How the UEFA Nations League Has Stunted Brazil Copa Prep
Brazil yesterday announced the second of their March friendlies, as they take on Panama in Porto. The fixture was announced almost three weeks after their first March friendly was confirmed against Czech Republic in Prague. Back in September, Selection Coordinator Edu Gaspar said that Brazil would use September, October and November friendlies to experiment and integrate new players.
The friendly matches from March onwards would have much more of a focus towards this summer’s Copa America. Tite is under pressure to bag the title for the Seleção on home soil in June and July after going out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Russia. Brazil have not won a major title since the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela. Access now online sports betting with William Hill and support your favourite team.
Tite had built up enough credit in the qualifying phase to save his job with the national team, signing a new contract that takes him through to the 2022 World Cup. But if Brazil underperform in the Copa, his future will come under scrutiny. But Tite’s preparation has been somewhat hampered by the revamped UEFA Nations League.
The Nations League has breathed new life into the UEFA fixture calendar and incentivised European teams to take friendly matches more seriously- and to win them. As a result, there is less space in the schedule for European teams. How does this affect Brazil? It means they have struggled to play the level of team that they would like to.
Since the World Cup, Brazil have unsuccessfully tried to arrange friendlies with the likes of France, Portugal and Spain, who have eschewed big money exhibition matches with the Seleção due to the Nations League. Friendly matches with the likes of Cameroon, El Salvador and another in a huge surfeit of matches against Argentina have been hastily arranged.
In March, Brazil wanted to face Germany, but had to settle on a faded Czech Republic side who have not qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2004. Tite usually likes to play one heavyweight and one lower ranked team per friendly round, but the coach was hoping to ramp up preparations in 2019. Czech Republic and Panama would not have been his first choices.
Tite and Edu Gaspar might have better luck in May when the UEFA fixture schedule eases a little. They have played Uruguay and Argentina since the last World Cup, but South American sides will be reluctant to play one another on the eve of the Copa. The Copa America is typically an experimental tournament where teams put plans in place for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Privately, Brazil will have hoped for tougher opponents in March and their sponsors, Nike and Gillette, will certainly have hoped for something more illustrious. Brazil have lost a bit of their commercial pull over the last decade with various degrees of failure at World Cups and the fact that their star man Neymar is unpopular with supporters outside of Brazil.