SAO PAULO (AP) — Under pressure after two lackluster performances by Brazil in the Copa America at home, coach Tite is expected to make changes to his squad ahead of its final group game this weekend.
Brazil faces Peru on Saturday in Sao Paulo needing at least a draw to guarantee a place in the next round. Few doubt Brazil will make it through, as the Selecao can advance even with a loss, but only a convincing performance will satisfy the demanding Brazilian fans and relieve some of the pressure on Tite.
The coach did not say who will start on Saturday but hinted he will not keep the same team from the first two games.
“We have several athletes with different characteristics,” Tite said on Friday. “Each one can help in different ways depending on the match.”
The coach’s main changes are expected in the attack, which has been the team’s primary weakness.
David Neres, Richarlison, and Roberto Firmino, the trio that started the first two matches, are yet to score. In the 3-0 opening win against Bolivia a week ago, Brazil had two goals from Philippe Coutinho and one from substitute Everton. The second match was 0-0 against Venezuela on Tuesday.
“We need to improve our precision in attack, we acknowledge that,” Tite said. “We know that we need to be able to translate our superiority into goals.”
Brazil entered the tournament without Neymar because of an ankle injury, and none of the other forwards have been able to make up for his absence. Neymar was dropped from the squad before the tournament but showed up at the team’s hotel on Friday to visit his teammates and support the team.
Tite, who on Thursday completed three years as Brazil coach, said after the team’s World Cup elimination last year he regretted taking too long to make changes to the squad, and that this time he would not make the same mistake.
Brazil was jeered in both Copa America matches and many of the boos were aimed at Tite when he substituted defensive midfielder Casemiro with another defensive midfielder, Fernandinho, against Venezuela despite the team’s inability to create scoring chances.
The fans wanted him to use Everton, who played well coming off the bench in both games and is the player most likely to earn a starting spot against Peru. The quick forward helped open up the opponent’s defense, allowing Brazil to improve and create more scoring opportunities.
The other possible player to get a chance is Gabriel Jesus, who has also come off the bench twice. The Manchester City forward wasn’t as effective as Everton, but did help improve the attack. He found the net in the second half against Venezuela, but the goal was disallowed after video review.
Neres had decent performances playing in Neymar’s position, but it was Coutinho who many felt should have taken over the leading role. Coutinho also had a goal disallowed by video review against Venezuela, but despite his decisive scores against Bolivia his performances have been below expectations.
Fernandinho didn’t practice with the rest of the squad on Friday because of a right knee ailment and will not play on Saturday. Midfielder Arthur also practiced separately on Thursday because of a foot injury, but he was back with the rest of the team on Friday and is likely to be available against Peru.
Brazil and Peru are tied at the top of Group A with four points, two more than third-place Venezuela. Bolivia has no points after two matches. Venezuela and Bolivia meet in Belo Horizonte on Saturday.
Peru eliminated Brazil from the 2016 Copa America with a 1-0 win in the final match of their group, handing Brazil its first group-stage elimination in the tournament since 1987.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni