By Andrew Downie
SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Brazil will start without Arthur in their lineup for Friday’s Copa America opener against Bolivia but his midfield partner Casemiro said he was hoping for something special on a return to the ground where he made his name.
Barcelona playmaker Arthur will not start the game at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium after picking up a knock in last weekend’s warm-up match against Honduras and his place is likely to be taken by either Allan or Fernandinho.
“Arthur won’t start because he hasn’t had any full training session and I am not going to be irresponsible and put him in,” coach Tite told reporters.
However, Casemiro, who played for Sao Paulo before joining Real Madrid in 2013, was keen to get going in what will be Brazil’s first competitive match since Belgium knocked them out the 2018 Russia World Cup at the quarter-final stage.
“There is anxiety, that’s normal when you begin a tournament as important as this one,” Casemiro said.
“We know it will be a complicated match because we know how Bolivia play. We know they are well prepared, especially defensively. So I think tomorrow is a game that, as the coach says, we need to be strong mentally (for), to concentrate.”
“It’s even more special for me tomorrow, this is like home to me, a club that helped me grow as a player and as a man,” Casemiro added, before joking, “I will try and score but my work isn’t to score goals but to provide balance and help my team mates.”
After kicking off their campaign against Bolivia, Brazil then face Venezuela on June 18 and Peru on June 22.
The home side start as favourites to win the 12-team tournament for the first time since 2007 and are coming off convincing friendly wins last week.
“We are prepared and we demonstrated that in our two warm-up games, they were our two best games we’ve played since the World Cup,” Casemiro said of the 2-0 win over Qatar and 7-0 drubbing of 10-man Honduras.
“Brazil first are always favourites for any tournament. Of course, we’re ready. We’ve worked hard physically, technically, the alterations we’ve done.”
“We know we’ve not won a competition for a long time but for us all games are important.”
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris)