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Brazil Brought Crashing Down to Earth with Copa America Elimination

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportJune 13, 2016

Peru's players celebrate after teammate Raul Ruidiaz (covered) scored against Brazil during their Copa America Centenario football tournament match in Foxborough, Massachusetts, United States, on June 12, 2016.  / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

Well, it wasn't supposed to go like this. With a point against Peru, who hadn't beaten Brazil in a competitive fixture for over three decades, Brazil would have advanced as group leaders to the knockout stages of the Copa America Centenario.

That would have set up another no doubt fiery meeting with Colombia on Friday. Instead, the Selecao were dumped out of the continental competition following a 1-0 defeat and an enormously controversial goal, leaving coach Dunga's reign hanging by the slenderest of threads.

Whatever the circumstances, and by God the goal was about as clear a handball as you could wish to see, Brazil nevertheless failed to find the net against once again-limited opponents. The side lost focus after falling behind and failing to lay siege to the Peruvian goal.

It is the first time since 1987 that Brazil have been eliminated at this stage of the competition. The humbling of the nation that once seemed nailed on being remembered as the pioneers and guardians of all things "o jogo bonito" seemingly knows no bounds.

Brazil have been eliminated from the Copa America for the first time since 1987.
Brazil have been eliminated from the Copa America for the first time since 1987.HECTOR RETAMAL/Getty Images

Brazil could not have been handed a more straightforward group if they had hand-picked their opponents. When drawn with Ecuador, Haiti and Peru, the idea that Brazil would be on their way home less than 10 days into this 100-year celebration could not have been envisaged in many corners.

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Instead, in two of those games Brazil failed to score, and Dunga's own brand of pragmatic, results-first football is now being called into question more fervently than ever. Having selected Lucas Lima to replace the suspended Casemiro and reverting to a 4-2-3-1, the side lacked the balance afforded by a genuine holding presence.

The side lacked conviction despite the plethora of creative talent on the pitch, and the buck must stop with the man in the dugout. For once, even Dunga looked lost for words on the touchline.

Lucas Lima failed to link effectively with Willian and Philippe Coutinho.
Lucas Lima failed to link effectively with Willian and Philippe Coutinho.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Raul Riudiaz's goal, converted from a right-wing cross, should have been disallowed. But that one moment does not explain Brazil's lethargy inside the white lines, nor the melancholy manner of their elimination.

Prior to the game, pundits Casagrande and Ronaldo in the Globo studio were full of praise for Dunga's first team. On paper, the number of creative bodies packing the midfield area looked enticing.

In theory, it rarely clicked. Willian was particularly anonymous, booked in the latter stages along with Renato Augusto as the realisation that the side had offered little going forward was resulting in their early exit.

This game and the problems that Brazil faced were strikingly similar to the goalless draw against Ecuador in the opener. For well over an hour it looked like this game was heading much the same way.

Willian was quiet in the second half.
Willian was quiet in the second half.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

Brazil started the brighter without managing to regularly threaten the Peru goal. Lucas Lima, Willian and Philippe Coutinho failed to link coherently and Gabriel, in for Jonas as the centre-forward, remained starved of service up front.

After the interval and following the introduction of Yoshimar Yotun for Peru, the Brazilian productivity fell dramatically. When their opponents began to press the ball with more urgency, Brazil had no answer.

The outcome was perhaps inevitable. As has been well documented, this is not a single failure, but a worrying sequence over the last two years.

Elimination from the World Cup at the semi-final stage. Elimination from last year's Copa America in the last eight. Sixth in the World Cup qualifying group.

Brazil have not only fallen from the top table, but the old and established fear that they supposedly held over their Latin neighbours has all but evaporated.

Dunga is surely hanging onto his job by a thread.
Dunga is surely hanging onto his job by a thread.HECTOR RETAMAL/Getty Images

Dunga took his time in making a change to his team here, and when he did it was not a popular one. Off came the young forward Gabriel who, denied regular good-quality service, was kept quiet for large periods.

In came Hulk, but the panorama for what looked like a side without guidance changed very little. After that, nothing; Paulo Henrique Ganso, Lucas Moura and Jonas all continued to watch from the discomfort of the bench.

The manner of Brazil's exit on the night may be a bitter pill to swallow, but in truth there was little of encouragement throughout the 90 minutes.

So, what next for Dunga and Brazil?

The coach's position for the Olympics in August was already guaranteed back in April, as reported by Bernadero Mello of O Globo (link in Portuguese). Whether he will still be at the helm of the Selecao ship when the next round of World Cup qualifiers kick off on September 6 against Ecuador is another matter entirely.

Gabriel was denied service in attack.
Gabriel was denied service in attack.HECTOR RETAMAL/Getty Images

Crashing out of this Copa America so prematurely is worrying in itself. But the meek manner in which Brazil played, particularly in the second half against Ecuador and Peru, is more concerning still and spoke volumes about Dunga's limitations as a coach at international level.

Far from seeing progress over the last 24 months, Brazil appeared to regress. On the two occasions sides supposedly inferior to Dunga's made tactical switches to press the ball in a more aggressive manner, Brazil looked lost.

There was precious little response with no tactical adjustments of their own. Instead, Brazil blundered on, this time straight into a brick wall and what could well go down as their most embarrassing elimination in tournament football.

Prior to the start of the competition, the idea of a group-stage elimination for the Selecao had not even been considered. Now people have to face that reality.

Far from dining at football's top table, Brazil have the air of minnows in their own backyard. The fall from grace is so deep it is doubtful whether even Olympic gold, the one international title which continues to elude the five-time world champions, will be enough to put them back on track.

This lethargy can no longer be considered a blip. We are looking at a Brazil for the modern day.

The coach is sure to be changed again before long, but fundamental changes at the heart of the Brazilian game—and by golly, that's another issue, albeit an urgent one, entirely—need to be addressed.

Sunday night, however, was one for sombre reflection and genuine sorrow.

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