SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil enters its final days of preparations for the World Cup paying extra attention to its defense.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari spent part of the team’s training session on Monday making adjustments to the defensive setup, stopping practice several times to reposition players until he was satisfied.
Although Brazil didn’t concede a goal in its two warm-up matches before the World Cup, Scolari said he was not completely satisfied with how his squad played defensively. He didn’t even like how the team practiced at times, and publicly said his players were giving up too much space for counterattacks.
One of the coach’s main goals in the last week of preparations was to make sure the team ready defensively in time for the opener against Croatia on Thursday.
“We know that if we don’t concede goals, our chances to win matches increase, because we know the kind of talent we have in attack,” Scolari said. “It’s important we are well prepared on defense so we are not caught by surprise.”
Right back Daniel Alves acknowledged that Brazil’s defense isn’t perfect, but said the team is working to improve before the opener.
When told that Croatia striker Ivica Olic said he saw spaces in Brazil’s defense during the warm-up matches, Alves acknowledged that adjustments still have to be made.
“Obviously, if we didn’t make mistakes, we would be a perfect team, and that’s not possible,” the Barcelona defender said. “If Olic saw spaces, then we have to make sure we fix that so he can’t find them anymore.”
The last time Brazil conceded a goal was in a 2-1 win over Chile in a friendly last November. Brazil beat Panama 4-0 and Serbia 1-0 last week in the last two matches before for the opening match in Sao Paulo.
“Physically we are ready, but tactically we still have to adjust a few things,” Scolari said.
The coach’s other main focus during Monday’s training was on set pieces — another area where he said Brazil still needs to improve.
There was a scare in the session when Neymar twisted his right ankle. He was on the ground in pain and needed to be attended to by doctors, but was able to finish the training session normally.
Brazil is expected to practice again at its training camp outside Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday before traveling to Sao Paulo later in the day for the opener.
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