Brazil squad agrees to play in Copa America despite concerns

SAO PAULO — The Brazil squad has agreed to play in the Copa America despite expressing concerns over the late decision to stage the continental tournament in their home country.

Players used social media to publish a message saying they are “unsatisfied” with South American soccer’s governing body, CONMEBOL, in the process of bringing the tournament to Brazil after Colombia and Argentina were dropped as co-hosts.

“All the recent facts make us believe it was an inadequate process,” the players’ post said. Brazil has alarming COVID-19 figures, with more than 475,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

“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 message said. “We are against the organization of Copa America, but we will never say no to the Brazilian national team.”

Organizers did not immediately respond the criticism of Brazil players.

Brazil and Venezuela are scheduled to open the Copa America at the Mané Garrincha stadium on Sunday evening in the capital Brasilia. But the country’s top court could stop it when it votes Thursday on whether or not the tournament can proceed.

On Friday, after Brazil’s 2-0 home win against Ecuador in a World Cup qualifying game, coach Tite said he and his players would delay an announcement on whether they would participate in the tournament, in a decision that mixes views on pandemic control and internal politics.

The announcement came after Tuesday’s match against Paraguay in World Cup qualifiers. Brazil won 2-0, with goals by Neymar and Lucas Paquetá.

President Jair Bolsonaro is a staunch supporter of the tournament being held in Brazil. The far-right leader has defied social distancing policies, claiming shutdown measures kill more than the virus.

Many Bolsonaro supporters have criticised Tite since Friday, suggesting the coach was leading a boycott against the tournament for an alleged opposition to the president.

Juninho Paulista, the coordinator of Brazil’s national team, said in the post-match news conference Tuesday that the text published by players also includes the opinion of the coaching staff.

Tite avoided giving more details about it last week, insisting the priority was to focus on the two rounds of World Cup qualifiers that Brazil played and won.

“I am not a hypocrite. I am not aloof and I know what is happening,” he said. “But I know what the priority is. The priority is my work and the dignity of my work.”

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