Time for Brazil’s other stars to step up with Neymar out

Well before the kick off the 2019 Copa America has already lost what looked like being one of its major themes.

The scene appeared set for Neymar to get his career back on course, shrugging off injury woes, disciplinary problems and controversy about his diving by leading Brazil to victory on home ground. Instead, he misses the tournament — and the ankle injury he picked up almost came as a relief, allowing him to concentrate on defending himself against the serious accusations he faces.

For a while the coverage of Brazil’s Copa America build up was almost entirely reduced to news of developments in the life of Neymar. But team and star striker have now gone their separate ways — and with David Neres stepping in for Neymar, helping himself to a wonderful solo goal, Brazil completed their preparation with an emphatic, hugely impressive 7-0 win over Honduras in Porto Alegre.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Neymar was never bigger than the team — and coach Tite is essentially still wrestling with questions, doubts and issues hanging over from last year’s World Cup campaign, brought to a close with a dramatic 2-1 quarterfinal defeat to Belgium. The coach clearly came to the conclusion that his side last year lacked the correct balance between attack and defence — and steps have been taken to improve matters.2
Last year’s central trio featured Paulinho, who operated almost as an auxiliary centre-forward, charging time after time into the opposing penalty area. He has given way to Arthur of Barcelona, who knits the side together from deeper with his passing — and if the injury he picked up against Honduras proves to be serious, the function can be carried out with more dynamism and less technique by Allan of Napoli.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The central midfield triangle, then, has been reversed. Instead of Casemiro behind and two ahead, Casemiro and Arthur are now behind with Philippe Coutinho ahead. This should free Coutinho to do what he does best; instead of having to cover box to box, he can now focus his efforts on creating and shooting in the final third of the field.

In fact, the absence of Neymar opens up space for a mini-theme in the Copa — the opportunity that Coutinho has to redeem himself after a disappointing time at Barcelona. These are changes made since the World Cup. But another change that Tite has made takes the team back to Russia 2018. Tite later regretted persevering so long in the competition with Gabriel Jesus at centre forward. He wished he had brought in Roberto Firmino. This was a change made after the World Cup. Firmino became first choice centre forward. But it proved hard to knit the Liverpool man into the team’s collective context.

Time on the training ground would have been welcome. But Liverpool’s participation in the final of the Champions league delayed Firmino’s arrival for national team duty, and in his absence Gabriel Jesus has reclaimed the spot. Where Firmino seeks to drop and combine, Jesus gives the team the option of lengthening the game with his movement behind the opposing defensive line.