Brazil head coach Tite said the Selecao are pursuing excellence after booking their ticket to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Lucas Paqueta's second-half strike secured a 1-0 win over Colombia on Thursday and Brazil's Qatar 2022 qualification with five games to spare.

Paqueta broke the deadlock 18 minutes from time in Sao Paulo, where he linked up with Neymar to guide Brazil to their 12th match without defeat in the CONMEBOL section of qualifying.

Brazil have now won their last 11 home games in World Cup qualifying – the longest winning streak of any team in CONMEBOL history.

Despite Brazil's World Cup berth already certain, Tite and the five-time world champions are refusing to rest on their laurels ahead of Tuesday's showdown against bitter rivals Argentina.

"Solidity, having creation, having a goal and winning," Tite told reporters. "That is excellence. Creation and scoring, defensive solidity and triumphs. That is what moves us.

"We have to get as close to that. Tomorrow [Friday] we are going to fraternise a little to celebrate the moment."

Tite added: "My greatest joy is sharing the joy. It is priceless when I look at the technical commission, at the people who work in the selection day by day. It is the way, the dignity with which we do our work."

Since taking charge in 2016, former Corinthians boss Tite has overseen 50 wins from 67 matches, with 12 draws and five defeats to go with 2019 Copa America glory.

"The only thing that moves me is doing a whole cycle, something that was not done at the last opportunity," Tite said, in reference to being appointed during Brazil's 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign before losing in the quarter-finals in Russia. "That's what moved me. 

"I didn't volunteer for the selection, my manager didn't go honking in anyone's ear, I worked to get there. I took it halfway through a process, we went all the way, you know the story, I was invited back later for a whole process. Just like I did at Gremio, Corinthians, Caxias.

"Then I thought, I thought, man, maybe my professional trajectory will allow me to do an entire period. That's what moves me."

Paqueta has proved to be an influential member of Tite's Brazil since leaving Serie A giants Milan for Ligue 1's Lyon, where he has rediscovered his best form since the 2020 transfer.

Half of Paqueta's goals for Brazil (three of six) have been assisted by star team-mate Neymar.

"The qualification is the result of work that we have been building back there," Paqueta said. "Our goal was to qualify Brazil for the World Cup, and thank God we managed to do that today."

"I have to adapt to my roles, and that gives me a little more confidence to be fighting for my space," said Paqueta.

"No matter where I play, I hope to do my best. I have to think one step at a time to conquer my space and fulfil my dream of playing the World Cup."

Brazil qualified for the 2022 World Cup after Lucas Paqueta's second-half strike secured a 1-0 victory over Colombia.

Tite's Brazil knew a win on Thursday would book their spot at Qatar 2022 and the Selecao claimed the result they needed in hard-fought fashion on home soil.

Paqueta and Neymar combined for the decisive goal in the 72nd minute as CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying leaders Brazil stayed unbeaten through 12 rounds.

Brazil entered the contest having never lost a game against Colombia in all their previous 13 meetings in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying (W6 D7). However, the Selecao had only won one of their last six games in this fixture.

It was a cagey start in Sao Paulo, where Brazil star Neymar was fortunate to escape punishment after getting into the face of referee Roberto Tobar.

The first half came to life during the closing stages as both teams had chances to open the scoring – Brazil finally got in behind Colombia and Danilo's cross deflected onto the post nine minutes before half-time.

Colombia star Luis Diaz then almost curled a stunning long-range effort into the back of the net three minutes later but it flashed just wide of the post, while Brazil's Marquinhos saw his header narrowly miss the far corner of the net on the stroke of half-time.

Like the opening 45 minutes, there was not much separating the two teams until Paqueta popped up to put Brazil ahead.

After Colombia failed to clear the ball properly, Brazil capitalised with 18 minutes remaining – Neymar playing a one-touch pass through to Paqueta, who managed to find a way past David Ospina in instinctive fashion.

 

What does it mean? Brazil maintain World Cup streak

Brazil have never missed the World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1930 and the five-time champions extended that run thanks to Thursday's win. The South American powerhouse have gone five games without defeat since losing the Copa America final to bitter rivals Argentina in July.

