Brazil head coach Tite slammed the "inadmissible" pitch at Estadio Nilton Santos in Rio de Janeiro, despite Wednesday's controversial 2-1 Copa America win over Colombia.

Tite's Brazil were forced to come from behind for their 10th consecutive win, needing a last-gasp Casemiro header 10 minutes into stoppage time to secure a dramatic victory midweek.

Luis Diaz's stunning and acrobatic volley had given Colombia a 10th-minute lead and defending champions Brazil struggled to create any chances until the second half, with substitute Roberto Firmino equalising with 12 minutes of regulation remaining.

Colombia were left seething when Firmino's 78th-minute equaliser came after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana in the build-up – the official allowing play to continue rather than call for a drop-ball, leading to lengthy protests from Colombia.

Casemiro's 100th-minute goal – officially timed at 99:22, the latest recorded 90th-minute goal at the Copa America since 2016, then sealed top spot for in-form Brazil in Group B.

Brazil head coach Tite took aim at the playing surface, claiming it "spoiled the whole spectacle" and made it hard for his side to play.

"We have to understand the game within a context," Tite said at his news conference. "It was a field that I won't call horrible, but very bad for playing football, it spoils the whole spectacle.

"Whoever wants to create cannot. It is inadmissible for athletes from two high-level teams, who play in Europe with such a great quality of turf and a better, bigger spectacle, to come and play on a field under these conditions.

"The ball is torn. The fluency of the play is all impaired. If I take all the players from Brazil and ask them to comment on it, they will say almost the same thing I am saying.

"If we want a great show, we have to provide the conditions. It was very damaged. It's one of the aspects that I want to make clear."

Tite, whose Brazil had their run of six consecutive clean sheets ended, added: "This game is not the characteristic of the traditional Brazil against Colombia game. All the other games were competitive, but they had more play.

"We played pressured. And playing pressured is difficult, soon you want to get rhythm and you can't."

Tite was forthright on the playing surface, although he refused to be drawn on his side's controversial leveller, which occurred after the ball deflected off referee Nestor Pitana, who opted to allow play to continue.

Colombia's players protested the decision with Pitana for several minutes, after a goal was awarded despite a VAR check.

"I regret what I'm going to say, but Pitana has to take care," Tite said. "He has to take care."

Neymar scored for the fourth consecutive international to move within nine goals of Pele's all-time scoring record and head coach Tite said there is no limit for his superstar player.

Neymar scored once and played a major role in setting up the other three goals as defending champions Brazil routed Peru 4-0 to make it two wins from two games at the Copa America.

On Thursday, Neymar's strike took his international tally to 68 goals, second overall for Brazil, behind only Selecao great Pele with 77.

Since his 2010 debut, Neymar has scored 49 goals more than any of his international team-mates in that period.

"I don't know where Neymar can reach," Tite said in a post-match news conference. "In terms of technical capacity, I really hope he's always healthy and doesn't get injured."

Neymar was emotional when he spoke to the media post-game, being brought to tears after moving a step closer to Pele's record.

"I didn't see the interview, but I knew he was moved," Tite said.

Since Tite took charge of Brazil in 2016, the Selecao have scored two-plus goals in 37 of the 56 games; 66 per cent of those games scoring more than one goal (W36 D1).

Neymar has not been the only beneficiary of Tite's tenure and the coach spoke about his relationship with his players.

"What is in my relationship with Neymar is the same thing that has with the youngest member of the team, which is Vinicius Junior, loyalty," he said.

"Loyalty in the change-rooms and not publicly expressing adversities without first directing them to the athlete. This is perhaps the greatest experience I bring from my time as a player. I would like my coach to talk to me about my mistakes and not publicly communicate them.

"I know the media is looking for information and that's their role. But my role is always to make things transparent both for Vini Jr, who is the youngest, and for Neymar, one of the more experienced."

