Brazil play Peru in the Copa America final on Sunday evening – can Tite lead the Selecao to their first trophy in 12 years?
Brazil’s entertaining 2-0 semi-final win over arch-rivals Argentina maintained their impressive streak in this competition. That victory means Brazil are the top scorers in the tournament with 10 goals and they’ve yet to concede, with Tite’s defensive-focused approach yielding high performance levels.
All this has been achieved without Neymar, who has been cheering from the stands due to an injury problem that has forced the head coach to reshape his attack.
Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus have formed a great understanding in a flexible front two pairing – both scored and assisted each other in the win over Argentina.
Despite everything looking rosy for Brazil, head coach Tite’s position is reportedly under threat even if they land this trophy.
The Brazilian federation has since voiced its support for the coach but a possible move to China is on the table. Key midfielder Casemiro wants the coach to stay.
“He has won a lot of national and international titles, and he is a victor,” he said.
“He’s a coach who has been in the position for three years and has won more than 80 per cent (actually 78.05 per cent).
“Tite is in our heads to be mentally strong, not to destabilise us.
“He has a great success in this, to make the team concentrate and not to fall in the trap of the opponents, to let them provoke us, so people do not fall for it.”
One more giant-killing?
Peru – a surprise package – haven’t won this tournament, nor made the final since 1975. Can they cause an upset and end 44 years of hurt?
Recent form between the teams wouldn’t give you much hope. Brazil hammered Peru 5-0 in their final group match, although that was a bit of a dead rubber considering Peru already had four points and were practically through to the knockout stages.
However, Los Incas have since kept clean sheets in each of their subsequent two games, beating Uruguay on penalties after a 0-0 in the quarter-finals, before putting in a majestic showing to ease past champions Chile 3-0 in the semis.
Peru’s Argentinian coach Ricardo Gareca is confident his side can put in one last massive performance.
“When you make it to the final, you have to try to win it. There’s no other option,” he said.
“We reached the final thanks to our own merits. This group is very strong. I think that’s the key. It has the strength to overcome adversities.
“We have the players to do it. We are peaking right now. If I had to choose a time to make it to the final, it would be now.
“But we know that it will be difficult against Brazil no matter how we are playing.”
Team news: Willian missing, Richarlison in doubt
Tite is likely to name the same XI that punished Argentina, but Filipe Luis could replace Alex Sandro at full-back if he’s back to full fitness after an issue with his thigh. Brazil do have some injury concerns with their squad players as Willian pulled a hamstring muscle in the win over Argentina while Richarlison is still recovering from mumps. Fernandinho is still carrying a knock from earlier in the tournament.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has been suffering with back pain but the 26-year-old is set to play with the hope of making it nine straight clean sheets for club and country.
Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho and Everton will play as the attacking foursome.
Meanwhile, Peru lost Jefferson Farfan to a knee injury earlier in the tournament but that remains their only injury concern with no changes expected to the side that started their semi-final.
Peru have now been semi-finalists in three of the last four editions of the Copa America, yet this is their first final appearance for 44 years.
Ricardo Gareca’s men were extremely fortunate to get passed Uruguay in the quarter-finals with La Celeste having three goals ruled out as well as missing some glorious chances.