Brazil boss: Focused on Copa title, not Neymar
Brazil manager Tite said his squad is more focused on winning the Copa America than on the media attention that has surrounded injured star Neymar.
The player, who was ruled out of the tournament last week because of an ankle injury, appeared at a police station amid a media frenzy on Thursday to answer questions related to the allegations of a Brazilian woman who says he raped her when she visited him in Paris. Neymar has denied wrongdoing.
"There's more talk about Neymar [in the media] than there is talk about him within the squad," Tite said on Thursday. "Within the squad we are focused on our preparations. I would never want to be in this situation of playing without Neymar, a top-three player in the world, but we have to be prepared."
Hosts Brazil open up the Copa America (watch all games in the U.S. on ESPN+) against Bolivia on Friday in Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium, with pressure on Tite to win the title. Brazil has won the four previous times it hosted the tournament, though its last South American title was in 2007.
"We know it's important to win titles, we can't run away from that," Tite said. "But winning that has to be done step by step, it's part of a process."
Brazil defensive midfielder Casemiro said it is their "responsibility to win" the Copa America, especially in front of their supporters.
"We are without Neymar, our biggest star, but we remain very strong," Casemiro said. "There's no doubt we are prepared. The work done so far has been very good."
However, Casemiro, who played for Sao Paulo before joining Real Madrid in 2013, was keen to get going in what will be Brazil's first competitive match since Belgium knocked them out the 2018 Russia World Cup at the quarterfinal stage.
"There is anxiety, that's normal when you begin a tournament as important as this one," Casemiro said. "We know it will be a complicated match because we know how Bolivia play. We know they are well prepared, especially defensively. So I think tomorrow is a game that, as the coach says, we need to be strong mentally, to concentrate."
After kicking off their campaign against Bolivia, Brazil then face Venezuela on June 18 and Peru on June 22.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.