Brazil are next in action on Wednesday against Colombia in Rio de Janeiro.

Neymar to eclipse Pele? It is now a matter of when, not if.

Touted as the heir to Pele's throne long ago, Neymar is only nine goals away from equalling the Brazil legend's record of 77 goals for the Selecao.

Neymar was on target as Brazil made it two wins from two games to start their Copa America defence with a 4-0 rout of Peru on Thursday, taking his international tally to 68 goals.

Often a maligned and criticised figure in the world of football due to his on-field antics – evident when the referee overturned a penalty after conducting a VAR check – there was no doubting Neymar's quality and standing within Brazilian football against Peru.

"It is obvious that for me it is a great honour to be part of the history of the Brazilian team," an emotional Neymar said post-match. "To be quite honest, my dream was always to play for the national team, to wear this shirt. I never imagined reaching those numbers.

"For me it's even exciting, because I went through a lot in these two years that are very difficult, complicated, and those numbers are nothing. The happiness I have to play for Brazil, to represent my country, my family."

Unfazed by the penalty reversal moments earlier, Neymar then popped up and fired a low long-range shot past Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese with 22 minutes remaining.

No one comes close to Neymar since his Brazil debut in 2010. The 29-year-old has scored 49 goals more than any of his international team-mates in that period.

While he only found the back of the net once, Neymar was at the heart of Brazil's big moments.

There were flicks, stepovers and moments of trademark Neymar flare – playing a key role in goals for Alex Sandro, Everton Ribeiro and Richarlison. He had a match-best three key passes and five total shots, to go with his game-high seven fouls won.

Neymar is at the centre of all things good about Tite's red-hot Brazil.

Since Tite took charge in 2016, Brazil have scored two-plus goals in 37 of the 56 games under the former Corinthians boss; 66 per cent of those games scoring more than one goal (W36 D1).

Prior to easing past Peru, Brazil had never lost in the 43 previous games overseen by head coach Tite when scoring the opening goal (W38 D5) in all competitions.

Tite's Brazil – building towards Qatar 2022 in pursuit of a coveted first World Cup crown since 2002 – have won nine consecutive games, keeping eight clean sheets.

Brazil has given the football world some of the best forwards and strikers to play the game – Pele, Ronaldo, Romario, Zico, Bebeto and others.

But Neymar is set to stand alone at the summit.

Brazil head into Thursday's Copa America clash with Peru with history firmly on their side.

Having taken on hosting duties at the last minute, Brazil started their Copa campaign with a win over Venezuela last time out.

Their second Group B game sees Tite's side take on Peru, who they beat 3-1 in Rio de Janeiro to clinch the trophy back in 2019.

While the Estadio de Maracana hosted the showdown on that occasion, Rio's less illustrious venue – Estadio Nilton Santos – is the location of this meeting, with Brazil boasting a record of seven wins, two draws and just one defeat from their last 10 matches against Peru.

Brazil are on a seven-match unbeaten run in the Copa America, with all of those games having been played on home soil across the last two editions of the competition.

Indeed, their last defeat in the tournament came against Peru back in 2016, though Brazil should be confident of maintaining their winning start.

Peru have only won one of their last nine games in total, though that did come in their prior match against Ecuador – the last team they had previously beaten were Brazil in a friendly in September 2019.

In his pre-match news conference, Brazil coach Tite confirmed there will be at least one change, with Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson coming in for Alisson.

"There are three goalkeepers of very high levels. Two are among the best in the world," said Tite. 

"Weverton has been doing a very high level of work in the Libertadores. We are working, doing the analysis together and in this game we decided for Ederson."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Neymar

If Brazil are going to defend their crown, they want their poster boy to be on top form. Neymar started well, scoring a penalty and setting up Gabigol's effort in the 3-0 win over Venezuela. He has also completed the most dribbles (six) of any player so far in the competition.

Peru – Gianluca Lapadula

Lapadula seems likely to lead Peru's line in Rio and comes into the game on the back of an impressive performance against Ecuador, in which he created both of the goals for Ricardo Gareca's team.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Peru are the last team that beat Brazil as a visitor in the Copa America – the Incas beat them 3-1 in the 1975 semi-final.
- Since then, Brazil have gone 21 games without a loss at home (13 wins, eight draws).
- Casemiro was the player who recovered the most balls on the first day of the Copa America (15, three more than Juan Cuadrado, his nearest challenger).
- Gareca will lead Peru for a fourth time in the Copa America – he is the coach with the most matches in charge of the national team in the competition (16).
- Brazil had 61.7 per cent possession against Venezuela, registering a pass accuracy of 89.1 per cent (from 550 passes in total). They had 18 attempts compared to three, with seven hitting the target.

Brazil head coach Tite revealed the team asked for the Copa America not to be staged on home soil amid ongoing controversy regarding the showpiece South American tournament.

Defending champions Brazil will host coronavirus-hit Venezuela in the opening game of the Copa America on Sunday following initial concerns the Selecao would boycott the event.

Postponed from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Copa America had been due to be shared between Colombia and Argentina, though both countries were removed as co-hosts following respective political and coronavirus issues.

Brazil was awarded hosting rights, despite being one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

Captain Casemiro and the squad have already criticised CONMEBOL's decision to move the tournament to Brazil and those views have been amplified following news that 12 of Venezuela's travelling party tested positive for coronavirus.

With COVID-19 again casting a shadow over the Copa, Tite told reporters on the eve of the curtain-raiser: "I would like these problems not occurring, not only for Venezuela. The organisation is wrong and this is not political, but it is a direct criticism to CONMEBOL and whoever has defined this in the CBF [Brazilian Football Confederation] that the Copa America will be here, I did not ask for this.

"I do not have any political party and I did not have it throughout my career, I always voted for people and never for political parties. Not having political ideas, they politicised this situation, unfortunately. We chose to participate in the Copa America and be loyal, and the players and the coaching staff asked the president of the CBF before the Copa America was defined in Brazil. Before the president of the republic speaks, we told them that we would be loyal, out of respect for everything that is happening and on the one hand sentimental.

"We asked for some time before speaking publicly and the decision was already defined, this is the real thing and what I want to tell you. From that moment on we decided to express ourselves in a joint way and once it was defined we feel pride in our country, pride in representing the Brazilian national team and I am proud to be their coach, we are proud to be here. Please understand that it is not only black or white, there are also greys, there is the Brazilian national team and there is our discernment to choose to express our opinions outside of here.

"So, from the moment our opinions were contrary to the organisation of the Copa America and now we have to play, there are no excuses and we are going to play. We will take care of ourselves in the best possible way and we will adjust to our responsibilities."

Brazil have gone 20 Copa America games without losing when the tournament takes place on home soil (W12 D8). Their previous defeat was a 3-1 loss to Peru in 1975.

Indeed the Selecao have lifted the title on the previous five occasions they have hosted, with an overall record of W26 D12 L2 – the other reverse coming versus Paraguay back in 1949.

As Brazil eye back-to-back Copa America trophies, Mineiro has been to the summit before.

Mineiro was part of the Selecao side that won the 2007 Copa America, defeating Argentina 3-0 to retain their CONMEBOL crown.

Brazil – led by Dunga – were far from favourites 14 years ago in Venezuela, where Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano were among the absentees.

But a team featuring Robinho, Julio Baptista and Dani Alves upstaged great rivals Argentina, who were boasting Lionel Messi, Javier Zanetti, Carlos Tevez, Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano in Maracaibo.

"On that occasion we basically went to the competition with our reserve team," Mineiro – who started every match and went on to earn a move to Hertha Berlin following the Copa America success, before joining Chelsea – told Stats Perform. "As several of the main players could not take part in that edition of the tournament.

