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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

'Brazil versus Argentina is never a friendly': Tite looking for improvement after lethargic win over Saudi Arabia

Brazil, preparing for next year’s Copa America on home soil, next face South America rivals in Jeddah on Tuesday, while Saudi Arabia face Iraq on Monday

Brazil manager Tite has called on his team to provide a much-improved performance in front of Argentina next week after they struggled to a 2-0 victory in their friendly against Saudi Arabia on Friday.

The five-time world champions failed to really shine at Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium, and had to rely on goals from Gabriel Jesus and Alex Sandro to seal the win. Both, assisted by Neymar, came at the end of each half.

The Saudis were reduced to 10 men with six minutes remaining, when goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais was sent off following a video review for handling outside his area. Sandro then doubled his side's advantage deep into injury time.

Brazil, preparing for next year’s Copa America on home soil, next face South America rivals Argentina in Jeddah on Tuesday.

“We were not convincing,” Tite said. “We won because he had creativity up front and that was it. Brazil versus Argentina is never a friendly. We hope to be better for that.”

Tite experimented somewhat against Saudi Arabia, with Alex Sandro coming in for Marcelo and Bordeaux’s Pablo replacing Thiago Silva. Lucas Moura, the recalled Tottenham Hotspur winger, and Everton's Richarlison were given second-half runouts.

There are expected to be more changes for Tuesday’s highly-anticipated clash against Argentina, with Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino starting up front instead of Jesus.

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The Manchester City striker will be relieved to have notched the opener on Friday night having been heavily criticised for a poor showing at this summer's World Cup. Jesus did not score in Russia, as Brazil crashed out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage.

“Everyone trusted me, coach Tite trusted me,” Jesus said. “What’s in the past will stay in the past. Of course I was upset [after the World Cup]. I stayed at my mum’s to recover. It was not the World Cup of my dreams. I hope things improve from now on.”

Despite the loss, Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi praised the commitment of his players against superior opponents. The Saudis are using the four-team friendly tournament – they play Iraq in Riyadh on Monday – to increase their preparations ahead of January’s Asian Cup in the UAE.

"The result is not satisfactory, but overall I want to emphasise the players' commitment to the tactical aspect of the game," Pizzi said. "We showed a strong personality in front of a strong side in Brazil. Do not forget that we were playing against a team with great technical potential that far outweighs us.

"We played against a big team and this has increased the confidence of the players and my role as a coach to enhance confidence in them, especially in light of the great commitment I felt they gave during the game."

Tite, who coached previously in the UAE with Al Ain and Al Wahda, added: "I know the Saudi team. I followed them at the World Cup and also in the friendly matches they played before the World Cup, like the match with Italy.

"The Saudi team, the midfielders, and especially Salem Al Dawsari, played a good game. The team showed great confidence in the match and their players did not fear facing us.”