Paqueta continues to star

After a difficult end to his Milan career, Paqueta has returned to form with Lyon in Ligue 1 and it has translated onto the international stage. The 24-year-old has scored four goals for Brazil this year. Half the goals scored by Paqueta for Brazil (three of six) have been assisted by Neymar.

Toothless Colombia

Colombia cannot buy a goal at the moment. La Tricolor have gone four matches without a goal following three consecutive 0-0 draws in qualifying. Colombia last found the back of the net in September's 3-1 win over Chile.

What's next?

Brazil will be back in action against Argentina on Tuesday, while fifth-placed Colombia host Paraguay on the same day.

Brazil head coach Tite said the Selecao were interested in Xavi joining their coaching staff before the Barcelona great returned to Camp Nou as head coach.

Xavi has been tasked with restoring the fortunes of embattled LaLiga giants Barca following his appointment as Ronald Koeman's successor on Saturday.

The 41-year-old spent 17 trophy-laden seasons at Barcelona before moving to Al-Sadd in 2015, eventually taking charge four years later.

After returning to Catalonia, Xavi revealed he turned down the opportunity to join Tite's Brazil ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

As Brazil – six points clear atop the standings – prepare for Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Colombia, Tite addressed the country's interest.

"I don't have too much information on Xavi to do a deeper analysis," Tite told reporters. "I know him from inside the pitch. And some information from the press that is superficial. I don't know him with the depth I have with my colleagues that I spend every day with. We have to be careful to talk about it.

"What I can say to you is that they talked to me about it. Rogerio Caboclo talked to me about that possibility. And he said that he would talk to Xavi. And I said yes because he could bring, as an assistant manager, the baggage of what he experienced inside the football field.

"Plus the experience he had outside it. As a captain, the conduct he had as a leader, and I could see it even from far away. He could bring his leadership, correction, knowledge, ideas.

"From that moment, what happened I don't know. Rogerio [Caboclo] told you about everything. But, yes, this was talked about. And right afterwards, they talked about Muricy [Ramalho]. And, yes, they talked about it. Yes, he was requested. And this is the second stage because Muricy is the one now."

Brazil are unbeaten through 11 World Cup qualifiers on the road to Qatar 2022, though the focus has been on Gabriel Jesus leading into the Colombia clash.

Jesus has not scored for the Selecao since the 2019 Copa America final against Peru, but Tite backed the Manchester City forward.

"Gabriel is an attacker," Tite said. "He is either nine or seven. Either he is on the side, as a wing, aggressive. Or he is the one infiltrating. From the depth pass. He has both characteristics. He has this history in the national team.

"Go back in time. When I took over in the game against the Equator, he was that player, he did a sequel. Then, he played on the side with [Roberto] Firmino and [Philippe] Coutinho inside. We didn't have Neymar. He has this versatility. He is a player who has the physical and technical virtues to perform one or another function. Sometimes, scoring a goal is from the opportunities you have.

"It reminds me of Edmar, a player I used to play with. I always thought that there are phases that the ball hits, hits, and I score. And there are some moments when I am in the right place, I follow the move, but the ball doesn't come.  He will appear. In the last match, it appeared. And it had, in the great defences from the Uruguayan goalkeeper [Fernando] Muslera, two or three accurate finishes.

"That is what I want from an attacker. That is what the specific work has been given and what Gabriel Jesus can give."

Philippe Coutinho hopes Xavi can achieve success with the existing group of players at Barcelona. 

Xavi was presented as Barca's new head coach on Monday, returning to the club that formed him as a player and with whom we won 25 trophies during an illustrious 17 years.

The former midfielder is the permanent successor to Ronald Koeman, who was sacked following the 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano on October 27. 

Sergi Barjuan stepped in for the interim and took charge of a win and two draws, the last of which saw Barca throw away a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Celta Vigo. They now sit ninth in LaLiga after 12 games, 11 points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad. 

However, Coutinho believes Xavi could well be the man to turn things around at Barca following the exits of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann. 

