Sao Paulo: Brazil visit Uruguay on World Cup duty this week, with midfielder Casemiro suggesting the absence of Luis Suarez will give the five-times champions an advantage in the top-of-the-table clash in Montevideo.
The Barcelona striker has scored 31 goals in 41 appearances for his club this season but will miss the Brazil game after picking up a yellow card in Uruguay’s last World Cup qualifier, a 3-1 defeat by Chile.
It was only his second yellow in eight games but came at an opportune time for Brazil, Casemiro said.
“We can’t deny it, of course it’s better playing Uruguay without Suarez,” the Real Madrid player said on Brazilian radio on Monday morning.
“Suarez is a great player.” The striker missed the first four games of the South American qualifiers as part of a nine-game international ban imposed after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup.
Uruguay won three of their first four qualifiers without him and have continued their run of good form to sit second in the 10-team South American qualifying group with 23 points from 12 games.
Brazil, who have won their last six qualifiers under new manager Tite, top the table with 27 points and believe they are just a point or two away from securing one of the four automatic qualification places for Russia 2018.
Twenty-eight points was enough to qualify the fourth-placed team for the 2010 and 2006 tournaments, the last time all 10 South American nations played the qualifiers.
“We hope to qualify now,” said defender Gil. “Our thoughts are always on winning and we hope to cement our place for the World Cup, and a draw (could do that),” he said.
Neymar praised the impact of Tite on the team’s fortunes, saying the former Corinthians manager has helped the five-time World Cup winners recover their “DNA”.
Six months ago there were fears that Brazil could miss Russia as they languished in sixth place in the South American standings.
But Tite has turned things around after taking over from Dunga following the team’s group-stage elimination from the Copa America in June.
“The difference is the confidence of the team. Our confidence has grown a lot under Tite, who deserves a lot of credit,” Neymar told TV Globo on Sunday.
“We have always had a good team. But we didn’t click. We have been able to show our Brazilian DNA and Tite’s influence has helped the team a lot.”
After the Uruguay game on Thursday, Brazil face Paraguay in Sao Paulo five days later.