Copa victory a must for Brazil
The world’s oldest continental football competition kicks off in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the early hours of Saturday June 15.
Copa America ’19 has come quicker than usual after a special centenary event was held in the USA in 2016, a tournament Chile won again after claiming its first ever title on home soil in 2015, beating Argentina on both occasions.
For hosts Brazil, the tournament returns after 30 years when they last hosted and won their 4th trophy, beating Uruguay in the final. As has been the norm lately, CONMEBOL, South America’s football governing body has invited two guest teams to compete, Japan and Qatar, finalists of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup final, won by the later for the first time.
Now, let’s zone in on Brazil. Not since that apocalyptic night in Belo Horizonte(remember 1-7?) have the Seleçao really stood on their feet. The home World Cup embarrassment in 2014 was followed by poor shows in successive Copas ’15 and ’16.
Post the later tournament, and in real danger of failing to qualify for Russia ’18 WC after some rounds, the Brazilian Football Confederation(CBF) ditched Carlos Dunga and hired Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, or Tite as new coach. Like a bolt out of the blue, Tite masterminded a remarkable run to the top of the dreaded marathon qualifiers. Brazil became the first to qualify for the World Cup, bar hosts Russia.
Again the Russian dream defied fruition as the Samba Boys crushed out in the quarterfinals against Belgium. Fairly enough, the CBF kept faith with Tite and as usual, lined up a series of friendlies, christened Brazil Global Tour for experimentation and correction.
Fast forward and there’s another home tournament, albeit of a lower scale. Tite has gone through the headache of announcing his men for the battle, leaving great names behind.
In his first trial game against Qatar, a 2-0 win, star man Neymar got injured and kissed his tournament goodbye. In his stead, Willian has been brought in. In a second trial, they hammered Honduras 7-0. These two games aren’t meant to raise hopes, not at all. Based on a certain assumption, Brazil cannot win the Copa.
If the mistake of the 2014 WC is to repeat itself, then Brazil shouldn’t bother at all. In hindsight, Felipe Scolari didn’t have a plan B without Neymar. When Camilo Zuniga broke his back in the quarterfinal against Colombia, Brazil’s dream crumbled and the rest is history.
Luckily for Tite, this has happened prior to kick off, affording him the luxury to regroup and thinker. He must have specific definitions of his team relative to player strengths and variations. This needs to be done with the calibre of opposition in mind.
A more attacking team like Argentina demands a midfield with defensive dominance and less marauding fullbacks, and vice versa. There is a lot of talent in the team with varied potentials. Tite must not underutilize his team. There’s a good blend of experience and youth in the squad. In goal, Champions League winner Allison Becker has the nod ahead of City’s Ederson Moraes and Cassio of Corinthians, all first choices in their clubs. In defence, there’s still space for the magnificent Thiago Silva. Dani Alves and Joao Miranda are in alongside Marquinhos, Eder Militao, Filipe Luis, Alex Sandro and Fagner of Corinthians.
In midfield, he’s called back Fernandinho from a mooted exile to complement mainstay Casemiro and new discovery Arthur Melo. Alan of Napoli, Coutinho, Willian, Lucas Paquetá of Milan are also on show. In attack, new sensation David Neres of Ajax, Everton of Gremio, Richarlison of Everton, Gabriel Jesus and Firmino are in attendance. This is a decent enough team to win Brazil its 9th title.
Naturally, the pressure pot should reach boiling point. The impatient home crowd expects nothing less than the trophy. But this won’t go without opposition and testing circumstances. The team’s psyche and character in coming from behind especially in a knockout game must be unshaken. They must put Neymar behind them and play their hearts out. New skipper Dani Alves is a huge influence and is capable of inspiring the team to glory. Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay are in for the title too. Uruguay are the tourney’s most successful team with 15 titles but they’re on a decline as a golden generation. Similar fate may be the case for Chile. Colombia have a great side and their legendary goalkeeper Rene Higuita promises to cut his famous hair if they fail to win the title. As for serial losers Argentina, coach Lionel Scaloni can only hope for no miscarriage again from a fine, fading generation. This leaves Brazil with a really bright chance to assuage the ire of the masses. But it won’t come easy.
In their bid to go all the way, they must first come to terms with the reality that they no longer exude the aura and lustre of yesteryear, or strike fear in opposition like before. It only implies one thing – they must earn it.