Montevideo (AFP) – Brazil will put their perfect start to the South American 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign on the line on Tuesday when they travel to Uruguay without Neymar and with worries over their form.
Tite’s side laboured to a 1-0 win over a limited Venezuela on Friday thanks to a second-half strike from Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino to make it three wins from three on the long road to the finals in Qatar.
However, having faced the three bottom teams so far, their place atop the single 10-team CONMEBOL qualifying group will come under threat when they play in Montevideo against a Uruguay team that purred in a 3-0 thumping of Colombia on Friday.
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez both struck in a strong display that saw Atletico Madrid striker Suarez score from the penalty spot for the third time in two matches with his country.
Brazil will need to up their game as they face another match without Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar, who suffered a thigh injury last month and is still not fit.
“We have had three victories. In the first two we created lots of chances and scored lots of goals, played well and got good results,” Tite said in a virtual press conference on Monday.
“We might not have played well in the third game (against Venezuela) but it was a consistent performance and we got the win. Maybe these teams won’t be in the running to qualify but they will soon climb the table.”
He added: “This is traditionally a big game. Uruguay on their own turf are a different proposition and will make more demands of us defensively than Venezuela did, but at the same time we will have more space in which to create going forward.”
Tite struggled to find the right formula to break down Venezuela in Sao Paulo, with Firmino withdrawing to a deeper role on the left, Richarlison starting as centre forward and Gabriel Jesus on the right.
– Messi, Argentina go to Peru –
However it was largely pedestrian from the Brazilians against a Venezuela side yet to pick up a point in the group and looking likely to continue their run of being the only South American team never to qualify for a World Cup.
Tuesday’s opponents are only three points off the lead in fourth place. The top four qualify automatically for the finals in Qatar, which start in almost exactly two years. Fifth place will get another chance to qualify in intercontinental play-offs.
Tite admitted Everton midfielder Allan is an injury doubt and revealed that Arthur, of Juventus, could replace him.
Should Brazil lose, Argentina — two points back in second place — are ready to pounce in their later match at lowly Peru, who have just a point from their opening three outings.
However, they too failed to impress in their most recent match, a 1-1 draw with fifth-placed Paraguay in Buenos Aires that came despite the presence of Lionel Messi.
Messi has had a tricky start to the domestic season under new Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman and his luck didn’t change at La Bombonera, with the 33-year-old having what might have been a winning goal disallowed in the 58th minute.
A frustrated Messi then also had a free-kick tipped onto the crossbar, leaving him with one goal in this qualifying campaign which, like most this season, came from the penalty spot.
The Argentines will be without Exequiel Palacios after the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder fractured a bone in his spine in an aerial challenge, with his club saying he will out for three months.
In the other matches Ecuador face Colombia in Quito, while Venezuela host Chile in Caracas and Paraguay will be hoping to move into the top four when they take on rock-bottom Bolivia in Asuncion.
Fixtures on Tuesday (All kick-offs GMT)
Ecuador v Colombia, Venezuela v Chile (both 2100), Paraguay v Bolivia, Uruguay v Brazil (2300), Peru v Argentina (0030 Wednesday)
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