Brazil players defend coach amid report questioning future

Brazil's coach Tite walks on the field during a practice session at the Granja Comary training center in Teresopolis, Brazil, Thursday, July 4, 2019. Brazil will play against Peru for the final of the Copa America on July 7. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Before the Copa América began, Brazil's new soccer boss said coach Tite will stay on the job until the 2022 World Cup no matter what happens in the tournament. But two of his players didn't sound convinced that their coach's future is secure.

Defender Marquinhos and midfielder Casemiro gave Tite votes of confidence on Friday, telling reporters the coach has the squad's support to march on after Sunday's final against Peru at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. One day before, Brazil's soccer body issued a short statement saying Tite has its trust.

The pro-Tite campaign began after website UOL reported the coach considered leaving the team because of changes to his staff. Assistant Sylvinho has joined Lyon and coordinator Edu Gaspar is reportedly joining Arsenal once the Copa América ends.

According to the report, Brazil's soccer confederation president Rogerio Caboclo is already looking at possible replacements for Tite, who took the job in 2016 and last year extended his deal until the end of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"I leave this vote of confidence for our coach," Marquinhos said at the Granja Comary training ground in Teresópolis, outside Rio. "He is a coach that has gotten good results. He has the affection, the trust of the group. He is a coach to treat with care until the next World Cup."

Casemiro agreed. "The numbers speak for themselves. He is a coach that is on the job for three years and gets more than 80% of the points. You need to have respect. He is a winner," the player said.

Brazil's soccer confederation said in a statement it "manifests its trust on the work of the coaching staff of Brazil's national team. And reaffirms that it will be kept in a permanent way."

Tite did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Once hailed as a hero by Brazil fans, Tite has been criticized for his conservative choices since the World Cup in Russia. Although his team is the favorite to win the Copa América, analysts believe the competition doesn't rise to the level he will find in Qatar.

Casemiro said Tite's leadership has been a key to Brazil's stable performances in recent years, and should be in years to come.

"Tite is in our head for us to be mentally strong, for us not to lose our balance. He has a great success in that, in making the team concentrate and avoid being teased by our adversaries," the midfielder said.

Marquinhos said Tite understands the pressure that comes with his role.

"We need to be internally strong. There is a lot of competition in Brazil, not only for players, but also for the coach," he said. "We all know that we have to do our best here."

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