Lucas Paqueta showed Neymar is not irreplaceable by giving Brazil something they were missing against Venezuela, according to assistant coach Matheus Bacchi.

Neymar was called up by Brazil for their 2022 World Cup qualifiers despite suffering from a groin injury as it was hoped he would be fit in time to feature against Uruguay on Tuesday.

However, he was sent back to Paris Saint-Germain to continue his recovery ahead of an uninspiring 1-0 victory over Venezuela at Morumbi on Friday.

The Selecao struggled to create openings in the first half but Paqueta replaced the booked Douglas Luiz at half-time and supplied an incisive pass for the move that resulted in Roberto Firmino scoring the only goal of the game.

"Whenever you have a player of the level of Neymar, with the ability to generate imbalance, the team will miss him," said Bacchi, son of head coach Tite.

"We missed him even more in this game to find an alternative and make space in the man-to-man marking.

"The entrance of Paqueta was a way to find a new path, to move to find the pass in that direction. Neymar is not irreplaceable, but he is indispensable."

Tite added: "In the first half we didn't have enough width to break the man-to-man marking. The passing triangles started to happen with the goal, which started with Paqueta.

"It ended up working [the substitution] due to what the game needed, with Douglas Luiz's card and the entry of a creative, attacking midfielder in Paqueta.

"The use of these pieces is challenging and brings these lessons within the difficulty of the game."

Paqueta was left out of the squad for the first round of qualifiers but was proud to have returned and helped the team break down a tough opponent, who defended deep throughout.

"They were respecting us. They were very compact. We looked for our way to overcome them. Thank God, we found the goal and won the three points," Paqueta told CBF TV.

"We were able to read the game well at half-time. We found the spaces in the second half and broke through their blockade."

Brazil made it three wins from three games in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying after grinding out a 1-0 victory over Venezuela.

Brazil were frustrated by Venezuela in Sao Paulo, but Roberto Firmino's 67th-minute strike proved enough for the Selecao on Friday.

Firmino popped up with 23 minutes remaining in the absence of Neymar as Brazil stayed perfect to top the standings by two points ahead of rivals Argentina.

Back in action following last month's 4-2 win in Peru, Tite made four changes – some enforced – to his starting XI, with the unfit Neymar, Casemiro (coronavirus), Philippe Coutinho and Weverton dropping out and Gabriel Jesus, Allan, Everton Ribeiro and Ederson coming in.

Brazil – who drew 0-0 against Venezuela at last year's Copa America – found the back of the net inside seven minutes but the linesman raised his flag. Richarlison had scored after Renan Lodi's mishit shot was palmed into the path of the Everton forward.

The South American champions controlled possession, but had nothing to show for it, struggling to create clear-cut chances.

An unmarked Jesus was unable to turn the ball towards goal just past the half-hour mark, instead scuffing an effort to Richarlison, who could only steer his close-range effort wide of the post.

Venezuela were rarely threatening, though Yeferson Soteldo slalomed into the penalty area and slid a cross into the six-yard box but Marquinhos intervened at the last moment to clear the danger.

Brazil had the ball in the back of the net again prior to half-time however Douglas Luiz's effort was waived off for a foul on Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.

After a VAR review for handball was waived way nine minutes into the second half, Brazil finally broke Venezuela's resistance 13 minutes later when the ball was headed into the path of Firmino, who made no mistake from close range.

 

What does it mean? Brazil roll on

It was not perfect, nor was it pretty, but Brazil got the job done behind closed doors. Without Neymar due to a groin strain and key midfielder Casemiro, Brazil were missing star quality against a stubborn Venezuela side. Despite not creating many clear-cut opportunities, Brazil managed to extend their winning streak to four matches, while they are unbeaten in their last 20 World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Firmino with confidence-boosting goal

Much has been said about Firmino, especially amid Diogo Jota's remarkable run of form at Liverpool. But Firmino popped up when Brazil needed him most. It was his first goal in four matches and just his second since netting twice against Bolivia on October 9.

Brazil lack spark

While Brazil walked away with maximum points, it was far from convincing. Tite's men appeared sluggish, and predictable in attack against the impressive visitors – lacking creativity in the final third.

What's next?

Brazil are away to Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday, while Venezuela host Chile on the same day.

Paris Saint-Germain have announced Neymar will return to France to continue his recovery from a groin injury, while team-mate Moise Kean has been released by Italy.

Neymar was called up by Brazil for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Uruguay despite missing PSG's previous three matches.

However, the former Barcelona forward will not recover in time to feature for his country during this month's international break, Brazil unwilling to take any risks with his fitness.

PSG confirmed on Friday that Neymar is to head back to the French capital as part of the "trust and collaboration" between the staff at the Ligue 1 champions and the Selecao.

Meanwhile, Kean is already back amid reports in the Italian media he is dealing with a muscle issue.

The striker, who has scored five goals in seven appearances since his arrival on loan from Everton, will miss Italy's upcoming Nations League games against Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

PSG are back in action on November 20, taking on Monaco in the league. They then host RB Leipzig four days later in the Champions League, having lost the reverse fixture in Germany.

Neymar will not recover from injury in time to face Uruguay in Brazil's second 2022 World Cup qualifier.

The Selecao number 10 was called up by his country despite missing Paris Saint-Germain's past three matches with a groin strain.

Brazil face Venezuela on Friday, a game Neymar was already expected to miss, and then visit Uruguay on Tuesday.

They will again be without their talisman for that match, as team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar explained.

"We were hopeful that he could play," he said. "That's why we brought him to Brazil.

"He has improved but not enough so that he'll be ready for the game on Tuesday against Uruguay. We have decided to release Neymar."

Brazil have won both of their two fixtures so far in the qualifying campaign, with Neymar hitting a hat-trick last time out against Peru.

