Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 30th 2017 Contents sports A61
Thursday, March 30, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Motivated Brazil becomes 1st to qualify
SAO PAULO—Less than three years
after the most humiliating loss in its
proud football history, a resurgent Bra-
zil has become the first team to qualify
for the World Cup in Russia.
With a convincing 3-0 victory over Par-
aguay on Tuesday and results going its way
elsewhere in South American qualifying, the
Brazilians ensured they’ll join host Russia
at the World Cup next year. Not bad for a
group filled with players who endured the
7-1 trashing by Germany in the 2014 World
Cup semifinal — a group many fans not long
ago treated with disdain.
The road to qualification was rocky in
the beginning, though. Dunga’s surpris-
ing appointment as head coach after Brazil
lost its home World Cup distanced many
fans. Frustration built after a quarterfinal
elimination to Paraguay at the 2015 Copa
Elimination in the group stage at Copa
America Centenario in the United States
in 2016 ended Dunga’s run as Brazil coach.
In that time, defeats gave popularity to
a new Brazilian saying every time some-
thing goes terribly wrong: “Every day is a
Brazil’s football confederation didn’t need
merely a successor for Dunga. It needed a
The most popular choice was Corinthians
coach Tite, who was overlooked after the
2014 World Cup debacle.
Tite was not in charge of the Brazil team
that won gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olym-
pics, with Neymar back in fine form, but his
advice was surely heeded. That title gave
Brazil some confidence back, players say.
When World Cup qualifiers resumed in
September last year, Tite’s team was ready
to dominate. A 3-0 win at Ecuador was fol-
lowed by a 2-1 home victory over Colombia
made Brazilians sure they were on the right
path. With the 3-0 victory over Argentina
in the same stadium where Brazil had been
humiliated against Germany, the coach’s
Brazil’s Neymar celebrates scoring his side’s second
goal against Paraguay during a 2018 World Cup
qualifying football match at the Arena Corinthians
Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday. Brazil won 3-0.
PHOTO: AP PHOTO
reputation was enhanced.
Results and style have become so impressive that
Brazil secured one of the top four South American
direct places at the World Cup with four matches
remaining in the qualifying tournament. It has become
a team to fear again, as adversaries such as Uruguay’s
coach Oscar Tabarez acknowledged. When Tite took
over, Brazil was sixth in the standings.
Now, the coach who made the contemporary Brazil
team more like the Brazil of old is in celebration mode.
“Thank you, my good God. I will have a caipirinha
this big,” the coach said, showing with his hands that
he wanted an extra-large drink.
Brazil no longer depends entirely on Neymar, and it
can play without its teenage target-man Gabriel Jesus
and still score many goals. The strong defense has
conceded only two goals in eight matches. There are
still weaknesses, including the lack of experience of
the coach against teams from outside South America
and the corruption scandals that affect its football
confederation. But the momentum is clearly wearing
“Everything changed,” winger Marcelo said. “You
can see the atmosphere, how much players are giving.
Everyone is working hard in each training, giving our
Under the new management, Brazil won eight
straight matches and secured 24 of its 33 points.
Second-place Colombia has 24 points total from its
Neymar is also different, more mature. In the 4-1
thrashing of Uruguay last Thursday, he gave the world
a moment of revelation. Before he scored Brazil’s third
goal, Neymar could have fallen in a challenge with
defender Coates, who had already been booked.
Instead of diving, though, the Barcelona star stayed
on his feet and netted the best goal of the night.
“There were many fouls on me,” Neymar said of
the Paraguayan defense. “But I don’t care anymore.
They can hit me as much as they want. It is the only
way they will stop me.”
Some of the veterans of that 7-1 loss to Germany
are key to Brazil’s success too. Wingers Dani Alves and
Marcelo and midfielder Paulinho are all starters. And
they want to avenge the humbling defeat.
“We are just getting started,” Paulinho said. “Ad-
versaries better watch out because Brazil is coming
with it all.” (AP)
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