Bigger 'playground' for Neymar in middle of park

Neymar, usually deployed as a left forward, will start in central midfield at the National Stadium tonight (Oct 13), a role he is accustomed to at Paris Saint-Germain.
Neymar, usually deployed as a left forward, will start in central midfield at the National Stadium tonight (Oct 13), a role he is accustomed to at Paris Saint-Germain.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Neymar will find himself in a new role for Brazil when the five-time world champions play Nigeria at the National Stadium tonight.

The talisman, usually deployed as a left forward, will start in central midfield, a role he is accustomed to at Paris Saint-Germain. He did not add to his 61 international goals on his 100th appearance on Thursday.

At last night's press conference, Brazil coach Tite said: "We are trying to give Neymar bigger playing area in a central role.

"He does play like this at PSG with Edinson Cavani and Mauro Icardi the reference point."

At yesterday's training at Kallang Football Hub, Tite made two changes to the side that were held 1-1 by Senegal on Thursday. Renan Lodi replaced Alex Sandro at left-back, while Philippe Coutinho trained with the reserves and Everton was promoted to the first team.

With Roberto Firmino the centre forward and Gabriel Jesus and Everton the wide men in a 4-3-3 formation, Neymar dropped into a midfield three alongside Arthur and Casemiro.

Tite added: "We are changing our way of playing and the role of some players.

"Football is alive, not dead. We have to try different things. This friendly will help us experiment and make these adjustments."

  • BRAZIL GLOBAL TOUR 2019

  • THURSDAY Brazil 1 Senegal 1

    TODAY Brazil v Nigeria

    VENUE/TIME
    National Stadium, 8pm

    TICKETS
    $29-$299. From www.sportshubtix.sg, Singapore Indoor Stadium box office, all SingPost outlets, The Star Performing Arts Centre box office and Scotts Square concierge desk or call 3158-7888

The fact that he has decided to retain nine starters from Thursday's game against a young Nigerian side, whose average age is 23.5, shows how determined he is to end the Selecao's run of three games without a win, albeit all friendlies.

Demanding improvement, he said: "The result against Senegal was not good. What was worse was that we didn't play well. While results are not within our control, our performance is."

Brazil had let in only 10 goals in the previous 42 games since Tite took over in 2016.

"Conceding four goals in our last three games is too much for us," said Tite, whose team also drew 2-2 with Colombia and lost 1-0 to Peru.

"I was sad after the game, but I also need to do my work better because this is a team and we all have our own responsibilities.

"My job is to juggle different things, like giving opportunities to different players and trying out new systems, and choosing what to prioritise."

 
 
 

Brazil assistant coach Cleber Xavier had picked out three danger men among the Nigerian attackers: Alex Iwobi, who has impressed with Everton and Arsenal in the English Premier League; Ligue 1 top scorer Victor Osimhen of Lille; and Club Brugge striker Emmanuel Dennis, who scored a double against Real Madrid in the Champions League earlier this month.

But Tite was unfazed, insisting that the Selecao would play fair, and that his men would play to their best of their abilities.

His focus on fair play was also evident when he was asked to convey a message in conjunction with Brazil's Children Day yesterday.

He said: "Throughout my career, my teams have won championships along with fair play trophies, like how Brazil did at this year's Copa America.

"I want to tell kids out there you can win without unfair play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 13, 2019, with the headline 'Bigger 'playground' for Neymar in middle of park'. Print Edition | Subscribe