Tite’s Brazil under pressure to deliver first Copa America title since 2007

Brazil has won the Copa America eight times, albeit its last triumph came way back in 2007.

Tite took over Brazil in 2016, replacing Dunga, who was fired following Brazil's poor performance at the 2016 Copa America.

For a handful of heavyweights, last year's World Cup in Russia was a disappointment. First Germany was humbled by Asian side South Korea, before the Lionel Messi-led Argentinia was outclassed by France 4-3. Brazil, which has won the most number of World Cups (5), then lost 2-1 to a brilliant Belgium side in the last-eight, to bring the curtains down on another disappointing World Cup campaign.

Four years earlier, Brazil suffered a humiliating 7-1 loss against Germany in the semifinals at the Belo Horizonte. The result in Russia meant Brazil had been knocked out in the quarterfinals at three of the last four tournaments since winning the World Cup for the fifth time, in Japan in 2002.

It has been three years since Brazil last tasted glory. Three years ago, at the Rio Olympics 2016, Brazil beat Germany 5-4 on penalties to win the gold medal. The Selecao will strive for success in less than a month’s time, when it plays at home yet again, in the upcoming Copa America.

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Coach Tite named its 23-man squad last week, with the exclusion of senior player Marcelo raising eyebrows. Among the notable omissions were Tottenham Hotspur's in-form Lucas Moura and Liverpool midfielder Fabinho. Youngster Vinicius Jr. will not be involved owing to an injury, while Porto full-back Alex Telles is another notable absentee.

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Dejected Brazil supporters after Belgium defeated the Selecao 2-1 in the World Cup quarterfinal match in Russia last year.   -  Getty Images

 

However, Tite’s decision to hand the captain’s armband to star player Neymar hasn't gone down well. Edmilson, a former Brazil international, criticised the move saying, “It's a squad list where there are people with experience and who were already captains. In my opinion, this is not the ideal time to deliver the armband to Neymar, but the final decision is with Tite.”

The Paris Saint-Germain forward had another injury-hit campaign this year, but has returned to fitness in time for the 2019 continental tournament.  Neymar appeared to be affected by the burden of expectations at the World Cup last year, and expectations of him will, as always, be high when the eight-time Copa America winner gets its campaign underway.

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Tite, who has been at the helm since 2016, will be under pressure to deliver as well. He signed a new four-year contract in July last year despite the World Cup disappointment and winning a trophy will lift the confidence of everyone.

Brazil will prepare for the Copa America at the Granja Comary training ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, until June 4. The team will play two friendlies ahead of the tournament, against Qatar and Honduras, before it starts its Copa America campaign with a group game against Bolivia. Venezuela and Peru are the two other teams in its group.

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