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Hosts Brazil face Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia in Copa America
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 01 - 2019

Hosts Brazil were given a kind draw and will face Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia in the 2019 Copa America, a tournament they have not won since 2007 and one they will be under huge pressure to win on home soil.
Thursday's draw also placed Argentina, another side desperate for a major title after an even longer trophy drought, with Colombia, Paraguay and invited team Qatar.
The third of the three top seeds Uruguay are in perhaps the most difficult Group C, along with the other invited side Japan, plus Ecuador and reigning champions Chile.
This year's tournament will kick off with Brazil against Bolivia in Sao Paulo on June 14 and take place in five Brazilian cities. The final is at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium on July 7.
"People have questioned me about the draw and some said, it's easy, others said, be careful," Brazil coach Tite said. "Our responsibility is to perform at the highest level, to play with joy and to be proud of representing Brazil."
"We need to play really well, and that's how you become champions."
The draw at a cavernous Rio concert hall was led by former Brazil captain Cafu and aided by soccer luminaries like former Inter Milan defender Javier Zanetti, Uruguayan Diego Lugano and six times FIFA Player of the year Marta.
It marked the starting gun for what promises to be a high pressure year for both Brazil and Argentina.
The host nation have not won a major title since lifting the Copa America in 2007 and coach Tite, whose side were knocked out the World Cup at the quarterfinal stage last year, is under pressure to deliver some silverware.
Argentina, meanwhile, have reached the last two finals of the Copa America and lost both times on penalties. Another loss would extend a trophy drought that stretches back to 1993.
The two-times World Cup winners will come to the tournament with Lionel Scaloni in charge and although the interim coach, who has a contract until after the Copa, would not be drawn on his rivals he said his aim was to triumph.
"It's going to be difficult and no matter who we play we have to win," he told reporters. "The idea is that we are as good as anyone; we just need to keep notching up the victories."
They could also be without Lionel Messi. The Barcelona forward took a sabbatical from international soccer after a disappointing World Cup in Russia and has not said whether he will return to play in Brazil.
The Copa America is the oldest international tournament in the world and is played between the 10 South American nations and invited teams.
In addition to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, matches will be held in Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
"Undoubtedly, there is always a great respect and admiration for Brazil's footballing culture," said Chilean coach Reinaldo Rueda. "I think that will guarantee a great tournament."
Tite stays as coach even if
Brazil lose Copa: CBF head
Tite will keep his job even if Brazil lose the Copa America at home in June and July, the incoming president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) told Reuters on Thursday.
Tite's future "doesn't depend" on success for Brazil, said Rogerio Caboclo. "There's no link between the two things. His contract is for four years and is to be served for four years. Even if we're not champions."
Tite took over as Brazil coach after they were knocked out the 2016 Copa America at the group stages and immediately turned their fortunes around, becoming the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a string of impressive performances.
However, they were disappointing in Russia and were eliminated by Belgium in the quarterfinals.
That exit led Brazilian media to speculate that anything less than a Copa America win on home soil would see the former Corinthians and Gremio coach depart one of the most high pressure positions in the soccer world.
Brazil were placed in Group A alongside Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia in Thursday's draw, a result that Caboclo said was kind to the host nation. "The group is far from being a nightmare," said Caboclo, who takes over as CBF head in April. "We need to play football." — Reuters


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