By Andrew Downie
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil bid for their first major title for more than a decade in the Copa America final against Peru on Sunday but the pre-match discussions were focussed on the future of Tite as coach of the Selecao.
Tite, who replaced Dunga in 2016, was asked three times about his plans on Saturday and three times he declined to confirm that he planned to continue in the role.
“I have a contract until after the 2022 World Cup,” was the best the 58-year-old was prepared to offer.
News reports said the popular coach is uneasy about the break up of his backroom staff, with two of his closest collaborators heading for Europe, Edu Gaspar to Arsenal as sporting director and Sylvinho to coach his former club Lyon.
The departure of the highly rated pair, along with analyst Fernando Lazaro, spells the end of a happy and successful group for Tite.
The former Corinthians coach put together his own team when he took over shortly after the 2016 Copa America and turned Brazil’s fortunes around.
Out of the qualification places for Russia 2018 when he assumed the role, Brazil won nine games in a row and qualified top of the South American qualifying group.
Although they were knocked out the tournament at the quarter-final stage by Belgium, it was one of just two defeats during his time at the helm.
If the form guide is anything to go by that run will continue on Sunday and Brazil will win their first major title since lifting the Copa America in 2007.
Brazil are heavy favourites to beat Peru, a side they hammered 5-0 just two weeks ago in the tournament’s group stage.
However, the always cautious Tite refused to see it that way and warned that Peru, who won the Copa America for the second time back in 1975, had improved since that defeat.
“When we played Peru the first time we did so not having performed as well as we wanted to and we had that game and the scoreline was excessive,” he told reporters.
“Peru felt that and they lifted themselves up. Both teams are stronger since then, both teams deserve to be in the final.”
The final will be Brazil’s first appearance at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium since they beat Spain 3-0 in the final of the Confederations Cup in 2013.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)