Coutinho steps up for Brazil and out of Neymar’s shadow

Two games into the World Cup campaign that they entered as favourites, Brazil are starting to find their rhythm. And, while it took Neymar until the very last kick to get his own all-singing, all-dancing show on the road, Tite’s men had at least been able to rely on Philippe Coutinho.

Neymar, after weeks/months/years of scrutiny, after two games of rough treatment from his markers, and after flattering to deceive in Russia so far, finally made a positive mark in the 97th minute, with a goal which, just moments later, provoked floods of tears as he sank to his knees on the Saint Petersburg pitch after the 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

It had been a trying afternoon for the Paris Saint-Germain star up until that point, and had it not been for Coutinho the headlines would have been entirely different.

Coutinho, for the second time in two games, came up with the goal Brazil needed. He was their best player in the disappointing draw with Switzerland, the first time Brazil have not won their first game at a World Cup since 1978, and he was there again on Friday, with his side staring down the barrel of another frustrating stalemate.

It was the Barcelona man who charged into the box in the 91st minute to meet Gabriel Jesus’ knock-down, poking the ball through the legs of Keylor Navas, who had hitherto produced yet another World Cup masterclass.

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It was a goal that could be described these days as ‘a bench emptier’. The Brazil substitutes and coaching staff leapt from their seats and charged up the touchline to celebrate with their hero, just like Iran did in this stadium one week ago, when they snatched a last-minute win over Morocco.

Yet Brazil are not Iran, they are the favourites for this tournament, and their celebrations were born more out of relief than the sheer joy of the Iranians.

Indeed, Tite, the highly-regarded coach who has got this team into shape, was so overcome by it all he ended up falling face-first into the ground as he attempted to keep pace with his younger, fitter countrymen.

For Tite the goal provided vindication. The coach had made shrewd changes to spark Brazil into life after an underwhelming first half, but for so long it looked as though they would have had to make do with a goalless draw.

The nature of the World Cup dictates that such a result would not have been seen favourably, but make no mistake: it was clear for much of the second half that Brazil deserved to win this match.

Tite’s decision to replace the poor Willian with Douglas Costa at half-time was wise, and also showed that he knew he could not afford to wait.

Costa immediately looked bright and his side came close to breaking the deadlock when Gabriel Jesus headed against the bar and then, somehow, Coutinho’s shot was narrowly deflected wide.

HD Neymar

The blue shirts sensed that a goal was a matter of time but as they struggled to put the ball in the net they turned to another quality back-up, Roberto Firmino. The Liverpool man, who has been battling with Jesus for a starting berth, was pushed on just behind his Premier League team-mate, with midfielder Paulinho making way. With Costa Rica digging in, this was another clever, and brave, substitution by Tite.

Yet somehow, despite the increased energy in the side and a raft of chances created, it seemed it would not be enough.

Neymar, first and foremost, would have been the villain of the piece. He was criticised for his nomadic, overly flash performance against Switzerland but here he was far more involved – and usually not for the better.

He forced a fine save from Navas, though had he kept his shot down he would have given his side the lead. Later on he found himself with space to burst into but decided to take his shot early, from the edge of the box, and curled a powerful effort just wide. It would have looked spectacular had it gone in, but it didn’t, and that looked set to sum up his performance.

In fact, what had looked to sum up his performance was the penalty he thought he had won. After receiving the ball inside the area, close to Navas’ goal, he checked back onto his right foot, losing the momentum of the attack. The referee initially awarded a penalty, judging that the forward had been pulled, but after consulting with his colleagues in the VAR team he reversed his decision. Rightly, too; after making a mess of another good chance Neymar had gone to ground too easily.

A few minutes later he was booked for petulantly slamming the ball into the ground after committing a foul. Coutinho got a yellow too, for airing his displeasure at his mate’s booking.

Philippe Coutinho Brazil Costa Rica World Cup 2018

But 10 minutes later their fortunes changed. Coutinho, the man brought to Camp Nou with much of the money Barca received for Neymar, proved yet again that he is the ace up Tite’s sleeve.

Tite has only used the former Liverpool man in the midfield three in the past couple of weeks, and on this evidence, and that of his first few months in Catalunya, it is a role that suits him.

Coutinho regularly struggled to perform consistently at Anfield, his stunning goals often papering over the cracks of patchy performances against England’s bigger clubs – and some of the medium-sized ones, too.

But since joining Barca, and particularly in Russia, he is showing that he is the man for the big moment.

