.

"I hear people criticise him for not scoring but the work he does in marking and recovering the ball is brilliant. We trust him to continue with us. Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino are equally important."

Willian's Brazil team-mates Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho are at Barcelona but the Chelsea forward said he was not thinking about his future at this moment."

Rumours

"Paulinho and Coutinho are great players, and friends. I've heard about rumours linking me with a move but now is not the time to talk about it. My concentration is only on the Selecao," he said.

From a Belgian perspective, tomorrow's World Cup quarter-final against Brazil in Kazan is a defining game for their talented generation of players but don't call them 'golden', said defender Vincent Kompany yesterday.

"The term 'golden generation' is obviously one the players didn't come up with and it's not something we pay too much importance to," he said.

"The fact that the game against Brazil is defining for our generation is for sure, though. It's not like we've been failing up to now but there is a level above, which we need to achieve, which can be done by a game like the one we are playing against Brazil.

"So, it's a defining game, but not just for us, it's a defining game for Brazil as well. The players that they have - both teams deserve to be facing each other a little further in, in this tournament and not in the quarter-final.

"It used to be in Belgian culture, and I think everyone would agree with me, we would feel defeated even before a game like this but all these players in our team, who play at clubs around the world, now believe 100pc we can beat Brazil.

"Whether that's realistic I don't know, Brazil are an incredible team but there is not one day I go to bed thinking 'what if we lose'?"

Irish Independent

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