RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s wealth of attacking options was highlighted when nine forwards were picked in the World Cup squad on Monday.
Neymar spearheaded the group of forwards including relative youngsters Vinicius Jr., Gabriel Martinelli and Rodrygo. Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, capped since 2014, missed out.
“There’s a generation of high-level athletes, they are bringing themselves here,” coach Tite said when asked why so many strikers were picked.
“There could have been other players and there are surely arguments for other players. These are just choices. Because of the team’s characteristics, we need aggressive players on the wings. And that’s how we have structured ourselves.”
Dani Alves, the 39-year-old former Barcelona right back, was also on the 26-man list. Alves, who played his last club match in September for Mexico’s Pumas, said he understood why some fans were not happy about his selection.
“I am not here to please everyone. We are here not to fail those who trust us,” Alves said in a video his staffers shared with reporters. “The effort, the dedication and the sacrifice have paid off.”
Tite said “the criteria for Dani Alves is recognizing individual skill, the physical and mental aspects.”
There were also eight defenders and six midfielders, not including 2018 World Cup player Philippe Coutinho, who suffered a quadricep injury in training with Aston Villa at the weekend.
Tite narrowed down the list from 55 players he and his staff had been monitoring since 2018 to try and win a record-extending sixth World Cup crown.
“We prioritized important players from the midfield to the attack, but keeping our balance is the team’s main idea,” Tite said. “To win at the highest level, we need to create and score. But that doesn’t mean our defensive strength is not key to win.”
In Qatar, Brazil will face Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G. Serbia and Switzerland were also in Brazil’s group four years ago in Russia, when the Brazilians lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals.
The squad will gather in Turin on Nov. 14. It will travel to Qatar five days later.
The 61-year-old Tite has already announced he will step down after the tournament after six years in charge. He said the last four of his six years on the job helped to develop more options for the team to meet the different styles of their opponents.
“There’s two ways for us to play. Either with two wingers or with Lucas Paquetá as a second midfielder,” Tite said. The latter would mean Brazil possibly attacking oppoents with two strikers in a more central position, inside the penalty box.
“I don’t believe in comfort zones, I believe in confidence zones, and that’s where we will be. We will give them confidence to play at a high level. What we won’t do is to ask players to take a role that they don’t take at their clubs.”
Neymar, a regular starter for four years, said on his social media channels he had “an unexplainable feeling” after hearing his name read out by Tite at the Brazilian Football Confederation.
“The time is now,” he said.
Asked whether Brazil can consider itself the favorite in Qatar, Tite said: “After four years of work, we get more consistent. . . . Brazil is, indeed, one of the favorites.”