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His goal forced Costa Rica forwards, finally, and liberated Brazil. Neymar certainly seemed unburdened – he produced a textbook rainbow flick over his marker’s head down in the corner, as if all of his troubles had disappeared.

They certainly did moments later, when the impressive Douglas Costa got in behind the defence and provide the perfect cross. Neymar, at last, was there to make the difference.

Or at least  a difference. He will not have to worry about too many negative reviews tonight, as Brazil picked exactly the right moment to kick their World Cup into gear. But it will not be forgotten that it was Coutinho who did it.

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‘Neymar pain normal’ – Coutinho unconcerned by ankle issue for Brazil talisman

Philippe Coutinho is not worried about Neymar after the Brazil star limped out of training with an ankle problem in Sochi on Tuesday.

Neymar, who sat out Monday’s session, suddenly hobbled off the pitch in a worrying sight for Brazil ahead of their crucial World Cup Group E match against Costa Rica on Friday.

Brazil announced Neymar was feeling the effects of a sore ankle after he was fouled 10 times in the surprise 1-1 draw with Switzerland on matchday one.

Coutinho, however, played down any concerns over team-mate Neymar heading into the St Petersburg showdown.

“I saw the same thing you saw. I haven’t talked to him,” Coutinho told reporters when asked about the 26-year-old leaving the open training session. “It happened almost at the end of practice. I think he felt something but that’s normal.”

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Coutinho, who netted a stunning goal to open the scoring against Switzerland, added: “Everybody goes after Neymar. When he’s playing, he gets a lot of fouls. They come strong.

“Of course, our focus is on the collective. One or another player will have a highlight here or there but collective is important. It’s how we think. We will do what we have to do, each and every one of us.”

Pressed to discuss the impact of Neymar possibly missing Brazil’s next match, Coutinho spoke like a player confident the Paris Saint-Germain superstar will be fit to face Costa Rica.

“Neymar is one of the best in the world,” the Barcelona midfielder said. “Playing with him is very important resource. When he plays for us, it’s a huge help. He is a brave man who always faces opponents. Always trying to create. Important for us.”

While Brazil were held in their opener, Serbia edged Costa Rica 1-0 thanks to Alexander Kolarov’s sensational free-kick, setting up a vital game for Tite’s side.

Coutinho anticipates another difficult challenge, though the former Liverpool star is remaining calm.

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“It will be very important. We wanted to win the first game. But we ended with a draw. We have another opportunity,” Coutinho added. “I think it will be a great game. We have to be focused. Mentally strong so we can play a good game.

“We have to play a happy game with responsibility because we’re in Brazil jersey. We have to be happy and daring.”

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Coutinho expects more Neymar punishment at World Cup

Neymar and Brazil will have to get used to World Cup opponents trying to break up their attacking rhythm with tactical fouls, says Philippe Coutinho.

The Barcelona playmaker scored a superb opener but Brazil were pegged back by Switzerland their World Cup opener, as Steven Zuber headed in from a corner to earn a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

Neymar was fouled 10 times during the game – more than any player in a World Cup game since 1998 – with three Switzerland players booked for bringing down the Paris Saint-Germain star.

The world’s most expensive player appeared to be limping on several occasions during the second half, with rips in his socks clearly visible, but Coutinho insists Neymar has shrugged off Switzerland’s aggressive tactics.

“Yes, Switzerland hit us a lot… but all matches will be like this, I guess,” Coutinho told reporters.

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“We’re talking about a World Cup so everybody will try to defend their game.

“Neymar is okay, of course. But, as you can see during the match, sometimes the opponents make turns to foul and in many passes when it’s not necessary to foul, you have it and the match gets paralysed – but that’s how it is.

“All matches will be like this and we have to live with that.”

Serbia’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica leaves Brazil needing positive results in their last two Group E fixtures to progress.

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Coutinho, though, is not worried about the chances of one of the pre-tournament favourites suffering a surprise early exit.

“Every game is important,” the former Liverpool star said.

“When you talk about national squad and the World Cup, it’s obvious that, if we want to get through it, we’ll have to get the points – and we have to get it at the next games.”

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Brazil 1 Switzerland 1: Zuber pegs back below-par Selecao

Brazil continued the trend of tournament favourites underperforming as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland in their World Cup Group E opener in Rostov.

Having bowed out of their home tournament four years ago with a 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany, Brazil initially started their mission to put that humiliation behind them in stunning fashion when Philippe Coutinho struck a sublime goal to open the scoring.

Despite dictating the pace of the game, Brazil were never completely dominant and had Switzerland’s rather toothless attack to thank for not taking advantage of the possession and space the underdogs were afforded.

