World Cup: Brazil hoping to dance past Croatia into semis

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DOHA – Brazil coach Tite, like his players, will never stop dancing, and they have good reason to do so at this World Cup in Qatar.

They head into Friday’s quarter-final against Croatia brimming with confidence after talisman Neymar’s return from injury inspired a performance laced with swagger and arrogance in the last 16.

Their 4-1 victory against South Korea, which featured goals by Vinicius Junior, Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta as well as a Neymar penalty, sent out an ominous message to their rivals.

The football, for 45 minutes at least, was free-flowing and full of joy, the players celebrating their goals by showing off their dance moves and even getting Tite, their 61-year-old coach, to join in.

But their extravagant dance moves have divided opinion and Vinicius insisted on Wednesday that it was an expression of happiness that was part of Brazilian culture, rather than the team disrespecting their opponents.

Speaking ahead of the Croatia clash on Thursday, Tite reiterated that his players just wanted to enjoy themselves on the pitch.

“I’m not going to comment on those who don’t know the history, the culture and the way of life of Brazil,” he said.

“I respect the culture and my way of being... Many children will also dance because it is the Brazilian culture, a culture that will not look down on anyone. It is our way of being.

“It is also a connection with young people. I am 61 years old, but I have that connection with players who could be my grandchildren. If I have to dance, I will dance. But I have to rehearse more, I know, my neck is so stiff, my arm doesn’t work.”

So thrilling were the Selecao against the Koreans that their performance drew comparisons in some quarters with the very best and most entertaining Brazil sides, from the 1970 team of Pele to the 1982 vintage led by Socrates.

Yet it was just one game, and it came after the five-time champions scored ...

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