June 16, 2018 / 6:11 PM / 5 months ago

RPT-Soccer-Trauma? What trauma? Brazil hail inner peace ahead of opener

(Changes slug to SOCCER-WORLDCUP-BRA-SWI/PREVIEW to match other stories)

By Julien Pretot

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, June 16 (Reuters) - While Brazil’s stunning collapse in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup is still fresh in most football fans’ minds, the Selecao seem to have erased their memories of that 7-1 debacle against Germany.

The eventual champions left Brazil in tears that night, but defender Marcelo, on the eve of their Group E opener against Switzerland at the Rostov Arena, insisted there were no psychological scars.

“Man, these are things that happen in football. If there was a trauma, I would have retired from football,” the 30-year-old Marcelo told reporters.

“But there is no trauma. I have goals and I focus on them, I have new challenges all the time, and this year’s World Cup is one of them, like also not getting hurt or making the transition from club football to international football.

“I don’t keep things in my head - not even the good things.”

Among those good things is a record of 17 wins, three draws and one defeat in Brazil’s last 21 games.

According to head coach Tite, that record gives the team “inner peace” as they gun for a sixth World Cup title, and their first since 2002.

Asked how he was sleeping ahead of their games, Tite said: “I manage my ghosts and angst. I have a lot of experience with that.

“I focus on what is important. There is a kind of inner peace that we’ve been building up.”

The 57-year-old Tite, who took over from Dunga in 2016, has also brought joy to a team that was left red-faced after their 2014 humiliation.

“The professor has changed the face of the national team,” said Marcelo.

“He really prepares it all and then (assistant coach) Cleber also makes it easy for us to understand their methods. I’m not going to list all the good things they bring, but we are all focused on one goal which hopefully we will achieve.”

To help them reach their goal, Brazil will be relying heavily on forward Neymar, who is closing in on his best level after recovering from ankle surgery.

“Neymar is not 100 percent yet, but he is privileged physically,” said Tite.

“His sprint capacities and his speed, he hasn’t lost that.”

The 26-year-old Neymar signalled his return to form by scoring two goals in Brazil’s warm-up games, one against Croatia and another against Austria on June 3 and 10, respectively. (Reporting by Julien Pretot Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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