The five-time winners failed to extend their lead and were punished early in the second half when Steven Zuber lost his marker at a corner and equalised – a goal that might have opened the game up had Brazil been at their best.

But Tite’s side remained somewhat subdued by their own high standards, with Neymar a shadow of his usual talismanic self having only recently recovered from a fractured foot, and their remaining group games with Costa Rica and Serbia now come with more pressure than would have previously been anticipated.

Switzerland can reflect on an excellent start to their campaign, having claimed a point from the most difficult of their group matches and improved their chances of reaching the knockout stages for the second consecutive tournament.


Vladimir Petkovic’s side began on the front foot, Xherdan Shaqiri sending a bouncing cross towards Blerim Dzemaili that the Bologna midfielder fired over the crossbar with a shot on the turn.

Their promising start could not last and soon Switzerland were sitting back as Brazil passed the ball crisply around the pitch, almost finding a breakthrough when Paulinho dragged a shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post with 10 minutes played.

Just 10 minutes later, Switzerland were reeling from a piece of sublime, quintessentially Brazilian skill.

Marcelo’s cross from the left bounced back out of the box to the feet of Coutinho, who took a touch to control it before unleashing a shot that curled spectacularly around helpless goalkeeper Yann Sommer and in off the post.


Having taken the lead, Brazil slowed the pace of the game down and frustrated Switzerland, whose only subsequent attacking foray before half-time ended disappointingly with Zuber firing a shot straight into Thiago Silva, who headed narrowly over the crossbar at the other end just before the interval.

Switzerland drew level only four minutes into the second half when a corner from Shaqiri found Zuber unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box and he had the simple task of heading the ball beyond Alisson and high into the centre of the goal.

Neymar fired into the side-netting from inside the penalty area and Fernandinho hit a speculative long-range shot wide to the left of the target as Brazil probed for a goal to restore their lead, but their attacks lacked the necessary urgency.

Coutinho had another chance to score with 20 minutes left but his neat control was followed by a wayward drive, and Gabriel Jesus saw a penalty appeal waved away when he was challenged by Manuel Akanji in the box.

Two late chances fell to Brazil substitute Roberto Firmino, but the Liverpool forward lashed the ball over before drawing a reaction save from Sommer with a close-range header, and Miranda almost made amends for his failure to mark Zuber earlier but fired wide from 18 yards as Switzerland held on for a deserved point that was secured when a Fabian Schar block prevented Coutinho from having the final say.

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Switzerland give Neymar the rough treatment to frustrate Brazil

The name on everybody’s lips heading into Brazil’s World Cup opener against Switzerland on Sunday was an unsurprising one: Neymar.

The Paris Saint-Germain star was a doubt for the tournament in Russia not too long ago after fracturing his metatarsal in the Ligue 1 encounter with Marseille back in February and only recently returned to full training.

Neymar’s injury problems did not stop him from scoring both in his return to action against Croatia as well as against Austria, but Brazil boss Tite admitted during his pre-match news conference that the 26-year-old was not in peak condition yet.

“Neymar is not 100 per cent,” he stated at the Rostov Arena. “But he is very privileged physically, his sprinting capacity and his speed is really impressive, he hasn’t lost that. He’s not 100 per cent yet, but he’s good enough to play very well.”

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Both parts of Tite’s message had clearly registered with the Swiss as they did everything within their power to keep the PSG man quiet.

Valon Behrami needed a mere four minutes for his first foul on Neymar, only to repeat the trick 10 minutes later, much to the annoyance of the Brazil No.10.

Referee Cesar Ramos took action at the half-hour mark when Stephan Lichtsteiner brought down Neymar on the edge of the box, but Switzerland continued to bully the former Barcelona man at every opportunity, with Fabian Schar and Behrami both going into the match official’s book too.

Neymar Valon Behrami Brazil Switzerland World Cup 2018

Vladimir Petkovic’s men’s focus on Neymar – who was fouled 10 times across 96 minutes – allowed his team-mates a bit of extra space and Philippe Coutinho took the opportunity to show what he is capable of in what was his World Cup debut.

The ex-Liverpool man was involved in Brazil’s first moment of danger when he set up Neymar down the left, with Paulinho eventually scuffing a shot wide from a close range.

Coutinho then decided to take matters into his own hand midway through the first half. The 26-year-old picked up a loose ball 25 yards out and beat goalkeeper Yann Sommer with a stunning curler into the top corner.

His attacking influence was not Coutinho’s only contribution on the evening, however, as he happily tracked back when needed, often finding himself in a deeper position than Barcelona team-mate Paulinho. 

But the 26-year-old’s strike eventually was not enough as some unconvincing defending from Miranda allowed Steven Zuber to level the scoring early in the second half after a Ricardo Rodriguez corner.

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Coutinho came close to restoring Brazil’s lead when he chested down a long ball from the left before blasting a volley toward the far post, but he was unfortunate to see his attempt sail wide.

Brazil thus had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their opening game, with Sommer pulling off a superb save late on to save Switzerland, as they got their campaign off to an underwhelming start, much like fellow favourites Spain, Argentina and Germany.

Costa Rica now await on matchday two, before they lock horns with Serbia in their final game of the group stages on June 27 as they continue the chase for their sixth-ever world title.

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Losing Coutinho was the ‘best thing that could have happened’ to Liverpool, says Ince

Paul Ince believes the loss of Philippe Coutinho was the “best thing that could happen” to Liverpool.

Coutinho, 26, had established himself as a key figure at Anfield before sealing a £142 million move to Barcelona in January.

Eyebrows were raised at Liverpool’s decision to sanction the sale of Coutinho midway through the 2017/18 campaign with no replacement signed at the time.

However, the Reds managed to seal a Champions League final berth and a top-four Premier League finish without the Brazil star and Ince believes his old side benefitted from his departure.

“Coutinho was the one that everyone thought when he has gone, that it is it, [they are finished],” Ince told Goal. “I don’t know whether Klopp felt the same, but I felt that losing Coutinho was the best thing that could happen for Liverpool because they were so dependent on Coutinho, everyone was talking about Coutinho.

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“Once he left it was then time for the players to step up and say ‘well now we have got responsibility’. It is not a one-man team as everyone was saying. We will show that it is not. Getting Salah in was amazing business. That was the best business ever getting Salah in. I used to watch him play for Roma last year with Dzeko and he was amazing.

“I can’t believe Liverpool were the only ones in for him [Salah]. That was a great bit of business.”

Ince, who played for Liverpool between 1997 and 1999, has hailed the arrivals of Naby Keita and Fabinho but equally says Emre Can’s departure is a blow for the club.

The 50-year-old believes the Merseysiders still need to make a few more additions in the summer transfer window, particularly in goal and up front.

Ince: Losing Coutinho was best thing to happen to Liverpool

Was losing Philippe Coutinho the best thing that could have happened to Liverpool? Paul Ince thinks so and the former Reds midfielder also expects Jurgen Klopp’s men to challenge for major honours again in 2018/19. (Paddy Power)
Posted by Goal.com on Sunday, 17 June 2018

He continued: “Getting Keita in from Leipzig, top player. Fabinho, yes, I like him. I think they have done a good bit of business. I think they have to replace Can, it is a shame that he has gone.

“I like him as a player, I think he has all the components that you want from a midfield player. He is strong, can get it down and can past. I think they will get a goalkeeper in. Irrespective of what happened in the Champions League. I am not going down that road but I think they need another goalkeeper.

“He has not been sure all season, whether it is Karius or Mignolet. I think he will wanna go. I like Alexander-Arnold, he is a young kid and will improve, he will come back. So on the basis, I think they will need another striker. I think they need a target man. I know they have got the little players for how he plays but I think they need a target man.

“You need a target man sometimes, when you are chasing the game. When you just put balls into the box and I think someone like that. I expect them to be up there again challenging. It all depends on who City will buy. City will buy. You hear the owner say we will dominate for the next 10 years, we will win every title.

“He is not going away from a money point of view. So it is all about who buys what but it bodes well for an exciting Premier League next year.”

Loris Karius Liverpool Champions League final

Despite Liverpool’s positive season, they still finished way off the pace of the Premier League winners Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s side had a 25-point lead on Liverpool as they broke the record points total by reaching 100 points. They will likely continue to invest heavily but Ince thinks that Liverpool will be amongst the challengers next season.

“Yes, there’s hope. There has got to be hope,” he added. “I think Liverpool will improve. I think it will be tough because Man City will buy again and they won the title by 18-19 points. That’s like six and a half games more or less but the other teams can beat them. There are ways of beating them.

“Huddersfield got a point against them. Teams will defend deep against them and they won’t always break them down. I just think you if you can match them and fight fire with fire, you can exploit City because they do leave gaps in behind. For United, if you just sit back then they just open teams up because they have got Silva’s and De Bruyne who can just unlock those deep blocks up.

