Brazil coach Tite under pressure ahead of Copa America

Having too many players to choose from is a problem most coaches relish.

For Tite, it’s a problem he could do without.

The Brazil coach recently picked his squad for this year’s Copa America, and it unsurprisingly included Neymar and Thiago Silva — two of the national team’s most important players. But much of the criticism came in regard to those names that were missing.

“This is the most difficult list I had to make in my life,” Tite said after making his squad announcement for the tournament that starts on June 14 on home soil. “I didn’t sleep. My wife tried to help, but she couldn’t. I made those choices, but any of the others I didn’t pick would have fit, too.”

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There was no place in the squad for Lucas Moura, who scored a hat trick this month to help Tottenham pull off an incredible come-from-behind victory over Ajax and reach the Champions League final.

Nor was there a spot for Fabinho, who played a key role in Liverpool’s improbable 4-0 win over Barcelona, also to reach the Champions League final.

Even Willian, who has helped Chelsea reach the Europa League final despite no longer being a regular starter, was left off. As was Vinicius Jr., the young forward who made a splash with Real Madrid this season.

“It is the first time in a while that a Brazil list is a topic for debate. That is positive. We have great diversity, several alternatives for each position,” said former Barcelona defender Edmilson, a 2002 World Cup champion with Brazil. “But obviously some of these options need more time to mature, and that will only come by playing for Brazil. We will see a nice mix in Copa America.”

Still, 14 of the 23 members of the Copa America squad were on the national team at last year’s World Cup. Only seven survivors from the previous World Cup, which ended in the devastating 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals, were called for the South American tournament the following year.

Tite took over as Brazil coach in 2016 and quickly became something of a media star, his TV appearances mounting and his mistakes easily forgiven. But after a disappointing performance in Russia at the World Cup, which ended in a quarterfinal loss to Belgium, he is under pressure to deliver Brazil’s first Copa America title since 2007.

Another possible headache comes in the form of Neymar, the team’s most recognizable player.

Neymar was involved in an altercation with a fan after Paris Saint-Germain surprisingly lost in the French Cup final. He was suspended for three league games because of his actions, and Tite has said he has not yet decided if Neymar will continue to be the captain of the national team.

“I want to have a conversation with him first,” Tite said. “Not on the phone, personally.”

When Douglas Costa spit on a rival during a match in September, the Juventus winger was left out of friendlies against Argentina and Saudi Arabia, with Tite saying it was because of indiscipline.

But the Brazil coach also wants Neymar to be the leader of a group that includes both veterans and a new crop of youngsters, including Real Madrid defender Eder Militao, AC Milan midfielder Lucas Paqueta and Ajax striker David Neres.

Failing to win the Copa America title is rarely a reason for a coaching change in Brazil, but progress will be expected ahead next year’s World Cup qualifying.

Brazil will prepare for the Copa America at the Granja Comary training ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio, until June 4. The team will play two friendlies ahead of the tournament, against Qatar and Honduras.

Brazil is in Group A and will face Bolivia in the opening match in Sao Paulo. Venezuela and Peru are also in the group.

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