"Xavi was a great player, an idol, and now he's back home at Barcelona," he told a news conference while on international duty with Brazil. "I hope he can be very successful with the group we have. 

"I was able to talk to him once when I had to visit some doctors in Qatar. I know what a great guy he is. He will definitely do a great job at Barcelona." 

Coutinho, who returned from nine months out with a knee injury in September, was accused by Catalan newspaper Sport of being lazy when warming-up on the sidelines against Celta. 

He denied that was the case and insisted he is keener than ever to put in work as he prepares to make his first Brazil appearance in over a year. 

"I was kind of surprised when I got home and saw the story. I've never lacked professionalism in my life. I've always respected everyone I work with. But it's okay. I respect the opinion of you journalists," he said. 

"On my selection [by Brazil], I'm very happy and really want to be here. I'm focused on working, to achieve things through working, in the 10 days I have here." 

He added: "I feel very good. It's obvious that being injured for nine months is not easy, returning from three surgeries in a row on the same knee. 

"But since I came back I haven't had any pain or discomfort. I feel good." 

Carlo Ancelotti refused to criticise Brazil boss Tite for snubbing Vinicius Junior after the Real Madrid star's match-winning performance at Elche.

Vinicius took his tally to seven goals in 11 LaLiga games in 2021-22, more than he managed in his previous two seasons combined, as Los Blancos claimed a 2-1 win at the Martinez Valero.

The winger scored in each half, either side of Raul Guti's dismissal, to send Madrid back to the top of the table despite a nervy finish to the game following Pere Milla's late goal.

Amid his impressive form, Vinicius has been omitted from Tite's national squad for the World Cup qualifiers in November, with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho surprisingly recalled for what could be his first Brazil game in over a year.

However, Ancelotti was not prepared to call out Tite for the decision as he praised Vinicius' commitment this season.

"I haven't done anything but play him and give him the confidence that he obviously deserves because he's playing very well and scoring goals," Ancelotti said.

"As I've said many times, I'm not a magician. I try to do my best and give the maximum confidence to all the players. The Brazil issue is a friend's decision. A great friend. I've nothing to answer.

"He has confidence now. Everything is going well for him. He's also getting used to playing a bit more inside because he has the speed to do it. It's one thing to play one-against-one on the wing and another to do it in the middle of the box. I believe that, little by little, he's learning and doing very well."

 

Vinicius' opener was set up by Mariano Diaz, who was given a surprise start in place of the rested Karim Benzema.

Luka Jovic, who is yet to start a game under Ancelotti, was again overlooked but the Madrid boss said the striker was not yet fully fit after a knee injury.

"Jovic had a problem with his knee in the last game he played," Ancelotti explained. "He still hasn't trained and he's not comfortable. That's why he didn't play. He had a sprain and he still hasn't recovered.

"I like the way Mariano played: he did well, he was committed, he gave a fantastic assist... he played a good game."

Madrid were in complete control of the contest until Milla capitalised on a mistake by Casemiro to give Elche's 10 men the chance to snatch a point.

Ancelotti felt Madrid should have managed the latter part of the game better, but he said there was little more the players could have given after playing late on Wednesday against Osasuna.

"We have to think that, after two and a half days, you can't play a game with intensity and energy," Ancelotti said. "So, you have to get into a middle block and try to look for opportunities when they come. This isn't a Real Madrid problem, it's a problem for all teams. You can't play at your highest level with two and a half days off.

"We didn't handle the end of the game well. If you're 2-0 up with an extra man, you can't think it's over because the referee still hasn't blown his whistle. We made it complicated for ourselves, but luckily we have three more points."

Vinicius Junior has been left out of Brazil's squad for November's double-header of World Cup qualifiers, despite impressing for Real Madrid with his recent form.

The 21-year-old has seven goals and three assists in 13 appearances for Madrid this season, including an incredible solo strike in last week's 5-0 Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Vinicius' 10 direct goal involvements is the most of any Brazilian player from Europe's top five leagues, but he is not part of Tite's plans for the games with Colombia and Argentina.

Tite has instead recalled Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who has one goal and zero assists across 10 outings in all competitions this season.