"At the beginning, people did not expect much from us, the media was in doubt about our potential. But we managed to grow as a team little by little and we showed our potential. The biggest challenge came in the final match. And we won the Copa America and brought another trophy to Brazil."

"We are a country of over 200 million inhabitants. And it is a big responsibility to wear the yellow shirt," said 24-time international Mineiro. "The pressure is very big. However, it is also an honour, a privilege and a dream come true for every youngster, for every professional player to be able to wear that shirt and represent the country.

"We knew it. We were aware of our limitations. We knew it would be a tough Copa America for us. But we were totally focused and united and that was crucial for us. As I said, we went step by step gaining confidence. We got stronger and found ourselves in the final and managed to win it. For every professional footballer it is an honour to wear Selecao's shirt. Regardless of the pressure you must deal with."

The pressure is on Tite's Brazil to keep their hands on the Copa America trophy this year, as they prepare to open the showpiece South American tournament against Venezuela on Sunday.

Brazil have won five of the last nine editions of the Copa America, including the most recent one in 2019, while the Selecao have a favourable record against seven of the nine other teams at this year's event.

Pressure is nothing new in a country, where football transcends everything else. It is a way of life. It is a special kind of pressure in a country of 200million people, when every boy grows up wanting to play for the Selecao.

Amid the huge weight of expectations, Mineiro said: "Brazil is a country where emotions normally speak higher than reasoning. It is a fact. The here and now normally defines your status, how good you are. In Brazil there is not much patience to wait for a job to be developed. This is the Brazilian style, it is cultural to want immediate results.

"As we are considered...well, at least this is my impression where I go, we are considered one of the best - if not the best - football country in the world. But we must change that mentality and learn to work in different scenarios. With or without pressure. When we wear the Selecao shirt, every fan and the media expect us to win the game and play beautiful football and reach great results."

Brazil will also face Peru – a rematch of the 2019 decider, Colombia and Ecuador in Group B of this year's Copa America.

"Whenever you go onto the pitch, no matter if that is for the national team or for your club, you always think of winning the game," the 45-year-old continued. "But the pressure is obviously higher at Selecao. And when you represent your country, the desire is always to fight and do a great job.

"But it is hard as the opponents are always motivated to get a positive result against Brazil. It has been like that for a long time. Brazil have difficulties to beat some sides, perhaps because of their big motivation when they face Brazil. Anyway, every player will always try to represent the Selecao in the best possible way."

All eyes will be on superstar Neymar, who is carrying the hopes of a football-mad nation.

Neymar has scored 66 goals for Brazil, second only to Pele (77). Since his Brazil debut in August 2010, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has scored 47 more goals than any team-mate (Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, 18).

In 2020-21, Neymar completed 5.6 dribbles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 – the best mark of any player in Europe's top-five leagues to play at least 1000 minutes. Since joining PSG in 2017, he ranks third in France's top flight for goals (56) and fourth for assists (31), despite ranking 177th for appearances (70).

For all of Neymar's brilliance, Mineiro believes Brazil must learn not rely on the former Barcelona superstar.

"Neymar is a great player. His quality and potential are undeniable. On several occasions Brazil depend on his performance to show great football. In my opinion, Brazil should have a plan B just in case Neymar is absent for some reason," added Mineiro.

"Brazil must learn to play as a team and make the most of the individual quality of every player. That way we would become a stronger, more competitive side. Then we would surprise other teams who will be prepared to cancel our main players."

Neymar and Everton's Richarlison have formed an impressive relationship in attack for Brazil, though Mineiro has his collective concerns for the South American powerhouse.

"I have been following Richarlison. He is an excellent player with a big potential," said Mineiro. "He is growing and is an important player for Selecao. There is something I am a bit worried about Selecao. We have good players but they do not play together frequently or have enough time to train together as the European national teams do.

