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Emotional Neymar breaks down as Brazil coach Tite defends him

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Neymar has understandably been the subject of countless scrutiny and rumors since his extravagant and shocking move to Paris Saint-Germain.

These rumors are getting to him.

The penalty kerfuffle with Edinson Cavani has boiled over into whispers of his full-on dissatisfaction in Paris, and a failure to mesh with the squad. There are rumblings that he is unhappy in Paris, just months after completing his switch from Barcelona.

The latest talk is that, upon reuniting with former Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez in a visit to Barcelona’s training facility, he asked those around him if they would “accept him back.”

When asked about those rumors at his most recent press conference on international duty with Brazil, Neymar was obviously defensive about his personal feelings. “I am doing well, happy and very motivated to win with PSG and to be a player who gives his all on the pitch,” he said. “And that has been making the [journalists] uncomfortable. They are making up a lot of stories that just are not true.”

But his true colors came through on Friday when Brazil national team coach Tite took to defend his player.

“People always said I had problems with Neymar,” Tite said as Neymar began to get emotional. “We are sick of hearing that. I can say he has personality and character. We are not perfect, we are human beings. Sometimes we react in the wrong way. I did that in my career. But we have to be careful when we talk about people’s character and nature. I can talk about Neymar’s character, nature, and big heart.”

Eventually, Neymar couldn’t hold it in any longer, and he excused himself from the press conference abruptly.

Whether he’s unhappy or not, on the field it hasn’t shown. Through 12 matches across all competitions, Neymar has a whopping 11 goals and nine assists. He is scoring a goal every 98 minutes, a gaudy number.

Tite selects blasts from past for Brazil roster

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Brazil manager Tite has picked his roster for a pair of qualifiers against Bolivia and Chile, and there are a few familiar names not heard from of late.

Most notably, 33-year-old Fred has been called in, his first call-up since the 2014 World Cup. Also brought in is 32-year-old Diego Tardelli, who has 14 career caps and last saw time in the 2015 Copa America. Tardelli is playing in China with Shandong Luneng. Tite also recalled another 32-year-old in Flamengo midfielder Diego, who has not seen the field for Brazil since 2008. Diego was called up back in March but was an unused substitute in both World Cup qualifiers.

26-year-old Danilo was also called in, after starting the season brightly for Manchester City. He has 16 previous caps for Brazil and one goal, and has started the Premier League season by appearing in all for City games, with one assist.

Not on the roster is Chelsea defender David Luiz, who has not played in a competitive match for Brazil since March of 2016. Neither was former Chelsea midfielder Oscar who has just returned from suspension with Chinese club SIPG. He has nine assists in 16 Chinese Super League appearances this season.

Brazil has already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, sitting 10 points above the rest of the table.

BRAZIL ROSTER

GK: Alisson (Roma), Cassio (Corinthians), Ederson (Manchester City).

DEF: Danilo (Manchester City), Miranda (Inter Milan), Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Daniel Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Jemerson (Monaco), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid).

MID: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea), Arthur (Gremio), Diego (Flamego), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk).

FWD: Diego Tardelli (Shandong Luneng), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (PSG), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).

Tite: Brazil would have benefited from playing Confed Cup

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KAZAN, Russia (AP) Coach Tite says it would have been good for Brazil to be playing in the Confederations Cup to give himself and his players more experience going into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Joachim Low wants clarity on Russia doping claims ]

Tite made the comments before watching Portugal play Chile in Kazan in the semifinals of the eight-nation World Cup warm-up event on Wednesday. He is in Russia to watch the tournament’s final stages and scout possible training bases for Brazil during next year’s tournament.

“I would have wanted to play in the tournament because it would have allowed me to have more time to work with the team, to get to know the adversities, the different situations that we will have to face,” Tite said. “It would have been important to be here.”

Tite has only coached Brazil for 11 games as coach, with 10 wins and a loss to Argentina in a friendly this year.

Brazil was the first team other than host Russia to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

He said he sees the Confederations Cup as a valid tournament, although it might need some changes to its format in the future.

“It’s an important competition in its broad context,” Tite said, adding that he would choose to play in the competition even if he couldn’t bring his top players.

Brazil intends to set up its World Cup base in Sochi, but details have not been finalized yet.

“The priority will be quality and privacy so we can do our work,” Tite said.

The coach said he supports the video review system because it brings “justice” to the game.

“It looks to me a little bit old-fashioned to be talking about technology,” he said. “It seems so natural to me. What will have to be done? Adjustments, yes. In the end (of the tournament), to have a situation analyzed more quickly. ”

Tite said he has been “following the news” about doping allegations in soccer, but won’t be reaching any conclusions until “there’s any evidence” about what really happened. He said that anyone found guilty must be heavily sanctioned to guarantee the game’s integrity.

Tite also said Brazil is considering a friendly against Russia.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

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

Brazil names squad to face trauma and Messi in WC qualifiers

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil not only faces Argentina in World Cup qualifying next month but also the ghost of the 7-1 debacle against Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, coach Tite said on Friday.

Brazil plays Lionel Messi’s side in the same Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on Nov. 10. Five days later, Brazil is in Peru.

[ MORE: Neymar signs new deal ]

“The psychological work has been perfectly placed. We have to see that two years have passed. That time has brought us maturity,” Tite said at his squad announcement. “It is the same stadium, but we have to know that this is a different moment.”

There were few changes to the squad, which features the return of Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa and Real Madrid defender Marcelo after injuries, and the absence of Chelsea midfielder Oscar.

Tite started out with convincing victories against Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Venezuela, which lifted Brazil from sixth position in South American qualifying to first. But his dream of coaching the five-time world champion will seem more real, he said, when they meet fifth-place Argentina and Messi.

“I am living a dream that every Brazilian coach has. To be in a Brazil v Argentina is a great honor,” he said. “To face Messi and all his virtues is such a challenge.”

Brazil:

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Weverton (Atletico Paranaense), Alex Muralha (Flamengo).

Defenders: Dani Alves (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo).

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Giuliano (Zenit St. Petersburg), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos), Willian (Chelsea).

Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Neymar (Barcelona), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).