Brazil coach Tite has hit back at criticism of his players’ dancing goal celebrations in their FIFA World Cup win over South Korea, dismissing suggestions they showed a lack of respect.
The tournament favourite produced some carnival football as it crushed the Koreans 4-1 on Monday and celebrated its goals with choreographed moves, while even Tite himself joined in at one point.
The celebrations divided opinion outside Brazil and the dancing by Neymar and his teammates has been one of the main talking points going into Friday’s quarterfinal clash with Croatia in Doha.
“This is not my national team. It is the Brazilian national team for which I have responsibility as coach,” Tite said when asked about the celebrations at a press conference on Thursday.
“I am sorry for people who don’t know the history and culture of Brazil and our way of being.”
The 61-year-old, who is at his second World Cup as Brazil coach and is set to step down at the end of the tournament, hinted that he was not comfortable joining in the dancing but admitted he wanted to have a connection with his players.
“I am 61 and these players could almost be my grandsons but I have a connection with them,” he said.
“If I have to dance I will dance, although I will do so subtly and I asked them to hide me. It is not my way.”
The pressure on Brazil’s new generation of stars is enormous as they look to win the World Cup for a record-extending sixth time, two decades after the Selecao last lifted the trophy in Japan in 2002.
The question now is whether they can continue to play with the joy they displayed against South Korea as the tournament in Qatar reaches the business end, but Tite said it was all about the personality of his players.
“It is the identity of Brazilian football and of the generation that has emerged,” said the veteran coach, who won the Club World Cup in charge of Corinthians a decade ago.
“We give them the confidence so they can go out and produce their best. These are the characteristics of our players, but beyond that pressure, you need courage to play this way.”
While Neymar and full-back Danilo returned from ankle injuries to play against South Korea, Brazil has been sweating on the fitness of Alex Sandro for the meeting with Croatia.
The Juventus left-back has missed the past two games in Qatar with a muscle injury.
“It looks unlikely that he will play because he has not yet done enough work on the training ground,” Tite admitted, adding that a decision would be taken after Thursday’s session.
If Alex Sandro cannot play, Danilo will continue at left-back, with Real Madrid’s Eder Militao, usually a centre-back, again filling in on the right.