“So you want to stay in the game but fight fire with fire. Look at the second half where they won 3-2. They got lucky there because they should have been 6-0 down at half-time and wouldn’t have scored as many goals but the second half performance was something that you want to see. That’s the approach want to see [against City] and that’s got to give you hope for next season.”

Paul Ince is an ambassador for Paddy Power and will be a guest on Paddy’s Boat Party which will be broadcast live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube throughout the World Cup.

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Austria 0 Brazil 3: Neymar, Jesus and Coutinho send Selecao to Russia in style

Neymar marked his first start since February with a dazzling goal as Brazil rounded off their World Cup preparations with a superb 3-0 win over Austria

Gabriel Jesus should have been penalised for offside when he converted expertly nine minutes before half-time at Vienna’s Ernst-Happel-Stadion, but the Manchester City striker’s 10th goal in 17 international appearances stood.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has spoken of fears over his fitness holding up following a broken metatarsal in February and he was forced to withstand some robust challenges before a wonderful solo effort made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute – his 55th international goal sending him level with Romario in third on Brazil’s all-time scoring chart.

Philippe Coutinho got in on the act six minutes later and the Barcelona playmaker also crashed against the crossbar as Tite’s side sounded a statement of intent ahead of Russia 2018.

Brazil begin their World Cup campaign against Switzerland in seven days, safe in the knowledge that star man Neymar, who lasted 84 minutes, and his esteemed supporting cast are in fine order.


There were brief fears for Neymar early on when Austria captain Julian Baumgartlinger trod on his ankle.

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, operating behind Tite’s impressive attacking ensemble, provided the first goal threat with a rasping 25 yarder that rippled the side netting.

Austria’s attacks were generally focused on shifting possession quickly towards centre-forward Marko Arnautovic and, when David Alaba’s cross evaded the West Ham attacker in the 19th minute, Alessandro Schopf was unable to slide home at the back post.

Reported Manchester United target Arnautovic then scuffed a shot into the turf and over from 10 yards after Schopf and Stefan Lainer picked apart an uncomfortable looking Brazil backline.

Coutinho drilled a low, long-range effort that drew a fine save from Heinz Lindner and the Austria goalkeeper brilliantly denied Paulinho with his feet shortly after Thiago Silva planted a Neymar corner wide.

The pressure told in the 36th minute when Marcelo’s speculative shot hit Casemiro and fell for Jesus, who finished with ice-cool precision despite replays suggesting he was fractionally offside.


A last-ditch sliding block from Aleksandar Dragovic prevented Willian from setting up Jesus for a second seven minutes after the restart.

There was an altercation following that challenge and some further strong tackles – a crude clump from the already-booked Schopf on Coutinho coming immediately after Sebastian Prodl felled Neymar – sent tempers to boiling point.

Brazil took their frustrations out constructively and Neymar forced Dragovic to ground against his will, sitting centre-back down and coolly slotting home.

The Selecao began carving Austria apart and, after Paulinho rifled a low effort too close to Lindner, Coutinho streamed on to a pass from Jesus’ replacement Roberto Firmino and clipped in number three.

Lindner was a spectator as Coutinho sent one of his speciality strikes thumping against the bar, while his underworked opposite number Alisson tipped behind from substitute Stefan Hierlander in the 81st minute – preserving a fifth consecutive international clean sheet before Neymar departed late on to a warm ovation.

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Plan B may well have become Plan A – and Coutinho is the central figure in Tite’s evolving Brazil

The Barcelona man overcame early international disappointment to force his way into the Selecao – and now may be charged with the key role in Russia


GOALANALYSIS – Raisa Simplicio & Rupert Fryer


For a long time, Philippe Coutinho’s international career was one of false starts and disappointments.

His Brazil debut arrived back in 2010, but Coutinho was left out of Luiz Felipe Scholari’s squad for World Cup 2014, having earned just six caps in four years.

Dunga’s arrival was supposed to kick-start his journey with the Selecao, but instead came more ups and down as he failed to earn himself a regular starting spot.

That his preferred position was also the role reserved for Neymar – cutting in from the left – saw Coutinho face a persistent uphill struggle for international recognition.

Tite Coutinho Willian Brasil 04/10/2016

Indeed, it looked to be going the same way immediately following the June 2016 appointment of Tite, as the then Liverpool man had to make do with another place among the supporting cast.

But then came a change. Willian – who was struggling through personal problems at the time – suffered a dip in form and found himself increasingly isolated out on the right wing during the early stages of the Tite era.

