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Brazil can’t get by Panama in 1-1 friendly draw

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Brazil boasted Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Casemiro in the starting lineup, but it wasn’t enough to get past Panama in a 1-1 friendly draw in Portugal.

Lucas Paqueta scored just past the half-hour mark to put Brazil in front, but they were pegged back just four minutes later and never recovered, managing just four shots on target despite an enormous 78% possession.

The AC Milan youngster opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, meeting Casemiro’s deep cross at the far post after having snuck behind Michael Murillo. His shot was slowed by goalkeeper Luis Mejia but he couldn’t keep it out, instead deflecting it into the back of the net. It marks the first international goal for the 21-year-old at the senior level, a moment to savor.

That could have sent Brazil on their way as Panama could hardly find a touch, but set-pieces proved their undoing. On a free-kick from the middle-third, Eric Davis floated in a deep delivery down the middle that met the head of Adolfo Machado who lept to barely meet the ball. His contact was perfection, looping the ball over the head of Ederson and into the top-left corner.

The match is Brazil’s first since they fell to Belgium in the knockout round of the World Cup, and it was used in part as an experiment, especially at the back. Regular defensive starters Thiago Silva and Marquinhos were on the bench as Tite chose to start 21-year-old Porto center-back Eder Militao in his club’s home stadium alongside 34-year-old Miranda. World Cup goalkeeper Alisson also saw the bench in favor of Manchester City starter Ederson, who was troubled by just two shots on target the entirety of the match.

Most notably, Neymar was absent from the squad as he recovers from a broken metatarsal that has kept him out since late January.

Sampaoli gives pay back to Santos until players are paid

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SAO PAULO (AP) Santos coach Jorge Sampaoli has given his pay back to the Brazilian club until his players get paid.

The Argentine says the club should pay every worker on the same day.

Brazilian media say Santos has not paid its players since the beginning of February. Club executives pledged to solve the problem in early March, but that did not happen.

Sampaoli, a former coach of Argentina’s national team, also criticized the club’s executives.

After an impressive start to the season, Santos has failed to win its last three matches in the Sao Paulo state championship. The team lost to Botafogo 4-0 on Wednesday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

NYCFC may add prolific Brazilian center forward

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New York City FC is reportedly lining up a TAM deal for Brazilian center forward Heber.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up v. Ecuador? ]

A prolific scorer from Croatian powers HNK Rijeka, Heder has 35 goals and 14 assists in 68 matches since arriving in 2016.

The 27-year-old played in Brazil until 2015, and has since played for Armenian side Alashkert Yerevan and Croatian sides Slaven Belupo and HNK Rijeka.

Croatia has the 16th highest UEFA coefficient, ahead of Poland but below the Netherlands for comparison’s sake.

NYCFC has drawn its first three matches of the season, getting two goals from Alexander Ring, and one each from Alexandru Mitrita and Ebenezer Ofori.

On video — and remember, these are highlight reels put together by agents and fans — Heber looks like an MLS equivalent of one of his Premier League countrymen: Richarlison.

Neymar says two injuries, not one, affected World Cup displays

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar was battling back from two injuries, not one, at last year’s World Cup.

In a 2-hour interview with TV Globo on Sunday, Neymar said a problem in his right ankle was affecting his recovery in Russia, as well as the metatarsal fracture in the same foot that he had previously described.

“Besides the metatarsal, I had an ankle problem. I ruptured the ligament and the recovery was crazier because of this,” the PSG striker said.

Neymar said the metatarsal injury did not unduly trouble him in Russia, but the ankle did. “It is very annoying with the ankle, it takes a long time to get back to normal,” he said.

Brazil was eliminated by Belgium in the quarterfinals, and Neymar failed to deliver his best performances during the tournament.

Neymar is currently recovering in Brazil from another metatarsal injury in his right foot that he sustained in January, and is expected to return to action next month.

The former Barcelona forward talked about speculation he could one day join Real Madrid.

“It is one of the biggest clubs in the world, any player that Real Madrid seeks would be drawn into playing there. I am very happy at PSG. But no one knows the future,” he said.

Recent videos have shown Neymar dancing at a party in Salvador, which has led to criticism about the way he is handling his recovery, but he said he would not be changing his ways.

“When people say Neymar’s life off the pitch troubles him on the pitch … No. You are completely wrong, it doesn’t trouble him in any way. I am a man that takes care of himself. I know when I can go out,” he said.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Vinicius Junior called up for Brazil for first time

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Vinicius Junior has been called up to the Brazilian national team for the first time for friendly matches against Panama and the Czech Republic.

The 18-year-old striker has become a key player for Real Madrid this season.

[ MORE: PL relegation picture in focus ]

Brazil coach Tite also called up midfielder Felipe Anderson and striker Richarlison.

Brazil is preparing to host the Copa America in June.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras)

Ddefenders: Alex Sandro (Juventus), Danilo (Manchester City), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Porto), Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan)

Midfielders: Allan (Napoli), Arthur (Barcelona), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Felipe Anderson (West Ham), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan)

Forwards: Everton (Gremio), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)