The most recent of Coutinho's 63 caps for his country came against Peru in October 2020.

Leeds United winger Raphinha and Ajax prodigy Antony are also part of the Selecao's 23-man group.

Fabinho is one of three Liverpool players to have been called, along with Roberto Firmino and Alisson, despite Jurgen Klopp saying on Friday he is "concerned" about a knee injury that will keep the midfielder out for a third game running this weekend.

Brazil have won 10 and drawn one of their opening 11 CONMEBOL qualifiers and lead the way at the top of the standings, with their place at Qatar 2022 potentially being confirmed next month.


Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Gabriel Chapeco (Gremio); Danilo (Juventus), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Lucas Verissimo (Benfica), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Chelsea); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Gerson (Marseille), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona); Antony (Ajax), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Raphinha (Leeds United).

Brazil legend Pele said he is getting "closer to the goal" as he continues his recovery following surgery to remove a tumour in September.

The three-time World Cup winner required an operation to remove a colon tumour and has since continued undergoing chemotherapy as part of the rehabilitation process.

Pele, who turns 81 on October 23, has been in poor health but provided another update on Wednesday after his discharge from the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo last month.

"I suggest you start to catch your breath to celebrate with me, because with each passing day I get closer to the goal," the former Santos, New York Cosmos and Brazil star wrote on Twitter.

Pele is the only player to hold three World Cup winner's medals, lifting the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

The 80-year-old is also one of just four players to score in four different World Cups, while he remains Brazil's all-time leading goalscorer - having found the back of the net 77 times in 92 appearances for the Selecao.

Mauricio Pochettino will be without Neymar and Leandro Paredes for Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig on Tuesday as his list of absent players continues to grow.

Brazil star Neymar returned from the international break with an adductor issue after impressing with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win over Uruguay.

Paredes, meanwhile, was replaced in the second half of Argentina's 1-0 victory against Peru due to a problem in his right quadriceps and will also be unavailable.

The pair join Sergio Ramos – who is still yet to make his PSG debut – on the injury list, while Angel Di Maria is suspended and Mauro Icardi is a doubt after missing training due to personal issues.

"The priority is always the health of the players," Pochettino said. "In this case, [Neymar's injury] is a small problem but we hope it is a matter of a few days before finding it."

PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe also spoke ahead of what is set to be his 14th appearance of the season against Leipzig, having played a team-high 1076 minutes across all competitions so far.

"Obviously, there is fatigue like any player, the sequence of games is not easy, but I am at the team's disposal," Kimpembe said. "If I am on the pitch, it is because I have the capacity. The coaches know that I am a competitor, a soldier. If I am called upon, I will respond.

"We play a sport that we love. Some would like to be in my shoes, so if I'm not on the pitch, I'm not going to complain."

The France international defender also made sure to highlight the qualities of his compatriot and former PSG academy graduate Christopher Nkunku, who will be lining up for the Bundesliga outfit in Paris.

The versatile 23-year-old is comfortably his side's top scorer in all competitions with nine strikes in 2021-22 – six more than anyone else – and also has two assists in 931 minutes of football.

"[Nkunku] is tremendous," Kimpembe continued. "We all know his qualities, especially me because we were trained together.

"He's been able to show that he is one of the greats now. He's showing it on the European stage.

"It's going to be a great match. I can't wait to be able to meet him again and I hope he will make his debut for France when the opportunity arises."

Thiago Silva will be absent for Saturday's trip to Brentford due to his involvement in Brazil's World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay, Chelsea have announced.

The 37-year-old played the full 90 minutes as the Selecao beat their visitors 4-1 on Thursday, edging closer to securing their spot at Qatar 2022.

Although the match was technically a Thursday kick-off in Manaus, it did not finish until 03:30 BST – Silva would have just 38 hours, including a hefty journey, between the two matches if expected to play in both.

Chelsea stated on their official website: "On Saturday, the Blues will be without the experienced Thiago Silva, whose match for Brazil did not finish until 3.30am Friday UK time.

"Providing Toni Rudiger is available, the resources at centre-back are there to cope."

