Copa America 2019

Tite dreams of redemption

Argentina captain Lionel Messi and fellow forward Sergio Aguero share a joke ahead of their Copa America semi-final clash with Brazil. Messi has yet to shine in the competition, with just one goal in four matches. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Argentina captain Lionel Messi and fellow forward Sergio Aguero share a joke ahead of their Copa America semi-final clash with Brazil. Messi has yet to shine in the competition, with just one goal in four matches. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Brazil coach urges fans to back team in return to Mineirao, where they lost 7-1 to Germany

BELO HORIZONTE • The Mineirao has been far from a happy hunting ground for Brazil.

The 7-1 capitulation to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, the Selecao's joint-worst loss in history, remains a "national tragedy" seared into the public consciousness.

And the "Mineirao ghost" is perhaps why Brazil coach Tite has been having sleepless nights ahead of their Copa America semi-final against Argentina, his team's first major competitive game in Belo Horizonte since that fateful day.

This morning's clash (Singapore time) between South American football's biggest giants is the biggest game of his managerial career and, if there is any player primed to raise the spectre of his team's past failures, it is Lionel Messi.

Tite said: "I couldn't sleep properly, I'm not Superman, I'm the way I am and I can deal with that.

"Yesterday, I woke up at 3.15 am, I was thinking about what I'm going to do.

"As a coach, I always have a notepad next to me to write something down. That's the reality of being a coach, not just me, (Argentina coach Lionel) Scaloni too, all of us."

  • 14

    Years since Brazil's last competitive defeat by Argentina in a World Cup qualifier.

While the match has been billed as a clash of styles - La Albiceleste's reliance on individual brilliance versus the collective ability of the Selecao - Tite believes their opponents are more than capable of clicking.

He said: "Argentina make the most of individual talents linking them into a coherent unit. You can't eliminate Messi... you can't neutralise a player of that level.

"Just as you can't neutralise (Philippe) Coutinho, (Roberto) Firmino, Willian, David (Neres) - at some point, they will produce something."

He is, however, counting on their 12th man to raise the roof.

The Brazil team were booed for the third time in four matches as they squeaked by Paraguay 4-3 on penalties in the quarter-finals.

While Tite is expecting a similar cagey contest against a team of "unquestionable individual and tactical" capacity, he is hopeful the home crowd will be less harsh given what is at stake.

He added: "If the fans can show the same type of affection that they showed when we arrived at our hotel and the stadium, we will be grateful and strengthened.

"We've lost here but... we have our own story and this will be a new chapter.

"What we know is that it's going to be a great match at a place where we have had a lot of support.

"It's going to be a fantastic spectacle. There is a great rivalry, but you can only be rivals with those who you admire. The rivalry owes itself to the quality of both teams."

Although Brazil remain haunted by recent history, they will be encouraged by past results against Argentina, having beaten them in the 2004 and 2007 Copa finals.

The hosts also have not tasted a competitive defeat by their fierce rivals since a 3-1 loss in a 2005 World Cup qualifier.

Messi has been out of sorts so far, with only one goal in four games.

Scaloni, though, has claimed his captain's underwhelming displays have been the result of curbing his usual buccaneering style of play for the greater good of the team.

He said: "We're asking him to do something different, we're more than happy with the job he is doing.

"The players love Messi so much that sometimes, they say they want to win the tournament just for him. But we all want to win, not just him."

Brazil are seeking their ninth Copa crown, while their opponents are on a quest to end a 26-year title drought.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2019, with the headline 'Tite dreams of redemption'. Print Edition | Subscribe