Copa America 2019

Tite salutes 'persistent' Jesus

Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus (second from left) scoring the opening goal during the Copa America semi-final match in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. The 2-0 win set up a final clash against either Chile or Peru. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus (second from left) scoring the opening goal during the Copa America semi-final match in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. The 2-0 win set up a final clash against either Chile or Peru. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Brazil coach says striker never gives up; hails Argentina ace Messi as an 'extraterrestrial'

BELO HORIZONTE • Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus said after his match-winning display in Tuesday's 2-0 Copa America semi-final victory over Argentina that he had a premonition he would score.

Jesus opened the scoring on 19 minutes from a Roberto Firmino pass and returned the favour 19 minutes from time as Brazil qualified for their first continental final since 2007, when they won their last major trophy.

"I felt I would score. I'm not saying that because I scored. Other times I didn't say this," said the Manchester City forward. "I was very confident... and I managed to score in a great team performance. Firmino set me up really well.

"I'm delighted, not for the goal but for the team. We scored the goals, we're all delighted about the match, about the commitment, about the performance. We have to play every match with this spirit."

Brazil coach Tite paid tribute to the 22-year-old's hard work, particularly given his frustrating goal-less run of four games, including the 5-0 group stage thrashing of Peru, when he missed a penalty.

"Gabriel impresses all the professionals that work with him because he never gives up," said Tite, who has two losses in 42 games since being appointed in 2016.

"People tell him 'you just have to put up with the pain and run', and that's what I asked him to do.

PREMONITION

I felt I would score. I'm not saying that because I scored. I was very confident... and I managed to score in a great team performance.

GABRIEL JESUS, on scoring once and setting up the other in Brazil's 2-0 semi-final defeat of Argentina.

"He has to refine his solutions and he has to evolve because he's young, but if I ask him to shoot 50 times, he'll do 51.

"This capacity of persistence and his quest for something is his trademark."

Tite also enthused about his captain Dani Alves, whose mazy run created the opening for the first goal in front of 52,000 fans at the Mineirao, where the hosts suffered a 7-1 rout by eventual champions Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals.

Praising Alves' "mental strength", he added: "I'm really very happy because of how natural he is. He's a good guy and it's great for us to deal with players like that."

But there was a player on the losing side whom Tite felt was on another level: Lionel Messi.

He said: "It was a great game, Messi is an extraterrestrial. Regardless of the skills of the other players, he deserves this reverence."

Sunday's final, against either defending champions Chile or Peru, will be a new experience for the 58-year-old Tite. It will be played at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana stadium, where he has neither played nor coached.

"I'm truly going to be the coach of the national team when we play there," he said. "People say: did you play? Yes. Did you play in the Maracana? No. Then you're not a player.

"Have you coached in the Maracana? No. Then you're not a coach.

"But now as a coach I'm going to play in the Maracana for the first time and I'm going to enjoy it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Tite salutes 'persistent' Jesus'. Print Edition | Subscribe