Such situations have been commonplace since FIFA implemented "a change to the men's international match calendar in a response to global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic".

South American qualifiers had to be postponed in March 2021 and CONMEBOL, the region's governing body, requested for those fixtures to be "recovered" by squeezing an additional match into each of the international windows of September and October.

Some Premier League clubs – including Chelsea – refused to release their South American players last month over quarantining fears, which led to CONMEBOL urging FIFA to issue 10-day bans on the teams and players involved.

While clubs escaped sanctions, this month they have not withheld players from joining up with their international squads, and as many as six Premier League players started the win over Uruguay.

Raphinha declared it would be difficult to top the euphoria he felt after scoring twice in Brazil's 4-1 win over Uruguay in World Cup qualifying.

The Leeds United forward made his first start for the Selecao one to remember, netting the second and third goals of a clinical victory.

Neymar and Gabriel Barbosa also got on the scoresheet in Manaus, with Uruguay's reply coming from Luis Suarez.

Raphinha said: "Tonight will be hard to beat, it will be difficult to forget tonight, it never had to end.

"I'll go back and be focused on what made me get here, the good work in Leeds, I'll do my job well to come back other times.

"I don't think there's any way to explain the happiness I'm feeling, this match with the goals and the victory couldn't have been more striking for me."

Quoted in Globo, Raphinha added: "I'm making my childhood dream come true, not only to wear the national team's shirt, but also to represent the national team. Being able to help with goals is very gratifying."

 

Raphinha has a close family association to Brazil great Ronaldinho and was asked what he thought the former Barcelona and Milan star would have made of his impressive display.

"[He would] just congratulate me for the match, not only him but other people," said Raphinha. "The most important thing is that I'm managing to represent the community I came from, my family and friends.

"I'm from Restinga, from Porto Alegre. It is where [former Brazil international] Tinga came from and where there is a lot of lost talent, thank God I'm managing to represent the community."

Raphinha became the first Leeds United player to score for Brazil, and the 24-year-old admitted it helped to have Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar as a team-mate, to guide him through such a game.

"Playing with Ney is very easy. I'm a big fan," Raphinha said. "I'm very inspired by him, in his way of playing, in his way of attacking his opponent. I watch many videos of him. To be playing with him is a dream come true."

Brazil returned to winning ways and continued on their path to Qatar 2022 as Neymar and Raphinha dazzled in a 4-1 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay on Thursday.

The Selecao, whose perfect qualifying record ended with Sunday's 0-0 draw in Colombia, raced to a two-goal lead within 18 minutes against a ragged Uruguay side via strikes from Neymar and Raphinha, making his first international start.

Raphinha doubled his account in the 58th minute as Brazil dominated La Celeste, with Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera prevented the score from being uglier in Manaus.

Luis Suarez's 77th minute free-kick meant Brazil, who had gone six qualifiers without conceding a goal and nine in home World Cup qualifying games, have conceded twice in their past three before Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa's rounded out the scoring four minutes from time.

Neymar netted in the 10th minute, chesting down Fred's lofted ball into the box, the superstar forward getting around Muslera and drilling home from a sharp angle past Sebastian Coates on the line.

Raphinha doubled Brazil's advantage, firing in after Neymar's shot deflected off Diego Godin and Muslera into his path to become the first Leeds United player to score for the South American giants.

Brazil should have had a third in the 34th minute when Neymar and Raphinha both took a touch too many inside the box, failing to shoot.

Muslera kept Uruguay in the game after the interval, denying Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus twice in quick succession, along with Raphinha.

Edinson Cavani, who started alongside Uruguay's all-time leading scorer Suarez, had a goal disallowed for a clear offside in the 56th minute before Brazil added a third.

Raphinha grabbed his second, capping off a swift counter-attack by firing in off the post from Neymar's release approaching the hour.

Muslera saved well to thwart substitute Barbosa twice, before Suarez rifled in a free-kick into the bottom corner for a consolation goal – his 65th international strike.

Barbosa got his goal after VAR consultation, heading in from Neymar's cross to make it two goals in his last three international appearances.

Neymar claimed the injury he suffered in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup was one of the worst moments of his career.

