Brazil coach Dunga has announced his squad for the forthcoming Copa America tournament, and for two warm-up friendlies, beginning with a UFWC title match against Mexico. Reigning unofficial football world champions Brazil play challengers Mexico on 7 June at Allianz Parque in Sao Paolo. Both Brazil and Mexico will then compete at the Copa America, which begins in Chile on 11 June. For Brazil, this is an opportunity to make amends for the disappointment of last summer’s World Cup.
There are few surprises in the Brazil squad, although there is a notable absentee in Oscar, the Chelsea star having picked up an injury in training. Oscar’s clubmate Ramires, who is suffering with a kidney complaint, also misses out. There is no room for the veteran Kaka, nor World Cup flops Hulk or Jo. The much-maligned Fred retired (then un-retired, then retired again) from international football following the World Cup.
All eyes will of course be on Neymar, who has been in spectacular form for Brazil since the World Cup. The Brazil captain has been hugely influential in dragging his country out of the malaise that followed its World Cup embarrassment. With Neymar in frightening goalscoring form, Brazil have gone on a highly impressive run that has seen them take and retain the UFWC title as unofficial champions.
Under the guidance of returning coach Dunga, Brazil have won eight consecutive matches since the World Cup, and have displayed a much more proactive, attacking style than that exhibited under Luiz Felipe Scolari. Dunga has made changes in personnel, but he has also changed the mentality of a team that seemed traumatised by the World Cup failure. Brazil now exude confidence and self-belief, and much of that comes from a coach with a reputation for strength of mind.
During his first stint as Brazil coach, when his charges were knocked out of the 2010 World Cup, critics labelled Dunga a “donkey”. “Calling me a donkey doesn’t offend me,” he responded, “because they are one of the most hard-working animals.” And this isn’t his first comeback from adversity. As a player, Dunga shared the criticism that followed a disappointing World Cup campaign in 1990. He went on to win the World Cup – as captain – in 1994. The evidence points to a man who learns from mistakes, and strives to make up for them.
Dunga has rebuilt the team from the back, retaining the heavily-criticised David Luiz, but bringing in the new faces of Joao Miranda and Filipe Luis of Atletico Madrid, and Danilo of Porto (soon to be of Real Madrid). Dunga’s first-choice goalkeeper Jefferson was in Scolari’s World Cup squad, but didn’t get a game. Jefferson plays for recently-relegated Botafogo, and a knee injury may affect his participation in the Copa America. Diego Alves of Valencia would be the likely replacement.
Luiz Gustavo has retained his place at the base of midfield, and is most likely to be partnered by Elias of Corinthians, edging out Fernandinho of Manchester City. Willian, the increasingly-impressive Chelsea midfielder, has become a regular starter under Dunga, and is likely to play a key part in the Copa America effort. The fourth midfielder in Dunga’s fluid 4-4-2 system would have been Oscar, but his injury may open the door for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, or perhaps Everton Ribeiro.
Up front, captain and talisman Neymar is likely to be partnered by Roberto Firmino, with Diego Tardelli also an option to support the Barcelona superstar. Neither Firmino nor Tardelli can really be considered centre-forwards, and are more likely to be categorised as false nines. Brazil will rely on skill and pace rather than a target man.
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Before Brazil can think too hard about winning the Copa America, they must first attempt to retain the UFWC title against Mexico on 7 June, and then – if successful – against Honduras on 10 June. There is also the possibility that Mexico could take the UFWC title into the Copa America, or that Honduras may keep it out of the tournament altogether. With every UFWC title match being a cup final, followers will know to take things one match at a time. (You can read more about the Copa America here: Brazil hold UFWC title as Copa America approaches.)
Brazil squad: Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Diego Alves (Valencia), Marcelo Grohe (Gremio); Defenders: Fabinho (Monaco), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Danilo (Porto), David Luiz (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG), Miranda (Atletico de Madrid); Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Elias (Corinthians), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Casemiro (Porto), Willian (Chelsea), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Everton Ribeiro (Al-Ahli), Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk); Forwards: Neymar (Barcelona), Robinho (Santos), Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim), Diego Tardelli (Shandong Luneng)