Following an agonizing penalty shootout defeat to Croatia, Brazil coach Tite hit back at critics while confirming he will step down as coach of the South American team.
As the post mortem begins and endless finger-pointing takes place, the football juggernauts face a daunting reality.
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Viewed as one of the pre-tournament favorites in Qatar, the Brazilians have now been eliminated in the quarter-finals four times since lifting the trophy 20 years ago.
They also again failed to beat a European nation in the knockout stages, which they haven’t done since they beat Germany in the 2002 final.
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The end result was even tougher to swallow since they were leading Croatia 1-0 with just four minutes remaining of extra time before an opportunistic counter attack led to the Bruno Petkovic equalizer.
Further compounding the pain was the fact that superstar Neymar was not in the opening four shooters for Brazil in the penalty shootout, and never got the chance to make his mark, having earlier equaled Pele’s record of 77 goals for the Brazilian team.
Speaking after the match, Tite was asked why the PSG star did not step up to take Brazil’s fourth penalty instead of Marquinhos, who missed, with elimination looming.
“Because he takes the fifth and decisive penalty,” Tite explained.
“The player with the most quality and the right mentality steps up when there is the most pressure.”
The loss to Croatia is just Brazil’s second ever defeat at a World Cup via penalty shootout, after going down the same way in the quarter-finals to Mexico in 1986.
Their record in shootouts at World Cups sits at 3-2.
Despite being in a position to see out the game, the departing coach shut down claims there was a lack of focus on defense in the latter stages of extra time.
“I don’t agree we were disorganised,” said Tite when asked about Croatia’s late equalizer.
“We were defensive, we had players that put high pressure at the front. We tried to retain the game and we managed to close the center of the pitch but I understand the pain and all criticisms people have towards my choices.”
The 61-year-old Tite has been in charge since 2016 and made no secret that he would leave the position after the tournament in Qatar, regardless of the outcome.
In typical fashion, the exiting coach was philosophical in the face of the defeat.
“I think we need to be ready to share our joy and also willing to share our sadness and I think there is a new generation of players that will find strength in adversity and I understand I am the most responsible one,” added Tite.
“It is not about being a villain or a hero, there is no such thing in sport. That is football, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.
“It’s a painful defeat but I’m at peace with myself, it’s the end of the cycle,” he said.
“It was a whole four-year process. Before it was a recovery process but now there’s been a whole sequence. I cannot make an assessment of the entire cycle but over time you and other people will do that.”
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