South Korea’s favourite Son
game. When such results happen, there’s always a complex mixture of facts responsible for it. So whenever I hear someone saying it was due to a single reason or blaming a single person, I feel embarrassed for their poor analysis.
Were the players still scarred by the experience when you arrived? I think we had overcome the defeat and the fact we didn’t reach the final at that point, regardless of the media, who like to talk about that defeat a lot. The media always remember it.
How demanding are the Brazilian media? I worked as a pundit for a year, so I now understand the needs of the media. I can accept criticism of performances. But there’s one thing I can’t accept, which is misinformation, so every now and then there’s a situation that makes me angry. But overall, it’s a good relationship. The only problem I give to the Selecao press officer is after matches. Sometimes he has to tell me to calm down before attending the press conference – it’s difficult to keep calm with such adrenaline! [Laughs]
It’s been reported that Luiz Felipe Scolari was your schoolteacher. Is that really true? It was back in the 1970s. Scolari was a professional footballer, but also a teacher at a school where he managed an under-14 team. Actually, I was playing for the U14 team at another school – we played against each other once and he thought I was a good midfielder. Later, I was starting a job as an office boy for Volkswagen and Scolari came in to buy a car. He recognised me, asked, ‘What are you doing here, boy?’ and invited me for a trial at Caxias, the club he was playing for. I went, they liked me and I joined their youth team. That’s how I met Scolari.
Did your Tite nickname come from Scolari? In my school’s U14 team, the midfield was Leonardo, Tite and Ade – the last of which was myself. Ade comes from Adenor, my first name. When we played Scolari’s team, he was impressed but mixed up my name and thought I was called Tite. Then, when he recommended me to Caxias, everyone at the club kept calling me Tite. I said, ‘No, guys, I’m Ade!’, but the whole club called me Tite so there was no way back after that. I stole the nickname from my former team-mate and I’ve been known as Tite ever since...
Would winning this summer’s finals in Russia help Neymar secure the status of the world’s best player? Well, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have both won the Ballon d’or several times but they’ve never won the World Cup. It’s impossible to analyse individual and collective performances by looking only at the results. I obviously hope that Neymar lifts the World Cup in Moscow, but he has the talent to be the best player in the world, regardless of a potential title in Russia.
Will the back injury he suffered against Colombia at the last World Cup give him added incentive to go the distance this time? He will be as hungry as always. I can’t imagine how frustrating it was for him in that moment four years ago, but he has overcome it. All of the top players constantly face tough challenges, and even since that incident Neymar has been through a lot in football. The injury of 2014 is in the past now. Maybe it will provide extra motivation for him, but I don’t see it being that significant.
Do you believe Gabriel Jesus is the No.9 Brazil have been missing for the past few years? He obviously has room to improve as a player, but I think he’s always showed a big sense of professionalism and maturity to deal with big moments. His importance to the Selecao is huge. When you only have a single player capable of winning games in the team, there’s a clear weakness. The presence of Gabriel Jesus helps to improve the game of Neymar, Willian, Philippe Coutinho and all of our attacking players. Our opponents have more to worry about, which makes us stronger.
How much pressure is there on Brazil to bounce back from 2014 by winning the 2018 World Cup? Personally, I want my players to cope with the pressure and just enjoy themselves on the pitch. We want to play beautiful football because it increases our chance of winning trophies. We’re going to the World Cup among the potential winners. We are one of them and we aren’t afraid to consider ourselves among them.
“I WANT MY PLAYERS TO ENJOY THEMSELVES – WE WANT TO PLAY BEAUTIFUL FOOTBALL AS IT INCREASES OUR CHANCES”
Clockwise from top left Tite takes a break from salvaging Brazil’s World Cup qualifying campaign with a selfie session; the squad get put through their paces; Neymar is hungry to bounce back; Gabriel Jesus brings the best out of the Selecao’s other...