During the making of an exclusive new documentary entitled 'Neymar and The Line of Kings', the 29-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star has seemed to suggest his playing days are winding down.

"I think it's my last World Cup," Neymar told DAZN when asked about next year's showpiece in Qatar. He will turn 31 seven weeks after the final of the tournament, scheduled for December 18, 2022.

PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino, Brazil boss Tite and compatriot Thiago Silva have been among those offering their support to Neymar, who claims he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer.

And, in another excerpt from the documentary, Neymar revealed one of the toughest incidents he has gone through to date, and just how close he was to suffer an injury with serious consequences.

Neymar, aged 22, was Brazil's poster boy heading into the 2014 World Cup on home soil. Only a year on from his move from Santos to Barcelona, the forward was the nation's great hope as it hosted FIFA's flagship tournament.

He scored four goals – including a double in the opening game against Croatia – as Brazil finished top of Group A.

 

However, Neymar's tournament was ended in the quarter-finals, when Colombia's Camilo Zuniga barged into his back, fracturing a vertebra.

"It was one of the worst moments of my career. It destroyed my dream to keep playing in the World Cup," reflects Neymar in the documentary.

"When I felt that pain in my back, I remember that Marcelo wanted to help me up, but I was really in pain.

"I then tried to move my legs, but I wasn't able to. I didn't have the strength to get up. I told them: 'I can't, I can't, I can't feel anything'.

"The doctor told me, 'I have good news and bad news'. I asked him to tell me the bad news first. He said, 'your World Cup is over'.

"I started sobbing, and asked him, 'and the good news?' – he said: 'you were two centimetres away from not being able to walk anymore'."

Brazil held on to progress to the semi-finals, yet without Neymar, capitulated 7-1 to Germany in one of the most humiliating results in World Cup history.

Neymar, fortunately, recovered, going on to help Barca win a treble in 2014-15, before becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined PSG in 2017.

He also helped Brazil win Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, a crown that was retained at Tokyo 2020.

Fabinho praised the impact made by Raphinha since arriving in the Premier League and says he expected the Leeds United winger to join Liverpool earlier this year.

Raphinha has starred for Leeds since arriving from Rennes for a reported £17million (€20m) in October 2020 and was rewarded with his first cap for Brazil last week.

The 24-year-old further enhanced his reputation with two goals, while also winning a penalty, in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory against Venezuela.

He also featured as a second-half substitute in Brazil's stalemate with Colombia and is in contention to play a part in Thursday's clash with Uruguay.

Fabinho, who played a full the full 90 minutes in those two previous matches, has been particularly impressed by what he has seen from his international team-mate at club level.

"Since he arrived in the Premier League, has been performing and standing out very well at Leeds," Fabinho told reporters.

"Even in the summer transfer market, there was some talk that he could go to Liverpool. I even expected that to happen, but he stayed at Leeds."

Indeed, Raphinha's agent Deco has confirmed Liverpool showed an interest in the winger during the most recent transfer window without making a formal move.

"He's an important player," Deco told Brazilian outlet O Globo. "There are certainly several clubs that like him, and Liverpool do like him.

"There were approaches, but nothing official. Leeds wanted to keep him for another season."

That interest from Liverpool came on the back of a debut campaign in English football that saw Raphinha score six goals and assist nine more in the Premier League.

Only five others assisted more goals in the division last term, and while he has yet to set up a goal this campaign, his expected assists return of 1.81 ranks him among the top five players.

The ex-Sporting CP attacker already has three league goals to his name in 2021-22, coming from 24 shots, while only four others in the league have attempted more dribbles than his 37 – a list topped by Wolves' Adama Traore (61).

With Raphinha poised to feature for Brazil some 36 hours before Leeds' meeting with Southampton, however, Marcelo Bielsa faces being without his most influential attacker this weekend.

"There is no doubt that it's a short turnaround," Bielsa said at his pre-match news conference on Thursday. 

"The options he has to participate in the game on Saturday depends on whether he plays this final game tonight, how many minutes he plays, how he finishes the game after participating in it and how efficient his rest in the next 36 hours is.

