Brazil's Tite says only wish is that his players have ‘joy to play’

Brazil boss Tite has a lot to smile about at the moment. (AP)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Brazil's Tite says only wish is that his players have ‘joy to play’

MOSCOW: Operation: Redemption in Russia. Four years after their humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in a long-awaited World Cup on home soil, Brazil will return to football’s grandest stage in June, refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to lay claim to a record sixth title.
Yet while lifting the trophy on Jul. 15 in Moscow would mark a remarkable recovery, it is not the sole objective of the man credited with resuscitating the flagging form of the architects of “o jogo bonito,” the beautiful game. 
Tite, an understated, under-the-radar kind of coach with grey hair, dark eyes and darker clothes, took the reins in June 2016, replacing Dunga after Brazil had crashed out of the Copa América at the group stage and were floating precariously in sixth place in South American qualifying. He had spent the previous year in Europe picking the brains of some of the world’s top coaches, including Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane, and within nine months of his appointment Brazil had become the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. 
When he sat down to speak to Arab News after the finals draw last weekend, he did so with an impressive record: 17 games, 13 wins, three draws and one defeat. Asked if he was concerned that his team might be peaking too soon given many of his players are employed in Europe where they will face a gruelling next six months, the pragmatic 56-year-old was unequivocal. 
“No, absolutely not,” he said. “And you know why? Because I do not know how far this team can go. If I get scared and put the brakes on, I will not know how far it can evolve. I’ve only had 17 games; half a season in domestic terms. I can challenge them to be better. I want Fernandinho to be better, that Casemiro is better, that Paulinho is better, Gabriel Jesus... What if this team has greater potential than now? To promise results and victories is a very small and shallow discussion. Everyone wants to win.”
If evidence is required of Tite’s philosophy, you need only look at the way in which his team wins. Brazil have started to rediscover their famous, free-flowing, flair-filled style. Under the former Corinthians coach, they have scored 38 goals and conceded just five. Or, to put it another way, they have conceded fewer goals in Tite’s entire 18-month tenure than Brazil conceded against Germany in 90 minutes in Belo Horizonte.
It is not a comparison that the coach would likely be comfortable with. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the manager in charge of the most embarrassing defeat in Brazil’s long and storied history, was Tite’s physical education teacher and later mentor. Tite, when asked if he has a plan to ensure that, unlike under Scolari in 2014 Brazil are not dependent on Neymar, he is quick to point to circumstance.
“The 7-1 does not serve as a parameter because there was neither Neymar nor Thiago (Silva, the captain) and there was a very inspired rival,” said Tite, who won the Copa Libertadores with Corinthians in 2012 and followed it up by defeating Chelsea in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. “But we’ll be ready. Think about the midfield of Brazil now — Casemiro, Paulinho, Renato (Augusto), Fernandinho, (Philippe) Coutinho — you can close your eyes and choose any three because of the quality they have. In attack: Willian, Douglas Costa, Gabriel Jesus, (Roberto) Firmino, Neymar. We have high-level options; a wider range of options.”
Last Friday’s draw in Moscow grouped Brazil alongside Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia, a solid yet unspectacular trio. However, while Tite will arrive in Russia in June presiding over one of the tournament favorites and placed in a group that he is obliged to top, he refuses to consider comfortable passage, citing Costa Rica’s surprise run to the quarter-finals in 2014 when they won a group containing Italy, England and Uruguay. 
David Beckham once said Brazilians play the same whether they are playing in the Bernabeu being watched by millions or on the beach with friends and family: With smiles and a sense of fun. Until Tite arrived, that joie de vivre had faded, but now it is not only back, but is the solitary goal demanded of the team next summer.
“In Russia, I only hope that the team can play the football it has presented in recent months,” he said. “I hope the players feel what it is to be an athlete of the Brazilian national team, can produce at a high level and be competitive, but at the same time have joy to play. If that happens, I’ll be extremely happy. Whether we win or not, I don’t know, but this is the only wish, the only demand, that I have.”
 


Brazil ace Fernandinho credits Dubai break with 'extraordinary' Manchester City victory

Fernandinho recieves words from his coach Pep Guardiola.
Updated 29 min 32 sec ago
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Brazil ace Fernandinho credits Dubai break with 'extraordinary' Manchester City victory

MANCHESTER: Fernandinho has revealed a Dubai break helped him recharge for a performance described by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola as “extraordinary.”
The Brazilian midfielder’s curling strike capped a superb display in the 5-0 win over Burnley on Saturday that helped keep the champions top of the Premier League.
But Fernandinho believes both he and his team can get even better under the new “special” one.
They face his former club Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday and the 33-year-old, who has not played for his country since their disappointing World Cup, says he feels fitter than ever.
“Yes, I don’t know (why),” he added. “When you are out of international duty you can forget just a little bit about football, spend more time with your family and clean your mind and your body. I think it helps a lot.
“I had a rest last week. I’ve been in Dubai for a week. I have had enough time to rest. I am happy because it’s good to be important especially in a (City) team like this with a lot of good and important players and we just need to go for it, to improve and get better all the time.
“It's good to hear something like this (being extraordinary) about you, especially when it comes from Pep. He's a special guy, a special manager and I'm so pleased for that especially after my performance.”
Fernandinho, who joined City from Shakhtar for £30 million ($38 million) in 2013, has been labelled a “key player” by Guardiola, who has had to start him more regularly after missing out on another defensive midfielder in Jorginho.
But the player does not think he is in the best form of his career.
“Not so far, not yet,” he said. “It was good (against Burnley), but I want to improve more, improve some details and get better to help the team.
“Maybe (this squad is stronger than last season). We have conceded less goals I think and that's a good point we have to take. And when we have the chance to play, especially at home, we create a lot of chances to score goals.
“I hope that we can improve more now because we cannot stop. We are just at the beginning of the season, just nine games, we have a long season ahead and I think from now until the end of the season we have to improve and get better and better. Otherwise, there's no point playing for City.”
Fernandinho is excited about a return to Shakhtar, a club where he won six league titles and the UEFA Cup during an eight-year spell.
City are a point behind Lyon in Group F, having lost to the French side at home, and need victory to stay ahead of the Ukrainian champions.
Fernandinho added: “The next two games against them is going to be decisive to see who goes through to the next stage. They are going to be key games for us.
“They have a good team, good players and we have to be careful and try to play the same way we are playing now. Of course it's a different competition, a different way to play from Burnley to Shakhtar. But we have to do what we have to do out on the pitch and try to win that game because it’s going to be very difficult.”