The upcoming Copa America presents an opportunity for Brazil to regain some international credibility after last year’s humiliating World Cup.
TERESOPOLIS, BRAZIL (JUNE 5, 2015) (REUTERS) – Brazil come into the Copa America desperate to regain some international credibility a year after they failed so miserably in their home World Cup.
The Brazilians were hammered 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final and the defeat confirmed the once great selecao were no longer a team to be feared and had instead become just another sometimes good, sometimes bad footballing nation.
They will be buoyed by recent results, however, with eight wins out of eight since Dunga took over following that drubbing.
Moreover, the famously aggressive coach — in his second stint as national manager — has an enviable track record in the tournament, winning it in 2007 with an understrength side in Venezuela.
This time around his side will be missing some key components with Real Madrid left back Marcelo and first-choice midfielder Luiz Gustavo withdrawing due to knocks.
Goalkeeper Diego Alves also dropped out and Chelsea midfielder Oscar was left out of the squad to give him time to recover from injury.
Neymar will be playing in the Champions League final with Barcelona and will miss the first of the warm-up games against Mexico on Sunday and the forward could also be rested for the Honduras friendly three days later.
But those withdrawals will not unduly worry Dunga, particularly given that Brazil have one of the easiest groups in section C with Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.
His squad features four uncapped players, full backs Geferson and Fabinho and goalkeepers Marcelo Grohe and Neto, and he believes the Copa America is important because it will help him fine-tune his side for the World Cup qualifiers.
Brazil have won four of the last six Copas, dating back to 1997.
Profile of the Brazil team for the Copa America:
Previous appearances: 33 (first in 1916)
Best performance: Winners 8 times (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007)
Drawn in Group C with Peru, Colombia and Venezuela
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Dunga has silenced those critics who saw his appointment just weeks after Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the World Cup fiasco as a step back in time.
He had previously coached Brazil to a disappointing quarter-final exit against the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup and was widely disliked for his belligerent attitude on and off the field.
However, he has introduced a degree of steel to a side that lacked backbone and they have won all eight of his matches in charge, including recent games against Chile and France, scoring 18 goals and conceding just two.
The coach has a perfect record in the Copa America. In 2007, he led an unfanciedBrazil team to the final against favourites Argentina and blew them away, their 3-0 win over a side containing Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, Juan Roman Riquelme and Carlos Tevez was one of the highlights of his managerial career.
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Brazil will once again rely heavily on their Barcelona striker, who, even at just 23 years old, is the stand-out performer in what can sometimes be a unBrazilian team loaded with journeymen and lacking the skillful ball players of old.
Neymar has scored eight of Brazil’s last 18 goals and is the fulcrum of all that is creative at national level. Mature beyond his years, he has won 62 caps in record time and happily assumes the responsibility heaped on his young shoulders.
After starting out at Santos, where he was the most exciting player since Pele led the club in their golden era of the 1960s, Neymar went to Barcelona in 2013 and has since established himself as one of the key players in that great side.
He scored 38 goals in 50 games for the Catalan team this season, his best so far, and will be playing in the Copa America for only the second time in his career.
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FIFA world ranking June 2015: 5
Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Marcelo Grohe (Gremio), Neto (Atletico Paranaense)
Defenders: David Luiz, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva (all Paris St-Germain), Miranda (Atletico Madrid), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Danilo (Porto), Fabino (Monaco), Geferson (Internacional)
Midfielders: Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Elias (Corinthians), Casemiro (Porto), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea)
Forwards: Everton Ribeiro (Al-Ahli), Neymar (Barcelona), Firmino (Hoffenheim), Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk), Diego Tardelli (Shandong), Robinho (Santos) (Writing by Andrew Downie; editing by Ken Ferris)