"Considering that a third of those hours he will spend on a flight and if there is any risk that fatigue could cause injuries, then we won't risk it. There are so many aspects to consider that I can't offer you any certainty either way."

Fabinho revealed he and Alisson are set to miss Liverpool's Premier League clash with Watford due to international commitments with Brazil.

The Reds duo were part of Tite's squad for October's World Cup qualifying fixtures against Venezuela, Colombia and Uruguay, the latter of which will be played in the early hours of Friday morning in United Kingdom time.

Fabinho believes they will not have time to return from South America in time for Saturday when Liverpool face the Hornets in the league for the first time since losing 3-0 in February 2020, a result that ended their 44-game unbeaten run in the top flight.

"I believe that this first match against Watford, it will be very hard for us," he told reporters in Brazil. "I don't think we'll play. Neither Alisson nor myself.

"The match against Uruguay will be Friday overnight there [in the UK] and the match against Watford is at 12:30pm [BST on Saturday].

"With all of what is involved with travel, I don't know how much time we'll have between one game and the other. I believe that we won't be playing."

Fortunately for manager Jurgen Klopp, Tite opted to leave Roberto Firmino out of the Selecao squad, meaning he will be available for the trip to Vicarage Road as Liverpool look to make it 18 league games unbeaten.

Fabinho also revealed the club are considering flying him, along with Alisson, straight to Spain for their Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday to avoid the 10-day quarantine on their return to England.

"We will also need to quarantine, but the club is still studying whether it is better to go straight to Spain to play against Atletico and quarantine there, without staying in a hotel in England," he continued.

Similar issues occurred in the previous international break, with Brazil calling for a domestic ban for their absent players when Premier League clubs agreed not to let them travel for matches amid concerns about the need to quarantine when they returned.

However, FIFA eventually confirmed South American stars could feature following September's internationals.

Brazil captain Thiago Silva said he hopes Neymar does not lose his joy of football after the Selecao star revealed the 2022 World Cup may be his last.

Neymar has dominated headlines since hinting next year's Qatar showpiece could be his final hoorah with Brazil, having admitted he does not know if he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer.

The 29-year-old has carried the weight of a nation amid criticism since bursting on the scene with Santos in 2009 before making his Brazil debut the following year.

Only Brazil great Pele (77) has scored more goals for the national team than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with the South American powerhouse to go with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.

Silva leapt to the defence of Brazil team-mate Neymar in an emotional message of support.

Neymar misplaced 15 passes in Sunday's 0-0 draw at Colombia – his highest tally in a game this qualifying campaign.

"Here at the national team, I have gone through some moments that are very similar [with what Neymar is going through], especially after 2014 World Cup [7-1 semi-final loss to Germany following Neymar's tournament-ending injury]," Silva told reporters, having also played alongside Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I was called a crybaby, weak, very weak, mentally. These are things that hurt you and you know that you are not what you have been called.

"I hope he doesn't lose his joy, continue to be happy the way he always is. He is a very special kid and, when he's happy, doing what he loves, he delivers."

"If you need someone strong to be by your side, know that I will always be there. The Silva family love you," Silva added in an Instagram story.

Silva was speaking as Brazil prepare for Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.

Brazil's run of nine straight victories in their qualifying campaign was ended in Colombia.

Tite's Brazil remain top of the CONMEBOL standings, six points clear of rivals Argentina through 10 games.

"I think we are on the right path," Silva said. "I have been with the Brazilian team for a long time, I have gone through all the stages and four cycles of the World Cup. I know how difficult it is to build a team and a group that will compete in the World Cup, and certainly Tite has a very big task to choose the 23 players. So much so that he has called a few new players up and handed them their debuts.

"He shows the experience he has, but at the same time, he has to make his 23 World Cup decisions. We have not played very well, but we are on the way to a good winning path. In a way, this form is also strengthening us. In the case of Argentina in the final of the Copa America, this gives us strength, in some way it creates a stronger shell, you know.

"We are going through all these stages, and I am sure that we will be firm and strong in Qatar. Although we have not yet achieved our main goal mathematically [for qualification], we are very close to that."

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