DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Still without Neymar and already secured in the round of 16, Brazil will use its last group game at the World Cup to give playing time to its reserves.
Coach Tite was expected to make changes in every position for Brazil’s match against Cameroon on Friday, when a draw will be enough to give the five-time champions first place in Group G.
The game means more to Cameroon, which needs a win to keep its hopes of advancing alive. And that may not even be enough depending on the result of the other group game between Switzerland and Serbia.
Brazil has six points, three more than Switzerland and five more than both Cameroon and Serbia.
Cameroon is trying to advance past the group stage for the first time since its run to the quarterfinals in 1990, when a squad led by striker Roger Milla was eliminated by England in extra time in the tournament in the United States. Cameroon did not qualify for the tournament in Russia four years ago.
The Africans, who opened in Qatar with a loss to Switzerland and then drew with Serbia, theoretically are catching a break for the final group game because of all the changes expected in the Brazil squad.
Tite planned to use only reserve players, starting with Ederson replacing Alisson in goal. Veteran Dani Alves was among those coming into the defense, while Fabinho was set to play in the midfield. Antony and Gabriel Martinelli were expected to be added to the attack.
Tite wanted to try to give playing time to all seven players who were yet to appear at the tournament.
“Tite had already told us after the game against Switzerland that he intended to make changes in the lineup,” midfielder Fabinho said. “He said he wanted everyone to play and we are happy with that decision.”
Star forward Neymar, right back Danilo and left back Alex Sandro were not available because of injuries. Neymar was still treating his right ankle injury and it remained unclear when he would return.
Rotating the squad could be important because if Brazil wins the group, its game in the round of 16 will be Monday, only three days after the match against Cameroon. Brazil defeated Serbia 2-0 and Switzerland 1-0 in its first two games, when it didn't concede a single attempt on target.
The 39-year-old Alves could become the oldest Brazilian to play at a World Cup, ahead of the 38-year-old Thiago Silva, who is Brazil’s captain in Qatar. Alves’ last game at a World Cup was in the round of 16 of the 2014 tournament in Brazil. The right back was injured ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Brazil is trying to win its World Cup group for the 11th straight time. It may finish first even with a loss depending on the other group match. Brazil is unbeaten in its last 17 group games, with 14 wins and three draws. It has lost only one of its last 29 group matches, against Norway in 1998 in France.
Cameroon endured a small crisis after its 3-3 draw with Serbia, with goalkeeper Andre Onana being sent home for disciplinary reasons after a dispute with coach Rigobert Song.
The Inter Milan goalkeeper was temporarily suspended from the team after a disagreement with Song over team tactics, which led to him being dropped from the match against Serbia and to be eventually sent home Monday.
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press