"Germany, for instance, a team that I am able to follow closely, they do have more chances to be together either training or playing matches. More than Brazil. They know each other well and have more opportunities to be together either in their clubs or in competitions. That is an advantage for the European national teams. Therefore, as many training sessions or games we can have with our good players can only be good for Selecao."

Brazil's squad said they are "against" the Copa America but will not boycott the upcoming South American showpiece.

The Copa America is scheduled to get underway on Sunday, but the tournament has been overshadowed by controversy and uncertainty after CONMEBOL relocated the event to Brazil.

Postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Copa America had been due to be shared between Colombia and Argentina, though both countries were removed as co-hosts following respective political and COVID-19 issues.

Brazil was awarded hosting rights, despite being one of the country's worst hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Selecao captain Casemiro suggested the entire team were against hosting the Copa America on home soil, with head coach Tite promising more would be revealed following Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Paraguay.

After Neymar and Lucas Paqueta preserved Brazil's perfect qualifying record with a 2-0 win away from home, the squad stated their intentions in a statement via social media while criticising CONMEBOL.

"For different reasons, be they humanitarian or professional, we are not satisfied with the way the Copa America has been handled by CONMEBOL," the players said.

"All the recent facts lead us to believe in an inadequate process in realising [the tournament]."

Defending champions Brazil are scheduled to open the Copa America against Venezuela in Brasilia on Sunday.

Tite's Brazil are in Group B for the Copa America, alongside Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

"We are workers, professional footballers. We have a mission to take with the historic green and yellow shirt that won the World Cup five times," the statement continued.

"We are against the organisation of the Copa America but we will never say no to playing for Brazil."

Amid the uncertainty, the future of Tite has also been called into question due to the stance of the squad.

But Tite told reporters post-match: "I am not a hypocrite. I am not aloof and I know what is happening. But I know what the priority is. The priority is my work and the dignity of my work."

Tite was reluctant to discuss the stance of his players regarding the Copa America following his historic outing against Paraguay.

Brazil boss tite has never lost in World Cup qualifying (W16 D2) – the longest unbeaten sequence for a coach of any national team in CONMEBOL history after the Selecao won in Paraguay for the first time since 1985.

Interim Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Antonio Carlos Nunes said head coach Tite will not be sacked amid uncertainty over the Copa America.

The 2021 Copa America is scheduled to take place in Brazil, starting on Sunday, following CONMEBOL's decision to relocate the event from Argentina and Colombia, though it remains to be seen whether the Selecao will take part.

Tite has said Brazil will state their intentions following Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Paraguay, while captain Casemiro suggested the entire squad are united against hosting the Copa America amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There have been some calls for Tite to be replaced due to the uncertainty but Nunes – who has taken charge of the CBF after the governing body's ethics committee suspended Rogerio Caboclo for 30 days – does not plan to make changes.

"I say it like this: aren't we winning? We won Copa America in 2019," Nunes told O Liberal. "And now we are almost qualified for the World Cup.

"… As the saying goes, you don't change a team that is winning.

"I am a friend of Tite's. I couldn't speak with Tite on Sunday. I wanted to tell him the decisions are with me now. I like his work very much, he is serious."

Nunes also endorsed the Copa America being staged in Brazil, adding: "Our first objective is to qualify for the World Cup. Brazil has never been out of a World Cup. 

"Regarding Copa America, neither Colombia nor Argentina wanted to do it because of the pandemic. CONMEBOL sought out the Brazil president [Jair Bolsonaro] and he readily accepted. 

"It has the approval of the president of the republic. I had to talk to the president of the republic. This referral is right. There are things to be resolved."

Amid the ongoing speculation and controversy surrounding Brazilian football, Tite – whose team boast a perfect record after five matches in World Cup qualifying – told reporters on Monday: "My judgment, my scale of values, my ethical side and my education say that I do not heed the rumours that are said.

