RIO DE JANEIRO: Neymar was left off the Brazil squad that will travel to Australia for a pair of friendly matches next month.
Brazil coach Tite said Friday that the Barcelona striker will instead take some much-needed vacation to be better prepared for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
“I heard that whatever was best for Brazil we should do, regardless of names,” Tite said at Brazilian soccer confederation headquarters. “(Neymar) needs an interruption so he can be in top physical form in 2018.”
Brazil will play Argentina on June 9 and Australia four days later, both in Melbourne. Defenders Marquinhos and Daniel Alves were also left off the squad to rest.
Brazil was the first team to qualify for the World Cup. Since Tite took over in September, Brazil has won eight straight matches in South American qualifying and earned 24 of its 33 points.
Tite has become a national hero, but he has asked fans to stop making jokes about him taking over as the country’s president with Michel Temer being investigated for alleged obstruction of justice.
“I ask you not to play with it anymore. I feel uncomfortable,” Tite said. “It is a joke, but it is a joke with something very serious.”
Goalkeepers: Diego Alves (Valencia), Weverton (Atletico Paranaense), Ederson (Benfica).
Defenders: Alex Sandro (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Rafinha (Bayern Munich), David Luiz (Chelsea), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Jemerson (Monaco), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain).
Midfielders: Fernandinho (Manchester City), Giuliano (Zenit St. Petersburg), Lucas Lima (Santos), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Rodriguinho (Corinthians), Willian (Chelsea).
Forwards: Diego Souza (Sport), Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk).