Neymar Arrival a Further Pre-Copa America Boost for Dunga's Brazil

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportJune 9, 2015

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 07:  Head coach Dunga of Brazil gestures during the International Friendly Match between Brazil and Mexico at Allianz Parque on June 7, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Further steps in the right direction, but far from the finished article. Brazil’s 2-0 win over Mexico this past Sunday afternoon may have been dulled with monotonous overtones, and—if the hysteria in certain sections of the Brazilian press is to be believed—this Copa America is not actually about winning a title. It is about exorcising the ghosts of 20-odd minutes of madness last July.

The game at the Allianz Parque was the Selecao’s first on home soil since being comprehensively beaten by Holland on 12 July. The next step, prior to embarking for Chile, is Wednesday’s friendly against Honduras in Porto Alegre. Brazil take on Peru this Sunday in their Copa America opener.

Shorn of Neymar for the first time in his brief reign at national coach, Dunga, the 1994 World Cup-winning captain, will be able to count on his talisman after he reported for national duty on Monday. However, according to Brazilian sports daily Lance (link in Portuguese), it is not yet guaranteed whether the 23-year-old will play any part against the Central Americans at Internacional’s Estadio Beira-Rio.

Neymar netted the third against Italian side Juventus in Berlin this past weekend, and Dunga believes European success can drive the Brazil "craque" on (link in Portuguese), as the coach looks to lift his second continental title, having won the 2007 edition following a 3-0 rout of Argentina in the final.

And with 39 goals this season for Barcelona, Neymar has thus far shown no signs of fatigue, which has seen him play international football every summer since 2011. In order to be rested and fully prepared for the exertions of the upcoming tournament, it may well be prudent to leave him out of Wednesday’s friendly.

Neymar joined the Brazil squad on Monday (yesterday) after winning the Champions League with Barcelona on Saturday.
Neymar joined the Brazil squad on Monday (yesterday) after winning the Champions League with Barcelona on Saturday.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

If Neymar remains out for the time being, one man who could return is Santos forward Robinho. Now a seasoned veteran, the journeyman has returned to the international fold as one of the experienced heads in a fresh approach.

Philippe Coutinho’s man-of-the-match display at the weekend is likely to see him maintain his place as the principal feeder between the freely fluctuating lines between midfield and attack.

Elias, despite the boos from an evidently largely Palmeiras crowd, put in an excellent performance and had a hand in both goals as he battles with Casemiro for a place alongside Fernandinho.

Dunga put out the strongest side available to him on Sunday, and it duly paid dividends. The back line now picks itself, with Jefferson behind Danilo, Miranda, David Luiz and Filipe Luis.

However, the Porto right-back is not confirmed for Wednesday’s game after feeling pain in his right ankle following a challenge from Javier Guemez, as reported by Globo Esporte (link in Portuguese). Fabinho would be set to deputise.

Willian has stepped up in the absence of midfield partners Luiz Gustavo and Oscar.
Willian has stepped up in the absence of midfield partners Luiz Gustavo and Oscar.Andre Penner/Associated Press

There is a line of argument that suggests it could be beneficial to Dunga’s charges if he were to test a few broader options in Porto Alegre further up the field. Shakhtar midfielder Fred, for all his potential, failed to impose himself on proceedings and looked like a player who could benefit from being given a full 90-minute run-out against what could be obliging opponents.

And while Brazil appear to be on an upward trajectory since the World Cup, Honduras’ run of form tells a different tale. In eight encounters, there has been a solitary victory, over El Salvador. Last Saturday, the side managed a 2-2 draw with Paraguay in Assuncao.

Tasked with redesigning the Brazil side after Luiz Felipe Scolari's tenure, Dunga has forged a first XI that looks ready on the eve of the competition. Against Mexico, Brazil reverted to two lines of four without the ball, closing the space between the lines quickly.

With the ball, the floating presence of Willian and Coutinho proved capable of causing problems for teams set up to use a man-marking system. If Robinho drops back into a 4-2-3-1, leaving Diego Tardelli, or perhaps Roberto Firmino, to lead from the front, the lack of definitive positioning will play to Brazil’s strengths.

Robinho (left) could play a part against Honduras on Wednesday.
Robinho (left) could play a part against Honduras on Wednesday.Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press/Associated Press

With the tournament just around the corner, this final stage of preparation is more about tweaking and fine-tuning the instrument. In addition, Brazil have fond memories of their last visit to Porto Alegre: a 3-0 win over France on the eve of the Confederations Cup.

That was an absolute success, as Brazil romped to the title, netting three past Japan and four past Italy in the group stages before comprehensively dispatching then-world champions Spain 3-0 in the final.

On the eve of competition once again, Brazil appear to be purring. On paper, the Selecao should make it 10 wins from 10 on Wednesday, but Dunga’s overall priority remains that first competitive match in 11 months.

For those in the wings, the match against Honduras may represent a last chance to shine. For Dunga and Brazil, it is the next step on the long, winding road to recovery.


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