‘He doesn’t deserve this’: Brazil plot for Switzerland test without Neymar | WC 2022

Casemiro had a confession. “I sometimes feel sorry for our opponents,” said Brazil’s Manchester United midfielder. – We have so many good players. Given that he wasn’t boasting or exaggerating but just being honest, it might seem surprising that Casemiro’s international manager Tite, his team-mate Marquinhos and Tite’s assistant César Sampaio devoted most of a 40-minute media briefing on Sunday to discussing an injured striker.

No prizes for guessing the man is Neymar, with question after question centered on how Brazil will fare without him against Switzerland on Monday and how the striker with 75 goals in 122 appearances for his country might be replaced.

Tite used many words to, engaging and learned, avoid answering both inquiries. “We have already decided the starting players, but we will only communicate it right before the game,” said the manager, who could not give a time frame for Neymar’s return from an ankle ligament injury, but expressed confidence that the player’s World Cup campaign was not over. “Football is about context and sometimes we have to be strategic,” he said. “We have to think outside the box, but we are very confident that we have the right replacement.”

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Marquinhos sat next to him and repeatedly referred to his manager as “the professor”. However, Tite kept much of his wisdom to himself. He only smiled when someone asked if the versatile and richly gifted Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimarães could fill Neymar’s number 10 role between Raphinha and Vinícius Júnior, and just behind Richarlison.

Tite was more forthcoming when asked if the referees should give more protection to Neymar, injured after a heavy challenge by Nikola Milenkovic during the opening Group G 2-0 win against Serbia. “If you want to celebrate football, you have to be aware of the mistakes,” said the 61-year-old. “They target specific players and this is the effect. It has to be stopped.”

Many Brazil fans want to see Real Madrid’s 21-year-old attacking prodigy Rodrygo fill the gap left by Neymar, but others would favor Lucas Paquetá from midfield.

“We can’t stop talking about Neymar,” Casemiro said. “It’s just how important he is to us. He is our biggest player, the difference for us, but we have many other very good players as well. Rodrygo, for example, lights up the eyes and delights everyone who sees him play.”

After picking an ultra-attacking starting XI against Serbia, Tite may go a bit more conservative at Stadium 974. Although Brazil remain strong favourites, Switzerland managed to hold the five-time World Cup winners to a 1-1 draw in their opening match at Russia 2018.

Neymar leaves the pitch with a swollen ankle after the win over Serbia.
Neymar leaves the pitch with a swollen ankle after the win over Serbia. Photo: Ali Haider/EPA

Their manager Murat Yakin has his own high caliber talent in the likes of creative catalyst Xherdan Shaqiri, midfielder Granit Xhaka and Yaoundé-born striker Breel Embolo, who scored in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Cameroon. .

While Embolo isn’t in Neymar’s league, it’s easy to find a player who runs his own charity foundation helping Swiss refugees and disadvantaged children in Cameroon infinitely more appealing than Brazil’s talisman. Many Brazilians have been outraged by Neymar’s very public support for the country’s far-right, polarizing and outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Breel Embolo

The opinion of those who claim that Tite’s team is often better balanced without Neymar, who has promised to dedicate his first goal to Qatar 2022 Bolsonaro, is often colored as much by politics as by tactics. “Neymar doesn’t deserve this,” Casemiro said. “He has a big heart.”

Tite, meanwhile, expressed regret that Danilo is also nursing an injured ankle. The manager declined to identify the Juventus defender’s replacement – although 39-year-old Dani Alves is widely expected to return at right-back – and indicated a degree of caution against Switzerland.

“They are different from Serbia,” he said. “They have very intelligent midfielders and strikers; we can still play offensively, but in a different way.”

When Sampaio began to speak, the narrative resumed a familiar theme. “Neymar is an extraordinary talent, obviously,” said Tite’s assistant. “But we can trust our other players; they are truly a gift to football. Neymar has the main role, but often, as we see with the films, someone who is not the main character steals the scene.”

Marquinhos agreed. “We wish we could have Neymar and Danilo with us,” said the PSG defender. “But the professor can confirm that the talented players we have will maintain our level. Switzerland will give us a run for our money but we can still seal our place in the last 16.”

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