Jesus blames Tite's changes for Brazil's struggles

By Sports Desk March 26, 2019

Gabriel Jesus was Brazil's saviour but thought Tite's changes were to blame for their struggles in an unconvincing 3-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Brazil head coach Tite made six amendments to the starting XI that kicked off a surprise 1-1 draw against Panama on Saturday, with only Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta, Philippe Coutinho, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino retaining their places.

The Selecao boss said in the build-up to the game in Prague that he wanted to maintain consistency with his attacking unit despite the drab performance against Panama, but hooked Paqueta after Brazil went into half-time behind following David Pavelka's opener.

Roberto Firmino struck an opportunistic equaliser before Jesus, who replaced Coutinho in the 72nd minute, scored a late double to snatch the win.

"I think we played a good game. It's not easy when there are a lot of changes, we were lacking a bit of coherency, but we are Brazil and we have to overcome such adversity," Jesus told TV Globo.

"We managed to create more in the second half, we were happy and we got the win.

"At times the opposition defended well, which was the case against Panama. We could have created more, attacked more, but I'm used to playing against a five-man backline in England. Panama had six in the second half. It's difficult and we aren't used to that, but we worked on it afterwards.

"Today, in the first half, it's normal for the home team to come out strongly. We conceded a goal, but we managed to focus on what was required and turn it around."

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    Tite said he had "no complaints" about the VAR after Brazil saw two goals ruled out by the video assistant referee in their disappointing Copa America draw against Venezuela.

    Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho were denied by the VAR in the second half as Brazil were booed by their own fans in Tuesday's 0-0 Group A stalemate.

    Substitute Jesus thought he opened the scoring just past the hour mark but Roberto Firmino was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

    Technology then saved Venezuela during the closing stages when Coutinho's effort was ruled out, capping a forgettable night for the Copa hosts in Salvador.

    The result left Brazil, Peru and Venezuela vying for the two qualifying spots heading into the final matchday but Tite backed the VAR's decisions post-game.

    "The VAR was correct and in these situations the team must mature, to blame the technician in these situations will never cease to exist," Tite told reporters after Firmino's first-half effort was also waved off due to a foul.

    "Justice. He was offside… I have nothing to complain about."

    Boos and whistles could be heard at Arena Fonte Nova – just like there were during last week's 3-0 win over Bolivia in Sao Paulo.

    Fans reacted to a poor first-half performance against Bolivia and while Brazil produced a better display on Tuesday, the eight-time champions fell short of expectations.

    Discussing the boos, Selecao head coach Tite said: "If I were on the other side it would be the same.

    "The fans want a goal and I would like the same if I were a fan."

    Brazil – who suffered a group-stage exit in 2016 – head into Saturday's decisive fixture with Peru level on four points.

    Venezuela, meanwhile, have two points from as many games and can still qualify ahead of their match against Bolivia.

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    Boos and whistles could be heard at Arena Fonte Nova – just like there were in Sao Paulo last week – following Brazil's scoreless performance in Salvador on Tuesday.

    Roberto Firmino had a goal ruled out for a foul in the first half, while Gabriel Jesus' close-range effort and Philippe Coutinho's late goal were ruled offside after VAR checks to cap a forgettable evening.

    The result left qualification up in the air, with hosts Brazil, Peru and Venezuela vying for the two last-16 spots.

    Brazil were booed at half-time of their eventual 3-0 win over Bolivia following a dour and scoreless first half. And the Selecao opened with real intent and intensity against Venezuela.

    Arthur – named in the starting XI at the expense of Fernandinho in the only change to the line-up – pulled the strings in midfield and he almost teed up David Neres but the Ajax star fired wide.

    Venezuela gave away possession cheaply minutes later and Richarlison almost capitalised as he forced Wuilker Farinez into a low diving save.

    While Brazil made a slick start, Venezuela fired a warning as star striker Salomon Rondon – the only member of the squad to have scored more than once in the competition – headed just wide of the post in the 19th minute.

    Brazil did find the back of the net via Firmino six minutes before half-time but it was ruled out for a foul on Mikel Villanueva as Tite's men went into the break deadlocked again, drawing more boos.

    Jesus replaced Richarlison during the interval and the substitute thought he made an impact when he buried the ball home just past the hour mark, however, the Manchester City forward's goal was ruled out for offside against Firmino following a VAR check.

    Groans grew around the stadium, while the Selecao were left frustrated at ground level with Venezuela continuing to hold firm against the eight-time champions, who thought they had snatched victory during the closing stages but Coutinho's goal was ruled out by the VAR.

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    Group A will go down to the final matchday and Brazil's position is far from certain. Eliminated in the group phase in 2016, the Selecao are level on four points with Peru, while Venezuela – who have drawn their opening two games – can still make it through.

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    With 21 wins in 24 previous meetings in all competitions, Brazil were expected to heap further pain on Venezuela. However, Rafael Dudamel's side had other ideas to keep their slim hopes of qualification alive.

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    Brazil were one of the favourites to win the 2018 World Cup. Tite's side, however, have hit a wall since exiting in the quarter-finals. Playing in the absence of injured star Neymar, a three-goal second half against lowly Bolivia papered over the cracks. And while Brazil produced an improved performance on Tuesday, the result raised further questions.

    What's next?

    Brazil will wrap up proceedings in Group A with a clash against Peru in Sao Paulo on Saturday as Venezuela face Bolivia on the same day in Belo Horizonte.

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