Coutinho se­cures sup­port­ing role as Brazil re­cover in World Cup

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Liver­pool mid­fielder Philippe Coutinho had be­come used to watch­ing Brazil ei­ther on TV or from the bench. But af­ter new coach Tite took over the na­tional team in Septem­ber, Coutinho has se­cured a key sup­port­ing role in lead­ing Brazil to the top of its World Cup group in South Amer­i­can qual­i­fiers.

In the 3-0 vic­tory over Ar­gentina on Thurs­day, Coutinho had his best per­for­mance wear­ing yel­low so far.

Brazil's No. 11 opened scor­ing with a su­perb strike from the edge of the box, and then floated be­hind Ar­gentina's de­fen­sive mid­field­ers to cre­ate space for Barcelona star Neymar to score his 50th goal for the home team.

For the first time in a Brazil match, the 53,000 fans at the Mineirao sta­dium chanted Coutinho's name as he was sub­sti­tuted by Dou­glas Costa.

Coutinho's nat­u­ral part­ner­ship with Neymar comes from play­ing to­gether in youth di­vi­sions. They are so close that, af­ter the game, both posted on In­sta­gram the same pic­ture of them­selves cel­e­brat­ing a goal.

“Since a long time ago,” Neymar's post read, with Coutinho say­ing much the same thing.

Other play­ers see the growing im­por­tance of their re­la­tion­ship.

“They un­der­stand each other so much that they make it all sim­pler for the other play­ers,” said Brazil mid­fielder Re­nato Au­gusto.

Brazil has won all five matches since Coutinho be­came a vi­tal mem­ber of the side under Tite, with the bonus of Neymar's team­work also im­prov­ing. Dur­ing train­ing ses­sions in Belo Hor­i­zonte this week, Coutinho and Neymar — both 24 — were al­most al­ways to­gether, and of­ten with 19-year-old striker Gabriel Je­sus, who will soon move to Manch­ester City.

“It is so easy to play with them,” Coutinho said. “And it is great be­cause our re­la­tion­ship works on and off the pitch. That has given us a lot of con­fi­dence.”

Coach Tite also gets credit from the Liver­pool mid­fielder.

“He thinks ev­ery player is im­por­tant, even those that are not play­ing,” Coutinho said. “That has made a big dif­fer­ence.”

Brazil leads the South Amer­i­can qual­i­fiers with 24 points from 11 matches. The top four teams qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally for the World Cup in Rus­sia in 2018.

Next Tues­day Brazil eighth-placed Peru.

De­spite the con­vinc­ing vic­tory over Ar­gentina — at the same place where Brazil was hu­mil­i­ated by Ger­many 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi­fi­nals — Coutinho be­lieves there is still a lot to do before Rus­sia. For now, he wants to en­joy be­ing a sup­port­ing actor.

“Just to be here brings me a lot of pride, just to be in a squad like this with all these fan­tas­tic play­ers,” Coutinho said. “Play­ing against Ar­gentina was a big dream come true, ev­ery Brazil­ian child dreams to be in one of those games.” vis­its

Chris­ten Press scores fourth ca­reer hat trick in 81 US win

As the sea­son winds down, coach Jill El­lis wants the Amer­i­cans wing­ing it and mak­ing ad­just­ments on the fly to keep pres­sure on op­po­nents from all an­gles and ev­ery spot on the field.

That task came fairly eas­ily against Ro­ma­nia.

Chris­ten Press had her fourth ca­reer hat trick by the 38th minute, Alex Mor­gan added two goals and the U.S. women's na­tional team whipped up on the Ro­ma­ni­ans 8-1 Thurs­day night.

“I want a team to feel like they can't breathe against us,” El­lis said. “That's kind of where we want to take this team to in terms of our de­fen­sive pres­ence and that kind of men­tal­ity . ... Both sides of the ball that's what we want, and they're not go­ing to get a break.”

Press scored the first goal of the match in the 8th minute, then Tobin Heath found the net 2 min­utes later for the first of her two goals on an as­sist by Press, who scored again in the 35th and 38th min­utes.

With 11 goals this sea­son, the for­mer star at nearby Stan­ford reached dou­ble dig­its for the third straight year and be­came the fourth U.S. player to do so in 2016.

“In or­der to play this style, you have to be phys­i­cally su­pe­rior than the other team,” Press said. “So that's kind of like our base­line. Big en­gine, su­per ag­gres­sive, al­ways on our toes, al­ways on our front foot and then at the same time when you get the ball you have to be calm, you have to be com­posed. So it's that switch­ing back and forth I think makes the best team in the world, and that's what we're aim­ing to be.”

Mor­gan scored in the 52nd and 75th min­utes but missed a penalty kick in the 64th af­ter El­lis in­serted five sub­sti­tutes to start the sec­ond half at Avaya Sta­dium, which drew 16,425 fans.

Mor­gan Brian made a div­ing header from just in­side the 8-yard box off a free kick by Andi Sul­li­van fol­low­ing a yel­low card, her first goal of the year.

Me­gan Rapi­noe didn't play, nor was she on the field dur­ing the na­tional an­them to kneel on the grass as has been her rou­tine, in­spired by San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick's ac­tions dur­ing the NFL pre­sea­son.

Brazil's Neymar, cen­ter, cel­e­brates with team­mates Philippe Coutinho, left, and Gabriel Je­sus

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.