Brazil on the ascendancy: Tite

Selecao coach says his deep squad can cope with favourites tag after Germany's demise

MOSCOW • Tite insists Brazil are comfortable with being installed as World Cup favourites, following Germany's shock exit, with the Selecao coach backing his side to grow in the knockout stages.

Brazil sealed a 2-0 win over Serbia in Moscow on Wednesday with goals either side of half-time by Paulinho and Thiago Silva to set up a last-16 clash against Mexico on Tuesday in Samara.

With Germany having failing to advance past the first round for the first time in 80 years, Brazil have been installed by many bookmakers as the favourites to lift the trophy on July 15, even though they are arguably in the tougher half of the draw.

Tite expects the depth of the Group E winners to help them go from strength to strength as they navigate a path that could see them take on European champions Portugal, two-time winners Uruguay, France or Argentina, and England or Belgium.

"We can take the pressure, we are a balanced team and we have replacements who can come in, which is important," said Tite, after watching his side notch their 17th clean sheet in 24 games under him.

"For example, Marcelo was injured early on and we were able to replace him (with Filipe Luis).

Brazil midfielder Paulinho lifts the ball over Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to score his team's first goal in the 2-0 win on Wednesday at the Spartak Stadium which sets up a last-16 meeting with Mexico next Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

"For us, this is about getting stronger and growing... We have had three matches and things are on the up."

Brazil's performance against Serbia was their best so far following their 2-0 victory over Costa Rica and a 1-1 draw against Switzerland.

Philippe Coutinho, scorer of two goals in Russia, continued to provide inspiration.

The playmaker's lofted pass from just inside his own half sent Paulinho clear to score the opener, making Coutinho the first Brazilian since Pele in 1958 to score or assist in his first three World Cup games.

"I'm always looking for space and that's the way it happened for the first goal," Paulinho said.

"The phenomenal Coutinho gave me a great assist and I managed to score."

Brazil star Neymar has been increasingly influential too.

The world's most expensive player had more touches (119) than any other player and created four scoring chances, with Silva heading home his corner.

Neymar also continued to provide the razzmatazz, at one point taking the ball down with his right foot behind the left leg.

"We passed through and now we have Mexico and the hardest way to get to the final," full-back Luis said.

"But, in the World Cup, you can't choose rivals, we just have to play and play good."

Switzerland finished as Group E runners-up after their 2-2 draw with Costa Rica.

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    Philippe Coutinho is the first Brazilian since Pele in Sweden 1958 to have a goal or assist in his first three World Cup matches.

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic defended his decision to field a full-strength side even though defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar will now miss the last-16 clash against Sweden through suspension.

Captain Lichtsteiner and Schar - who have almost 150 caps between them - are ruled out of Tuesday's match after both picked up a second yellow card for the tournament on Wednesday.

But Petkovic said his main goal was to qualify for the knockout stage and worry about the repercussions afterwards.

"It's the main objective (qualifying for the last 16), we had to make sure we delivered," he said of the game that gave Switzerland the point they needed to guarantee their progress.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2018, with the headline 'Brazil on the ascendancy: Tite'. Subscribe