Football: Brazil want zero errors

Neymar injured but Tite pleased despite another draw, vows they'll win in qualifiers

Neymar (with towel) watching from the bench after coming off in the 12th minute with a hamstring complaint.
Neymar (with towel) watching from the bench after coming off in the 12th minute with a hamstring complaint.ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH
Brazil's Casemiro challenging Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho for the ball. He was on hand later to tuck home a loose ball for Brazil's equaliser.
Brazil's Casemiro challenging Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho for the ball. He was on hand later to tuck home a loose ball for Brazil's equaliser.ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH

Brazil suffered a double whammy when they lost talisman Neymar in under 12 minutes, and also extended their winless run to four games when they were held 1-1 by Nigeria at the National Stadium last night.

But coach Tite declared himself pleased with his side's second-half performance, and promised the wins will come when they kick off their World Cup qualifiers in March.

At the post-match press conference last night, the 58-year-old said: "Criticism is inevitable. We are adjusting our team and trying to develop new systems. We are preparing for competition.

"Now is the time to make mistakes but when we play in official competitions, we need to make zero mistakes."

Winger Richarlison said: "As Brazil, we are always expected to win. When we don't win, it is like something is wrong.

"We actually played quite well in the second half but, of course, we can still do better."

After scoring all the goals in the 4-0 win over Japan when Brazil last visited in 2014, expectations were high for Neymar to deliver another spectacular show, especially after he fired blanks against Senegal in the first match.

But following a sprint, a rabona pass, and an innocuous knock before the 20,385-strong crowd, he was substituted with a hamstring complaint after just 11 minutes and 49 seconds in the second match of the Brazil Global Tour, with Philippe Coutinho taking his place.

A team spokesman said the Paris Saint-Germain star "felt discomfort" in his left thigh and would be examined by club doctors in France.
 cited the Brazilian team doctor as saying the player was not in pain.

Amid a more boisterous atmosphere than last Thursday's muted affair, Neymar started in a deeper central midfield role behind the front three of Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Everton, as Tite made just two changes to the side that were held 1-1 by Senegal at the same venue.

But Neymar's exit seemed to unsettle the world No. 3 Brazilians.

The young Nigerian side, whose average age is 23.5 years, gradually imposed themselves as Brazil struggled to cope with their rivals' pace and power.

The Super Eagles took a deserved 35th-minute lead when Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo weaved past Marquinhos to slam a shot beyond Ederson for his second international goal in as many games.

Whatever the animated Tite told the Samba Boys at the break had instant impact, as his team equalised three minutes after the restart.

Skipper Dani Alves' cross from the right was headed onto the bar by Marquinhos, and Casemiro was on hand to sweep home the loose ball. Brazil then peppered their African opponents' goal with shots as substitute Richarlison struck the woodwork twice, while Nigeria's goalkeepers - Francis Uzoho and debutant Maduka Okoye who replaced him - also made crucial stops.

Also, Coutinho's goal-bound shot was miscleared by Semi Ajayi on the line, but into Okoye's grateful arms in the 86th minute.

World No. 34 Nigeria will be pleased with the result, after their only previous meeting in 2003 ending in a 3-0 defeat by the Brazilians.

Nigeria's German coach Gernot Rohr said: "It was tough for us as the second game because Brazil would not have wanted to leave Singapore without winning, and it feels very good to know that we can play so well against some of the biggest names in football.

"We didn't have our best team here, but our wingers gave Brazil a lot of problems on the counter-attack and I am proud of our players. They can have a good future.

"We can still improve in defending set-pieces. We have height, with players as tall as two metres, but we have to be better in the air.

"It is not enough just to have good size, they need to jump well with good timing.

"These results are good for African football when Senegal and Nigeria did not lose to Brazil, one of the strongest teams in the world."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2019, with the headline 'Brazil want zero errors'. Print Edition | Subscribe