Barcelona’s Alves makes Brazil return for WCQs


Brazil coach Tite has recalled Dani Alves for the final two World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay.

Real Madrid‘s 21-year-old attacking pair Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo have also been named in the 26-man squad.

Neymar, who is recovering from an ankle injury sustained with Paris Saint-Germain in November, has been left out.

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Alves, 38, made a sensational return to Barcelona in November after terminating his contract with Sao Paulo two months earlier.

One of the most decorated athletes in the world, Alves had been left out of Tite’s recent squads.

The veteran right-back, who captained Brazil to gold at the 2022 Olympics, made his first league appearance for Barca on Jan. 8 and started in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa semifinal.

Vinicius Jr. scored in that game to continue his impressive campaign at Madrid. He has netted more goals this season than in his previous two and has now 15 goals in 27 appearances for Madrid in all competitions.

Rodrygo, meanwhile, has also enjoyed more minutes this campaign and has made 27 appearances for Los Blancos.

Tite has asked fans to be patient with Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo so the youngsters can gain experience and mature in the national team.

“We have to be very careful with young athletes,” Tite said. “We need to be calm and not exaggerate expectations. Vinicius is in his third season [at Madrid] and has asserted himself. How many times has he been with us? This is a process, and we have to be careful. He will fluctuate.

“He played a lot against Argentina [on Nov. 17] and he was our highlight. He already had the performance he has had at Real Madrid. We need to allow him to develop and mature, even with the weight that the Brazilian shirt has.”

Philippe Coutinho, who joined Aston Villa on an initial six-month loan from Barcelona on Jan. 11, has kept his place in the squad.

“Coutinho is an important player to create and finish,” Tite said. “He is recovering his best level. He is in a condition to return to the national team.”

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho and Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta have been included on the roster but will miss the game against Ecuador on Jan. 27 through suspension.

With the number of COVID-19 cases rising, the Brazil Football Federation (CBF) has announced all European-based players will travel directly to Quito on the same flight from Madrid.

Brazil, who have already sealed a spot for the World Cup and are unbeaten in qualifying, host Paraguay on Feb. 1.

Brazil squad

Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Alex Telles (Manchester United), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Gerson (Marseille), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Raphinha (Leeds United), Antony (Ajax), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Gabi (Flamengo), Matheus Cunha (Atletico de Madrid), Vinicius Jr. (Real Madrid)

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