"I have a lot of respect for my work and the Brazilian national team and I also have a lot of respect for these qualifiers for the World Cup, and the best way to repay all that trust to the people who are in my favour and those who are against me, it is to make the selection play well and be able to win.

"This is my attribution and my place and that is what I am going to do."

"The work we do to achieve good results is very difficult, so what for some may be priority or important things, for us at this time does not have that priority," Tite continued.

"Casemiro said the things he had to say regarding the whole situation that leads to the Copa America. When the FIFA and qualifying dates are over, we will very calmly clarify the whole situation, but for now respect our time and our work."

Tite gave no guarantees over his future after Brazil beat Ecuador 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.

Brazil was this week confirmed by CONMEBOL as the new host nation for the upcoming Copa America, which was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament was due to be staged in Colombia and Argentina, but was moved due to mounting political unrest in the former country and a surge in COVID-19 cases in the latter.

Yet there is uncertainty over whether Brazil will compete in the competition due to their displeasure over the relocation of the event.

Captain Casemiro suggested the entire Selecao squad are united against hosting the Copa America, which starts on June 13, with Brazil so hard hit by coronavirus.

There has been talk that Tite could resign before the tournament, but the coach gave little away after the victory over Ecuador, with another World Cup qualifier against Paraguay to come on Tuesday.

Tite said in a media conference: "I am doing my job normally. I always do. I am at peace with myself.

"My adversities are very little in comparison with other people."

Asked if he could quit next week, Tite replied: "You can raise any hypothesis, I only ask you to be careful. I will express it when it matters. Not now. This was a tough match against Ecuador."

Casemiro earlier told TV Globo: "We are not going to talk about this [the stance on Brazil staging the Copa America], Tite already told how the opinion is.

"As the captain and leader, we already have our position. We want to talk but now is not the moment to do it.

"I'm not the only one, it's not only the European players [against hosting], we are all. When someone speaks, everybody does it, or Tite, or coaching staff. We have to be unified."

Richarlison opened the scoring and Neymar added a stoppage-time penalty as Brazil took another step towards securing their spot in next year's World Cup in Qatar, making it five wins out of five at the expense of Ecuador.

Brazil head coach Tite cannot guarantee the participation of the Copa America champions this month as some players oppose the showpiece tournament on home soil.

The 2021 Copa America is scheduled to take place in Brazil, starting June 13, following CONMEBOL's decision to relocate the event.

Postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Copa America had been due to be shared between Colombia and Argentina, though both countries were removed as co-hosts following respective political and COVID-19 issues.

Brazil have been awarded hosting rights in pursuit of back-to-back titles, despite being one of the country's worst hit by the COVID-19 health crisis.

However, it remains to be seen whether Tite's Brazil will compete due to their displeasure over the relocation of the Copa America.

Amid ongoing talks as Brazil prepare for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Ecuador, Tite told reporters: "We have a very clear opinion [about the Copa America], after seeing the entire chronological sequence of events, Juninho and I spoke with the president and told him our opinion.

"We asked the players to work focused solely on preparing for the game against Ecuador, they accepted this request and asked us for a conversation with the president to tell him what their opinion is, because all the players are very clear about what they want.

"They spoke directly with the president and the coaching staff, from there their position is very clear. We want to tell the fans what they think, but not now so that we can prioritize playing well and winning the game against Ecuador.

"This is our goal and at the end of these FIFA matches, we will tell everyone to clarify our thoughts. You have my commitment that at the end of these games we will tell publicly what the position is."

Brazil are in Group B for the Copa America, alongside Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The Selecao are due to open their campaign against Venezuela on June 13.

Tite, whose Brazil are unbeaten and atop the World Cup qualifying standinds, added: "All this has a negative effect in the face of the game with Ecuador, but we have to have the greatness to overcome this moment and be able to play well and win the game.

"Adversities happen and this hurt us, but it is up to all of us as a team to be able to filter all that and play a great game and achieve the result that people deserve."

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