RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian national soccer team’s revamped roster will get its first major test when it hosts the upcoming 2019 Copa America tournament, with a mix of promising young players and veterans set to take the field next month.
Only 14 of the 23 players selected by head coach Tite competed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where Brazil lost in the quarterfinals to Belgium.
“The objective with this list of call-ups is to provide opportunities to new athletes who are coming up, who are emerging, and put them to play alongside veterans who already have a history with the national team,” Tite said in a press conference on Friday.
The players selected for the Copa America, which will run from June 14 to July 7, include veterans that have been the team’s foundation over the past several months, including goalkeeper Alisson (Liverpool) and defenders Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Miranda (Inter Milan), Thiago Silva (PSG) and Marquinhos (PSG).
Other likely starters include midfielders Casemiro (Real Madrid), Philippe Coutinho (FC Barcelona) and Fernandinho (Manchester City) and forwards Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) and Neymar Jr. (PSG).
But Tite also selected lesser-known players such as Eder Militao (who has signed with Real Madrid), midfielders Arthur (FC Barcelona), Allan (Napoli) and Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan) and forwards Everton (Gremio) and David Neres (Ajax).
“We watched Neres in national team friendlies and we followed him in Ajax’s matches, where he was a standout,” Tite said.
Most of the turnover has affected the team’s midfield and forward positions, with new faces taking exactly half of the roster spots.
One notable absence, however, among Brazil’s youth brigade is 18-year-old Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), who has lost a spot on the national team for now due to lack of match play while working his way back from an ankle injury.
The biggest surprise in Brazil’s roster, meanwhile, is Fernandinho, a 34-year-old defensive midfielder who faced heavy criticism for his erratic performances at both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and even asked at one point that he not be called up again to the national side.
“Fernandinho was called up because the criteria I’m looking at is performance,” Tite said.
“We had a talk with him, and he showed himself to be a very transparent person who is aware of the expectations and the responsibility but also knows how good it is to be on the national team and represent his country,” the head coach added.
Brazil has been drawn into Group A in the Copa America along with Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru.
The tournament will be contested by the 10 members of the South American Soccer Confederation (Conmebol) – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela – with Japan and Qatar as guests.