2 July ~ Brazil arrived in Argentina for the Copa America looking to give the fans at home reason to cheer after the bitter disappointment of last year’s World Cup. Having taken over from Dunga in August 2010, coach Mano Menezes is heading into his first tournament with little doubt the next three-and-a-half weeks will be taken seriously. As hosts of the 2014 World Cup, Brazil do not have to qualify and will not play competitive football again until the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Only a handful of people gathered at the airport to see the team off to Argentina, a reflection of the how much support for the team has dipped since the World Cup failure when fans were unimpressed with Dunga’s preference for substance over style with focus on big, powerful players like Felipe Melo and Luis Fabiano. But Menezes is slowly reintroducing a more fluid approach based around small, quick forwards with the team’s bulk concentrated in the defence.

Brazil are aiming for a third successive Copa America title, but find their path blocked by their two traditional rivals. The Uruguay squad is the strongest for decades, while Argentina have gone 18 years without a major trophy and pressure is mounting to amend the situation on home soil – they had to come from behind to draw with Bolivia in last night's opening game. The hosts also have Lionel Messi, of course, although he has often been criticised for not producing his club form at international level.

Brazil play their opening match tomorrow against Venezuela and barring any last-minute injuries Menezes has settled on his best line-up. After experimenting with various formations over the last ten months, he will use a 4-2-3-1 based around the pace and guile of the Santos pair of Ganso and Neymar, plus Pato and Robinho. Still just 27, Robinho is the second most experienced player in the squad with 84 caps, behind Lucio with 101. Robinho has been captain on five occasions recently and seem to have revelled in the responsibility and freedom handed to him.

Robinho is also the idol of Brazil’s biggest draw at the tournament, the 19-year-old Neymar who is fresh from Santos’ triumph in the Copa Libertadores to which he contributed six goals. If the teenager’s blistering form reaps rewards, you can bet on a few more people turning up at the airport to welcome the Copa home. Robbie Blakeley

Comments (2)
Comment by FCKarl 2011-07-02 10:58:50

Yes, it can be very easy to dump on Carlos Dunga and his assistant Jorginho for the uninspiring Brasil we saw in South Africa 2010.

Don't we always fall into the trap of thinking Brasil just has so much talent that it cannot fail?

Talent. Skills. What we saw one year ago is one thing; discipline and sporting intelligence another.

I do wish I understood the Portugese language better to see if there are/were rifts in the Dunga/Jorghino coaching duo. Yes, I like Jorginho very much. Dunga, no, not really. I think Jorghino’s approach would have some differences. That said, one cannot really fault Dunga.

Here is why:

One, they won Copa America 2009 in Venezuela. They won the Confederations Cup in South Africa 2009. They qualified for South Africa 2010 without much effort. And they got out of their 4-team group with Portugal and Ivory Coast whereas the likes of Italy and France were headed home. They then beat Chile handily with three goals only to be one short against the Netherlands. Let’s remember: At that point in the tournament, only Germany was impressive. Everybody else was just, well, going through the brackets. (Spain did not look good until they manhandled Germany.)

What Dunga faced last summer? A generational change. Why wasn't Ronaldinho ready? (I think we know) Roberto Carlos too aged? Ask Argentina’s Javier Zanetti about that. Ditto for Ronaldo...or? If Germany's Miro Klose and Uruguay's Diego Forlan can keep themselves so fit for World Cups, what is Ronaldo's excuse? The playmaker Diego (SV Werder Bremen to Juventus), where was he? World Cup 2010 should have been HIS TOURNAMENT. His weak form at Juve left Dunga no choice. And Kaka couldn’t deliver. What is Kaka’s excuse?

I am sure if Dunga would speak freely (he should), he'd say, "What do you want? These Brasilian players are guys gifted like no others on the planet to play this Beautiful Game, but they're all head cases. They don‘t know personal responsibility, focus, and discipline. They think it requires just 7-10 minutes of brilliance in a match. The other 80 minutes?"

And what was Robinho's form in June 2010? Nilmar? And we know that Barca's Danny Alves is a player who ABSOLUTELY REQUIRES adult supervision on the pitch. Isn't he always about 35 seconds or 2 feet from his next yellow/red send off? You cannot build a successful squad around Alves; Alves requires the successful squad to be successful.

I am not a defender of Dunga. No way. But I think the Brasil Selecao job is always very, very problematic. Even more "stabile" players like defender and captain Lucio do erratic, daft actions every fourth match.

Brasil sometimes wins big like World Cup 2002 because, well, the opposition is 1) so weak, and 2) their natural skills -- even when unfocused -- carry the day.

If ball skills, kicking strength, and speed were all you really needed, then we‘d regularly see Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast vying for titles.

I really don’t fault Dunga so much. One year ago Dunga set his cards on experienced players with greater discipline (this is relative when talking Brasilians). Don’t forget that he captained Brasil in their greatest one game tragedy of the modern era: The 1998 World Cup Final in Paris against France. That was Brasil’s worst one day collapse in modern times. The lesson Dunga took from that is at a World Cup you need sound experience on the pitch. That recipe failed in Port Elizabeth exactly one year ago today.

Nonetheless, the new coach Menezes is right to usher in the 6 new faces of under-25 years old talent. The one to watch? Neymar? Maybe. I say watch Ganso.

Comment by Analogue Bubblebath II 2011-07-03 00:09:33

FCKarl, there was no Copa America in 2009.

Surely to christ Brazil cannot play Parreira/Dunga-style football yet again in 2014, especially on home soil. It's not even like it's been successful for them (2006, 2010).

When you see a player like Felipe Melo getting a game in the World Cup finals for Brazil you know something's desperately wrong.

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