Brazil Copa favourites, even sans Neymar, says Casemiro - GulfToday

Brazil Copa favourites, even sans Neymar, says Casemiro

Brazil-Coach

Brazil coach Tite addresses his team during training at the Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo on Thursday. Reuters

Star forward Neymar’s injury absence changes nothing for Brazil at the Copa America, midfielder Casemiro said on Thursday, insisting that the hosts must triumph come what may.

Neymar will miss the South American showpiece after injuring ankle ligaments last week in the Selecao’s penultimate warm-up friendly.

His injury came as the Paris Saint-Germain forward faced accusations from a Brazilian model that he sexually assaulted her in a hotel in the French capital.

“Regardless of the competition we’re in, Brazil are favorites and must win,” Casemiro said ahead of Friday’s tournament opener against Bolivia in Sao Paulo. “Without a doubt, even without Neymar — Brazil’s main star — we’re still very strong,” the Real Madrid player added.

Brazil are aiming for a ninth Copa America success and have claimed victory on all four previous occasions as hosts: in 1919, 1922, 1949 and 1989.

But they haven’t lifted the trophy since 2007 when winning for a fourth time in five editions from 1997.

“We cannot hide from that responsibility,” said coach Tite.

“We know that we have to build step by step for the title.”

And while he admitted that it was a blow to be missing “one of the best three in the world,” he said that the squad is not thinking about Neymar’s absence.

“When it comes to us, we talk more about Neymar here (in press conferences) that there in (training.) We talk about preparation as a whole,” Tite told reporters at the Morumbi stadium where Brazil will play minnows Bolivia.

“We know it’s going to be a tough match, we know how Bolivia play,” said Casemiro of Brazil’s first Group A opponents. “They’re very well organized, particularly defensively.”

Brazil warmed up for the tournament with victories last week over Qatar (2-0), who will make their Copa America debut as invitees on Sunday, and Honduras (7-0).

Tite’s squad are hoping to erase the painful memories of their crushing disappointment five years ago when hosting the World Cup. A 7-1 semi-final humbling at the hands of Germany put paid to their hopes of landing a first global crown since 2002.

Meanwhile, Japan plan on displaying their “strength” at the Copa America when the Blue Samurai make their second appearance as guests in a tough Group C alongside champions Chile, coach Hajime Moriyasu said on Thursday.

“I’m really looking forward to playing in the Copa America, it’s one of the highest level tournaments in the world,” the coach told reporters in Sao Paulo. “How can we show our strength and which way we play, that’s what we want to find out in this tournament,” the coach of the Asian Cup runners-up added.

Japan may not be amongst the favorites but Moriyasu insisted his players have arrived in Brazil with a winning mindset.

“We will play in order to win the title, but first and foremost for us is to play game by game and do our best in each, then think of the next one,” the 50-year-old coach underlined.

Previously, Moriyasu had announced that the Copa America would serve as a warm-up for the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo next year.

They begin their Group C challenge at the Morumbi stadium against the two-time reigning champions, who can boast the likes of Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United.

An “ecstatic” Football Federation Australia meanwhile on Friday said playing next year’s Copa America will be a boost on the pitch and off it after accepting an invite to the showpiece South American tournament.

Alejandro Dominguez, president of South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL, confirmed Australia’s involvement in Sao Paulo overnight, with Asian champions and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar also invited.

“We are ecstatic that our Socceroos will be participating in this prestigious competition for the first time in our history,” said FFA chairman Chris Nikou.

“We have been working hard over the last six months to improve our international relationships.”

FFA chief executive David Gallop said playing the Copa America would be shot in the arm both for Australia’s players and commercial interests.

Agence France-Presse