After two substitute appearances, Coutinho was handed a starting role in an October 2016 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia. He’s been first choice ever since.

The former Vasco and Inter man grew considerably over the next few months, making himself one of the protagonists of a new dawn for Brazilian football as he formed a deadly triumvirate alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus.

And he is now being trusted with what is arguably the biggest task of any member of the squad that will travel to Russia this month.

Last year, Tite began experimenting with Coutinho in a central midfield role, slotting him in place of Renato Augusto as the playmaker charged with knitting the midfield to the attack.

Renato had been hugely impressive in the role, but the fact that he was now playing his football in the less challenging world of Chinese football, which also operates on a very different calendar, became a problem. The role now appears to be Coutinho’s for the taking.

With Barcelona star Coutinho in the side, the plan was to inject a little more dynamism to a balanced midfield anchored by Casemiro, who sat behind the shuttling Paulinho.

Initially, this appeared to be a ploy that Tite would use solely against teams that sat deep and looked only to stifle the Selecao. 

But Willian’s return to form has made the Chelsea man increasingly difficult to leave out and, with Renato having played almost half the number of minutes of his international colleagues in club football during 2018, Plan B could well become Plan A for Tite’s Brazil.

With Coutinho in the side, Brazil can morph mid-game from their customary 4-1-4-1 to variations of 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2.

And a knee injury for Renato means that the experiment will continue on Sunday against Austria as the Brasil Global Tour arrives in Vienna.

The one change from the side that defeated Croatia last weekend will see Fernandinho drop out and Coutinho return to central midfield, with Willian wide right and Neymar playing from the left – the same system we saw in the second half of the match at Anfield as the Selecao recovered from a tricky first-half to score two unanswered goals after the break.

Brazil meet Austria on Sunday June 10 at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in what will be their final World Cup warm-up match before departing for Russia.

Follow Brazil’s World Cup preparations by joining us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Coutinho: Salah and Neymar can dethrone Messi and Ronaldo

Philippe Coutinho believes Mohamed Salah and Neymar can stake their claims to be the world’s best player at Russia 2018.

Both are going into the tournament with injury concerns –  Salah faces a race against time to be fit after hurting his shoulder in the Champions League final , while Neymar has not played since fracturing his foot in February .

Coutinho, who played with Salah at Liverpool before his January move to Barcelona and regularly partners Neymar in attack for Brazil, is confident that both have what it takes to disrupt Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance at the summit of the game.

“It feels like the right moment for ­someone to take their chance at this World Cup,” said Coutinho.

“Messi and Ronaldo have been up there on their own for so many years. I think it may be time for other players to aspire to be the best in the world – and the best at this World Cup, too.

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“For me, Salah and Neymar have serious chances to do that. It depends on how the tournament goes, of course, but they have the talent to do it. Those are the players I would pick out.”

Coutinho, who is expected to feature in Brazil’s friendly against Croatia at Anfield on Sunday , enjoyed half a season alongside Salah before his move to Spain and has seen enough to know he will be a firm Liverpool favourite for years to come.

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“Watching Mo Salah since then has been amazing,” he added.

“He is going to be a player who will be a big hero at Liverpool for a long time, I am totally convinced of that.

“He can do well in the World Cup, too – it all depends on how far his team can go. But we also know what Neymar can bring. He is a special player.”

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Liverpool owner: I can’t understand why Suarez & Coutinho left

Liverpool owner John W Henry insists he cannot understand why players such as Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho wanted to leave the club.

Both the Uruguay international and the Brazilian playmaker moved to Barcelona, in 2014 and 2018 respectively.

Suarez sparkled at Anfield prior to his transfer, scoring 31 league goals in the season before his move, while Coutinho netted 12 goals and provided eight assists in the half-season before the January deal.

Henry, though, believes that Liverpool are at the top of the food chain, and insists that, had they stayed, they would be in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI for this weekend’s Champions League final against Real Madrid.

“Maybe it’s because I’m an American, but I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would want to leave Liverpool,” Henry told Associated Press.

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“The club is so rich in history and tradition, supported by so many millions around the world, in virtually every country of the world.

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona.

“It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.

“They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.

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“But [FSG president] Mike Gordon, [sporting director] Michael Edwards and everyone in our scouting department have done a terrific job in making the best of those two difficult situations.”

Mohamed Salah has enjoyed a stunning season this term, thus far netting 44 goals in all competitions, leading to speculation linking the Egypt international with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

It remains to be seen if, this time, a star player will remain at Anfield.

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