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Brazil tests Willian up front with Neymar and Jesus

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s second pre-World Cup training featured Willian in the attack with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on Thursday, a hint that coach Tite might change his starting lineup.

Willian played with the two star strikers for about one hour in the first training with footballs at the Granja Comary ground in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.

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Tite did not use his starting midfield to play with the trio. He also used defenders Marquinhos and Miranda during the entire hour, suggesting former captain Thiago Silva will be on the bench for the moment.

If Willian is brought on to the team, Tite could remove midfielder Renato Augusto from the starting lineup, put Philippe Coutinho in his place, and open a gap for Willian.

Since last year, Tite has said he needs a “pacemaker,” and considers Coutinho one of his main options for the role.

Beijing Guoan’s Augusto is under pressure after unconvincing performances in Brazil’s midfield.

Augusto’s spot is also eyed by Fred, one of the surprises of Tite’s squad.

The midfielder said he admired Brazil players who began a World Cup on the bench and later became starters, such as Mazinho (1994) and Kleberson (2002).

“We can get inspiration from them, these players worked very hard to get their spot,” Fred said. “But if I have to be out I will keep working hard.”

Fred also said he was torn between a transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.

Fred said he had an offer from City in January, and both were now talking to his Shakhtar Donetsk club about a transfer.

“Maybe after the World Cup I will make the choice,” the midfielder said. “Now I am only thinking about the World Cup.”

Fred said he believes his future is outside Ukraine, and doing well in the English Premier League like other Brazilians such as Chelsea’s Willian.

Tite is counting on only 18 of the 23 players in his squad at training in Teresopolis.

Winger Douglas Costa and Fagner are still recovering from injury.

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Marcelo will only join on Monday after the Champions League final.

Training on Thursday was attended by four-time World Cup winner Mario Zagallo.

Five Premier Leaguers called up by Brazil for March friendlies

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Last month, Brazil manager Tite took it upon himself to name the vast majority of his World Cup 2018 roster, when 15 players were included on his initial squad list.

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Now, with nearly three months until kick off in Russia, the South American giants prepare for a pair of big friendlies in March as Brazil aims to bring home another triumph in the world’s most-prestigious soccer competition.

Five Premier League players — Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Fernandinho and Roberto Fimino — have earned call ups. Manchester City leads the bunch as three selections grace the squad as Pep Guardiola‘s side continues on a scorched path towards another domestic title.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar remains sidelined with a foot and ankle injury, which has forced Tite to look elsewhere in the attack, but that has opened up opportunities for Shakhtar’s Taison and Willian Jose of Real Sociedad.

Meanwhile, a number of domestic-based Brazilians are aiming to leave a lasting impression on the Brazil manager, including defenders Rodrigo Caio and Fagner, as well as Besiktas midfielder Anderson Talisca.

The Selecao will take on Russia and Germany later this month on March 23 and 27, respectively, ahead of this summer’s World Cup.

Below is the full list of squad members called up ahead of this month’s friendlies.


Goalkeepers (3): Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Manchester City), Neto (Valencia)

Defenders (9): Daniel Alves (PSG), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luís (Atletico Madrid), Fagner (Corinthians), Miranda (Inter Milan), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG), Geromel (Gremio), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo)

Midfielders (8): Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Anderson Talisca (Besiktas)

Forwards (5): Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Douglas Costa (Juventus), Willian Jose (Real Sociedad), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk)

Selecao in the making: Tite names 15 players for Brazil’s World Cup squad

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It’s not uncommon for managers to drop hints about their squads heading into a major competition, but Brazil’s boss did something a bit different during a recent interview.

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Selecao manager Tite named 15 players that will be heading to this summer’s World Cup in Russia, despite a near four-month gap between now and the start of the world’s most prestigious tournament.

The team is headlined by Brazil regulars such as Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar and Philippe Coutinho of Barcelona.

With a wide buffer to establish the rest of his squad, Tite leaves room for eight more selections before Brazil heads off to Europe in June.

Below is the full list of squad members included on Brazil’s initial roster.

Goalkeepers (1): Alisson (Roma)

Defenders (5): Dani Alves (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Miranda (Inter Milan)

Midfielders (4)Fernandinho (Manchester City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan)

Forwards (5): Neymar (PSG), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Willian (Chelsea), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)

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).