Brazil head coach Tite is bullish that Philippe Coutinho can help replace the injured Neymar in his first appearance in national colours for more than 12 months.
Coutinho, who earlier this month joined Aston Villa on loan from Barcelona, is set to line up for Selecao in place of the suspended Lucas Paqueta in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier away to Ecuador.
The 29-year-old has not played for Brazil since October 2020 having undergone knee surgery in January 2021.
Coutinho’s return coincides with the absence of Neymar who is out for the upcoming qualifiers with an ankle injury.
“People always want Neymar, but at times things don’t happen the way you want,” Tite told reporters.
“We feel sorry that Neymar can’t be here, but we have other options. I’m talking about Coutinho. He is a player that can play in that role and I believe in his quality.
“Coutinho is an important player and he’s been recovering to his best level.”
He added: “From a social and human standpoint, I know how much time he has invested and the challenges he has faced to recover from injury.”
Ex-Liverpool forward Coutinho has started life at Villa brightly, netting the equalizing goal in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United on debut.
Brazil have already clinched their spot at Qatar 2022, but Tite wanted to push his players in the qualifiers against Ecuador and also Paraguay on Tuesday.
“I thought the emotions and feelings would be lighter but no, we have the same emotions and anxieties,” Tite said.
“I want to test players in the upcoming qualifiers. I still have the same pressure.”
Tite confirmed that he will field Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior against Ecuador along with Raphinha and Matheus Cunha.