Brazil’s Tite: ‘We have reached the World Cup – now it’s time to be champions’ | Brazil

A few months before the World Cup, how are you? How do you manage your anxiety? How am I? I am impatient but focused. We reached the World Cup; now is the time to reach the final and be champion. It’s the truth. At the last World Cup, I was the coach because of other circumstances [Dunga was fired in 2016 and Tite took over]. Now I had the opportunity to do the full four-year cycle. Expectations are high but the focus is on hard work.

I have staff with great values ​​and references. And an amazing family. If I didn’t have my wife [Rosi], I would not be where I am. I get angry, I bang on the roof, I don’t sleep at night, like everyone else. But I have a partner who supports me, a family who supports me. I draw my strength from my family, my work and my spirituality.

Are you afraid of something? The pressure we face is a problem: the responsibility, the pressure of the job, the demands. When I was a supporter, I wanted the team to be the best. This is what affects us. But mental health is important. I think of what Mandela said: “Courage is the ability to face fear. In every decision he made, fear was present. When I read that, I saw that I was a normal citizen. I have my fears, my nightmares, my little goosebumps. Fear but not fear; fear and dread are different.

I also read what Tostão [a Brazil legend who won the 1970 World Cup] said: “Fame creates a division of the human being – it builds up a creature and impoverishes creation.” I have to take care of Adenor [Tite’s real first name]. Adenor has a life: he will continue to be a father, a grandfather. But he does not want to be measured. If he wins, he’s the best. Otherwise, he is reviled. I can’t understand it. When I speak, I speak for my whole team. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. We need to think about different opinions and we are open to well-argued ideas. It’s not about winning at all costs.

Alex Ferguson says great professionals compete in a constant quest for improvement. Do you know why? If I compare myself to someone else, I will be frustrated and hurt. On some points I will be better, but on others I will be worse. I need to stay healthy, with a healthy mind.

Do you feel bad when you get criticized like last year? We need time to understand. Works are best seen when they are remote, complete. We have results. What are people waiting for? We broke the record [for the most points] in the playoffs. We have the longest unbeaten streak: 12 games [under Tite in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup] and now 17 games unbeaten [in the 2022 qualifiers]. That’s 29 games.

It’s very difficult in qualifying in South America. We have scored 13 more goals than Argentina in 17 games. We are back in first place in the FIFA rankings. We were champions [2019] Copa America. A second place too [in 2021]. We did not win last time, but there was a whole process, in addition to a difficult, troubled moment, full of a series of problems, which I do not want to go into [Brazil took over hosting rights from Colombia and Argentina amid the pandemic but were criticised for doing so while tens of thousands were dying in the country]. We kept a clean sheet in 13 of 17 qualifiers; our average goals scored per game was over 2.5. I would also like to underline one thing: no one wanted to play the Copa América and everyone said so at the [then] President [of Brazil’s football federation, Rogério Caboclo].

Brazil celebrate after winning the Copa América in 2019. Photography: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Are Brazil the most envied team? I will tell you a story. An Italian coach mocked Miranda [the Brazil defender, then at Internazionale, after Brazil were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by Belgium]: “How does it feel to be eliminated by Belgium?” I heard this from Miranda and told Miranda that he [the Italian coach] will never know that feeling because he never coached a nation like Brazil or even his own nation. It’s envy. That’s why he asked her. Many people are jealous of Brazil. They don’t admit it. This is perhaps the most envied team in the world.

It’s a matter of disrespect and envy. This is the legacy that I carry, the legacy that we carry, the story of having Pelé, Zagallo, Tostão, Garrincha. If Zagallo is criticized, how can I not be? Are Brazil the most envied? I think so, but when I go out everyone asks me how I cope with the pressure of coaching the Brazil team.

Recently, Neymar said he was tired and this World Cup could be his last. Are you worried about Neymar? Did you talk about it with him? You said “recently”. We have to be careful when it happened [the interview was released last October but had been recorded months earlier, either soon after PSG had lost a Champions League semi-final or Brazil had lost the Copa final]. If I had spoken right after a cup elimination, I would have also been extremely upset. It needs to be contextualized. We talk to all the players, including Neymar, about the physical, technical, tactical and mental preparation for decisive matches. We transmit ideas. Due to Neymar’s greatness, there will always be high expectations. But now it’s diluted. It’s Neymar, but also Vinícius, Raphinha; Thiago [Silva] is again at the highest level, Paquetá, Casemiro, Fabinho too.

Neymar hugs Vinícius Júnior after scoring against Chile in March's World Cup qualifiers.
Neymar hugs Vinícius Júnior after scoring against Chile in March’s World Cup qualifiers. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Is Neymar your best player or is it Vinícius time? Neymar is Neymar. He remains our biggest star. The difference now is that the glow is diluted by nearby stars which may also glow. The greatness of Neymar is that he understands this – about the growth of these children. He encourages the boys to go up a level. Time and experience give this maturity.

What would it be like to play a World Cup without your mother? She died in 2019 My mother’s naivety…it was beautiful. When we won the Copa America, she asked me if it was bigger than the World Cup. Honey… So I explained it’s not the same cup but it’s hard too. I am at peace. It is also their will what I do. [Tite gets teary-eyed.] I do my father’s will. He was my first coach. I know I make them proud. My mother always gave me a lot of faith, my father the love of sport. I’m fine, I have their light, their energy.

I can only play football for 15 minutes with my grandchildren. I can’t do more because they are very intense. Then their grandmother will play with them a bit. I can’t turn away from football. It is my pleasure, my satisfaction.

I have a lot of videos and games to watch but there are also family moments. I love being with Rosi, walking with her. I like books, chimarrão [maté], coffee, being with my children and grandchildren. I like movies. I read a lot – it strengthens me. But I don’t go out; I always ask to write something.

Tite next to a tactical board.
Tite plans to spend a year with his family and study after the World Cup. Photography: The Guardian

Will this World Cup shape your future? Sure. If you win the World Cup, you get an open market. You can choose. I’m not going to lie: my idea is definitely not to work in Brazil. I want to spend a year with my family, take a gap year, study, have no responsibility because the responsibility is too great. If something comes from outside, it will happen. Now I have the responsibility and the joy of being the coach of the Seleção. I won’t even talk to anyone.

But in the past, have you had offers to take over a European club? Yes, Real Madrid and Sporting. What I like is that when a European club is interested in a professional, they have a conversation to explain to him what he needs. It’s really cool. There was another club that wanted to talk to me and I said no: PSG [after Unai Emery left in May 2018]. They wanted to talk to me and I said I wouldn’t; I don’t want and I don’t want. I don’t want to open up that possibility of anything else. I want to be focused on my work. Then it’s another story.

At the world cup [just before the 2018 tournament]they or they [Madrid] said they wanted to talk and I said no, I won’t talk, don’t come near. I want to be at peace with myself and my work. I give the best of myself. When you do something in parallel, it’s not doing it to the fullest. I can not do it. I received offers from Real Madrid, PSG and Sporting. But I didn’t want that. I want to win the World Cup. After the World Cup, I will decide my future.

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