Ederson will start Brazil's World Cup qualifier against Venezuela, while Gabriel Menino has been cut from the squad after testing positive for COVID-19.

Tite picked Weverton as his goalkeeper for the opening two qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru, with Ederson an unused substitute as Alisson missed out due to a shoulder injury.

Alisson returned to the squad for Friday's meeting with Venezuela and Tuesday's clash with Uruguay, but it is the Manchester City keeper who has got the nod from Tite.

"We have three great goalkeepers. Weverton played last time and comes in after a good sequence at Palmeiras. He played two very good games," said Tite.

"I spoke with the three of them personally, together with [goalkeeper coach Claudio] Taffarel. Alisson is an excellent goalkeeper. We have Ederson, who is experiencing a great technical and physical moment."

Tite also confirmed there will be starts for Allan, Everton Ribeiro and Gabriel Jesus, with Casemiro and Philippe Coutinho not in the squad due to coronavirus and injury respectively. Neymar, meanwhile, is being rested in the hope he can recover from a left leg issue to feature in Uruguay.

The Brazil boss is set to have one fewer option at right-back, however, after Menino was found to have contracted COVID-19, despite testing negative upon his arrival at the Granja Comary base on Monday.

"In the tests carried out yesterday, Gabriel Menino tested positive for COVID-19. All other players in the group tested negative," Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar explained.

"It is important to note that, on Monday, when the players arrived, all members of the delegation were tested and the results were negative.

"We have already informed the medical department of Palmeiras. The player is asymptomatic, is already isolated and has been cut from the squad.

"All protective measures are being taken. We will perform a new round of tests before our trip to Uruguay, after the game [against Venezuela]."

Menino has played the bulk of the 2020 Campeonato Brasileiro season as a central midfielder and leads Palmeiras in terms of assists (three), duels won (91) and touches (920).

The 20-year-old has made 286 successful passes in the opposition half – the second most among his team-mates – and ranks third at Palmeiras in terms of dribbles completed (22) and tackles (34) this term.

Head coach Tite insisted there is no barrier to Brazil taking the field to face Venezuela and he is unsure whether a replacement for Menino will be drafted in.

Tite said: "The doctor will speed up the other tests. In the meantime there is no problem for us to play. Roughly speaking, the information given to us – for all players and coaching staff – was that.

"These are challenges that all national teams have faced. The selection had a greater number than are actually here, either due to injury to the COVID-19 problem.

"But opportunities arise. Pedro was called up … but there are also other opportunities for high-level players to come and show themselves.

"The first reaction was to say: 'Man, what a pity for Gabriel Menino, and we are all at risk.' The pandemic is not over. That is not an opinion, it is fact. We have to be very careful."

Gabriel Jesus wants Brazil to again prove they can win without Neymar after it was confirmed their talisman would miss the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Venezuela.

Selecao number 10 Neymar is struggling with a groin strain, missing Paris Saint-Germain's past three matches in all competitions – including a Champions League defeat to RB Leipzig.

Brazil are just as reliant on the 28-year-old as his club, with their remarkable semi-final collapse against Germany at a home World Cup in 2014 coming after he was injured in the last eight.

But Tite's men were also without Neymar for last year's Copa America, a competition they won, and Jesus does not believe his side can go looking for excuses.

"Obviously we talk about the importance of Neymar with his club and for our team, how much he has given and gives every day," the Manchester City forward said. "I'm a big fan.

"But when it comes to the national team, everyone has to share the responsibility, it can't just fall on him. Everyone is here for a reason.

"With Neymar, we were closer to victory, but the Selecao demonstrated that they can play without him.

"We always want him to be available, as he scores, assists. But if he can't play, while we know his importance, we have to share the responsibility.

"Whoever is here has the quality to make the Selecao win."

Jesus, who both scored and was sent off in the Copa America final, is determined to play his part, having missed the previous international break through injury.

"Even as a young man, I have a certain history here and I am happy to wear this shirt that I always dreamed of," he said.

"And whenever there is a call-up, it is the same party as always; I look, I hear my name and I am moved.

"I always want to come and help, and this time I came with 100 per cent focus to be able to help."

CONMEBOL has asked FIFA to postpone the start of its 2022 World Cup qualifying, scheduled for this month, due to coronavirus fears.

In a letter sent to FIFA on Wednesday, CONMEBOL asked for its opening qualifiers, scheduled for March 26, 27 and 31, to be postponed.

COVID-19 has killed more than 4,600 people worldwide while affecting more than 126,000.

CONMEBOL cited the possibility of players not being able to travel from Europe due to coronavirus as a reason for its request.

"The member countries of CONMEBOL – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela have requested the CONMEBOL to submit to FIFA's consideration the request to postpone the start of the qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup," the statement read in part.

Lionel Messi's Argentina are due to begin their qualifying campaign against Ecuador in Buenos Aires, while Brazil are scheduled to face Bolivia in Recife.

The other matchday one games are Paraguay-Peru, Uruguay-Chile and Colombia-Venezuela.

Argentina will open the 2020 Copa America with a blockbuster clash against Chile in Buenos Aires.

In a rematch of this year's third-place play-off, which Argentina won as Lionel Messi and Gary Medel were sent off, the teams will meet again at the El Monumental on June 12 next year.

While the draw took place on Tuesday, the nations already knew almost all of their opponents with teams split into zones for next year's tournament in Argentina and Colombia.

However, Australia – playing at their first Copa America – were drawn into Group A, which features Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay.

Qatar, the other invited nation, will meet Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.

Brazil will go into the tournament as defending champions after their success at home this year.

The top four teams in each group will advance to the quarter-finals.

Group A: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay.
Group B: Colombia, Brazil, Qatar, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru.

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