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Brazil’s new coach: Bring on Germany, Italy and Spain

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil’s new coach is tearing up South American World Cup qualifying. In six matches in charge, Adenor Leonardo Bacchi – known universally as Tite (pronounced Chi-Chi) – has won all six.

Now he’s offering to challenge Europe’s best, including defending champion Germany, as the five-time World Cup winners prepare for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where they are likely to be among the favorites.

“Let’s play against Italy away,” Tite said Monday in a 35-minute interview with The Associated Press. “Spain, Germany, Portugal away.”

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Tite also mentioned playing England at Wembley, which he called “the temple of football.”

Tite, speaking in his modest office surrounded by TVs, a blackboard, and books, said he didn’t expect his team’s quick success. But now that it’s come and with Brazil not playing in next year’s Confederations Cup – the World Cup warmup – he must look elsewhere.

“Since we won’t play in the Confederations Cup to feel the heat, the adrenaline, we will try another way.” He said Brazil needs “to play away so we feel that weight. So we have a solid performance in different venues.”

Tite is certainly interested in Germany, which humiliated Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semifinals 2 + years ago in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.

“The first step is to play a friendly against them, wherever they want in Germany,” he said.

The European schedule could become a reality quickly. Brazil, which leads South American qualifying, could officially qualify for Russia in its next two qualifiers in March against Uruguay and Paraguay.

Brazil defeated Argentina 3-0 and Peru 2-0 in its last two qualifiers in November, and moved to No. 2 in the world rankings behind Argentina.

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Brazil has become less dependent on Barcelona star Neymar in the last few matches since Tite took over after Dunga was fired.

In the meantime, he has discovered several rising stars that have made Brazil a team – not a one-player show.

“If Brazil depends only on Neymar there will be a problem with Brazil, not with Neymar,” Tite explained. “Brazil needs the individual creativity of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Douglas Costa. But it needs the collective creativity that sometimes people don’t pay attention to.”

Tite also said that Neymar’s clash with Spanish tax authorities was “personal” though he added that there’s not much he can do about it.

Tite is counting on improvement from his No. 9, 19-year-old Gabriel Jesus, who is moving to Manchester City in January from Brazil club Palmeiras. He expects him to be as good in Europe as he’s been in Brazil.

“His level of performance will be very similar, with some tactical adjustments, of course,” Tite said.

Asked about investigations into CBF President Marco Polo del Nero, who has been indicted by U.S. authorities for corruption, Tite said “those responsible are the ones that have to pay.”

He declined to say more, but last year he signed a petition asking for Del Nero to resign.

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Tite will be on the road in the next few days. On Thursday he is off to Spain to see Barcelona play Real Madrid. A big believer in scouting his players, he also expects to watch Brazilian players at Paris Saint-Germain.

The former coach of Sao Paulo club Corinthians, Tite is also a student of the game. He is reading former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, and the copy already is full of footnotes and notations.

But his main inspiration is Bayern Munich’s coach Carlo Ancelotti, who allowed him to be an observer in 2014 at Real Madrid.

“Ancelotti’s teams are more balanced,” Tite said. “It’s a more Italian defense and creativity from the midfield forward. I admire his work and also his discreet profile. I am also like that.”

When he is not working, Tite clings to his family in Rio. His son Matheus is one of his key scouts. And his wife Rose keeps him down to earth during their early morning walks.

He’s also thinking beyond the 2018 World Cup. But he suggested nothing will be as exciting as the next 19 months.

“I am honestly making a dream come true,” he said. “Anything that comes after Brazil will not be bigger than this.”

Mauricio Savarese on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MSavarese . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mauricio-savarese

Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP .His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

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The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)

Report: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to contract demands

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While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the feel of the player most clearly destined to play in MLS since Thierry Henry, we might have to wait a little while longer before the 28-year-old Mexican international ditches Europe in favor of a return to North America.

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According to a report from ESPN FC on Thursday, Hernandez is seeking an annual salary “way north of $10 million,” which would shatter the current record contract for an MLS player (Kaka — $7.2 million per year).

Hernandez has one more season left on his contract with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. During the summer of 2018 he’ll be available for any club in the world to sign on a free transfer. With Los Angeles FC, the team Hernandez has reportedly been negotiating with for months now, set to debut in MLS in March 2018, chances are they’d like the centerpiece of their squad (and the largest annual investment in MLS history) to be involved on opening day, thus a fee will be required, very likely pushing the club’s total investment (salary plus fee) into the neighborhood of $50 million.

[ WATCH: Giovani dos Santos’ jaw-dropping volley vs. MIN ]

You can see pretty quickly why LAFC might balk at such demands.

With that said, 1) LAFC shouldn’t be surprised by this recent development, given Hernandez’s otherworldly allure within the LA market; 2) to piggyback on no. 1, a player should be paid every cent he’s worth to the club, on and off the field, and there might not be a player in the entire world (this side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) who’d make LAFC a bigger hit in LA from day one.

Enrique “more than satisfied” with Barca tenure, eyes one more trophy

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique is finally saying goodbye to Barcelona, with one last chance at a trophy.

The Luis Enrique era in Barcelona ends after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday, when the coach could cap his three-year stint with a ninth trophy out of a possible 13.

It would be a fitting farewell for him nearly three months after his surprise announcement that he was leaving.

“It would be a special title,” Luis Enrique said.

The former Barcelona midfielder has won nearly everything as the coach, since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014.

He led the team to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2015. He achieved the league-Copa double in 2016, and began this season with the Spanish Super Cup title, their only trophy so far.

It hasn’t been Luis Enrique’s best season with Barcelona, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid last weekend.

“I’m happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I’ve enjoyed with this club,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said.

He announced in March he was leaving so he could get some rest.

“I came here to be a leader and I’ve been one. I’m leaving when I think it’s the best time to do it.”

His other titles included the 2015 European Super Cup and the 2015 Club World Cup.

Barcelona has yet to lose a Copa del Rey home-and-away series since he took over, a run of 12 straight triumphs.

“We are all thankful for these three years (with Luis Enrique),” captain Andres Iniesta said. “We have to win one last title to finish the best possible way.”

Barcelona has been in the Copa final in seven of the last nine seasons, including the last four. It has won it a record 28 times, including the last two.

Alaves will be playing in the final of a major tournament for only the second time in its 96-year history. The other was the UEFA Cup 16 years ago, when it lost to Liverpool 5-4 in extra time.

Alaves’ only winner’s trophy is for Spain’s second division. It was a promoted club in Spain’s top division this season after 10 years in the lower divisions, including four in the third tier. It finished ninth in the Liga.

Alaves enters the Copa final boosted from having beaten Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at the beginning of the season.

The coach touted to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona is Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao this week. An official announcement is expected next week.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

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Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

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Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.