After 10 consecutive victories, three in the Copa América, Brazil dropped two points in group B. It didn’t matter too much. With the classification assured, Tite opted to take care of the majority of its main actors. Return the Canarinha when the ball lands on Neymar’s feet, it does so also when it hits Militão’s head. And with the PSG striker absent, the Madrid center-back appeared to overtake Brazil against Ecuador. Tite’s team relaxed and Ecuador took advantage of it. Mena signed the tie and the tricolor sealed the passage to the quarterfinals.
Neither doubts about Brazil’s performance in the match against Colombia – they won 2-1, after scoring the tie in the 80th minute -, kept Tite from his match plan. He shook the goal again, as in every game, but he also opted for a carousel of changes. Some, to rest; others to haggle for the second yellow that would leave them out of the rooms; and there were also those who were part of two groups like Neymar. Of the 10 changes made by the technician of the CanarinhaNone was as justified as that of the PSG forward: warned, yes; but fundamentally worn out after a tough season in Paris and after having played every minute in the 2021 America’s Cup.
Danilo, Fred and Gabriel Jesus, the other three footballers who had played all the games, began the duel with Neymar in front of the bench. Brazil had the classification in its pocket; Ecuador, no. However, Gustavo Alfaro’s team handed over control of the ball to the Canarinha. The bet worked. For a while, at least. Without Neymar, Brazil becomes a predictable team, without imagination or rhythm. And when Ecuador recovered the leather (almost never) it shot out to Alisson’s goal. It was difficult for him, in any case, to disturb the Liverpool goalkeeper. Before going through the locker room, he only had one shot from the Valencia moon.
Without Neymar’s football, Brazil took Tite’s strategy out of its repertoire. Militão rose higher than anyone and finished as if he had a hammer to his head to send the leather to the net after the center of Éverton. Third goal from set pieces of the Canarinha in the America’s Cup. Brazil has plenty, champion of the last edition of the Copa América, leader of the South American qualifiers heading to Qatar. It happens, in any case, that Tite’s boys often indulge in parsimony. Usually without consequences. Not against Ecuador.
Valencia warned and Mena tied. Brazil needed Militão, now in the Alisson area. Team B was fraying and Tite sent the other two Madrid players: Vinicius and Casemiro, to the pivot to put order, to the forward to make Neymar forget. Casemiro complied. Vinicius is dressed in yellow the same as when he dresses in white: he misses his aim. Brazil was already calm. Ecuador, no. The helping hand, this time, was not the relaxation of the Canarinha but the success of Peru. Ricardo Gareca’s team defeated Venezuela (0-1) and left the tricolor for the quarterfinals served. Brazil took first place in group B, while the podium was completed by Peru and Colombia. Ecuador, fourth, will play the leader of group A for a place in the semifinal.
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS América newsletter and receive all the informational keys of the region’s current affairs.