KAZAN, Russia, (AFP) – Brazil coach Tite said he is desperate to avoid the “horror” lottery of penalties as he handed World Cup quarter-final opponents Belgium a frightening list of obstacles to overcome on Friday (July 6).
Bidding for a record-extending sixth World Cup in Russia, Brazil were one of five sides to qualify for the last eight without requiring extra-time and penalties, after outclassing Mexico 2-0 in Samara.
Although Tite expects Belgium to provide his team with a stiff challenge on Friday in Kazan, he is adamant the cool-headed Brazilians can secure their semi-final spot over the 90 minutes.
“A football match should never be settled with the horror of penalties. I don’t see that as a valid result,” Tite told a packed press conference on Thursday.
“For me, there has to be another way.”
A Belgium team starring Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City and Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, were tipped by many pundits as outsiders to win their first-ever World Cup.
Those expectations have since been tempered after Belgium sneaked into the last eight following a last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan.
If the Red Devils are to overcome a steadily improving Brazil team, with Neymar an ever-more influential figure, they will have to up their game.
BRAZIL HIT THEIR STRIDE
Brazil have now found their mojo after their Russian campaign started slowly with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland, putting on an impressive show against Mexico in the last 16, even though Neymar was pilloried for excessive play-acting.
“If I seem more relaxed, it’s because the players have put me in this position by playing better,” said Tite.
The coach highlighted a number of reasons Belgium should fear his team – their speed on the counter-attack, ability to produce magic as well as a miserly defence that has conceded just a single goal in Russia.
“The characteristics of my players mean they’re designed to score,” said Tite. “We weathered the storm against Mexico, came back into the game and eventually, our opponents hardly touched the ball.
“When we counter-attack, our speed is crucial in turning things around.
“We have dribbling and technical skill in the final third of the pitch. Neymar, (Gabriel) Jesus, maybe (Roberto) Firmino a little less, and Taison and Willian all give us those elements.
“They can all go man to man thanks to their ability to dribble, feint and produce a touch of magic.”
Tite admitted the improved performance against Mexico left him more relaxed, also highlighting the importance of mental strength.
“The greatest challenge of a World Cup is having mental fortitude. The pressure is immense,” he said.
“We all feel it, but I tell the players, ‘don’t listen and don’t watch’. We also need the common sense not to show euphoria when we win, but to also not fear losing.
“It’s important to keep our cool and produce another strong performance.”
Brazil are set to welcome Real Madrid defender Marcelo back after he was forced off during the 2-0 group-stage win against Serbia with back spasms.
“Filipe Luis stepped in to play those two matches, very well, but Marcelo’s coming back,” said Tite.
He also hinted Barcelona midfielder Paulinho would start, but that Liverpool’s Firmino would be on the bench.
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