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Dissecting Brazil’s Copa America campaign – Liverpool’s Coutinho a rare bright spark

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]razil’s 7-1 World Cup semi-final drubbing at the hands of Germany may well have taken place a year ago, but the shockwaves that the result sent through the sport in the historic South American nation continue to reverberate.

Last year was supposed to be the setting for a momentous World Cup triumph on home soil; it turned into a debacle, with the Brazilian national team continuing to toil 12 months later.

This summer’s Copa America gave the samba stars and reappointed head coach Dunga a chance to right the wrongs and gain some much-needed national pride.

However, a penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Paraguay was the conclusion of a disappointing tournament, with Brazil seemingly losing their competitive edge and fear factor.

The manner of elimination was underwhelming but in truth it was a continuation of substandard showings from the Seleção throughout proceedings in Chile.

A 92nd minute winner from Douglas Costa in their opening game against Peru papered over the cracks, before defeat to a mediocre Colombia outfit compounded issues.

After taking a 2-0 lead over the modest Venezuela in their final group game and the knowledge that victory would ensure a knockout berth, Dunga’s negative tactics allowed their opposition to get a goal back and give his team a nervy finish.

It is hard to imagine Brazil sides of old sitting on a two-goal lead against Venezuela.

In their last game against Paraguay, after taking a first-half lead Brazil offered very little from an attacking perspective and Ramón Díaz’s men were good value for their equaliser – it was the eventual victors who dominated the game for the majority.

Brazil’s Copa America campaign may well have included a different coach and largely changed group of players to that of the World Cup, but the major problems remained the same.

An over-reliance on Neymar was astounding 12 months ago and was once more highlighted when the Barcelona forward was banned after the Colombia game.

The ex-Santos forward was not available for the thrashing by Germany last year and Brazil looked like a team of schoolboys without their talisman and undoubted best player.

This time around, once Neymar was no longer there to carry the side’s attack, the confidence of the other players seemed to evaporate along with his presence.

DungaFrom a personnel perspective, it is hard to envisage, but Brazil simply do not have the attacking quality necessary to go toe-to-toe with world football’s best teams.

With Neymar the exception, the Seleção are devoid of top-class attacking talent and the team that was defeated by Paraguay pales in significance to the array of offensive weaponry that South American rivals Argentina can boast.

A rare bright spark for Brazil, and the player that looked most likely to create a moment of magic throughout the competition, was Philippe Coutinho.

The Liverpool attacking midfielder has proven himself over the last 24 months at Anfield and his place in the Seleção is long overdue.

The ex-Inter schemer showed some excellent vision and technique throughout his involvement in the Copa America and will surely play a significant role in Brazil’s mission to get back to the glory days.

His new club team-mate Roberto Firmino, who has been signed at great expense by the Reds in a bid to get back into the Premier League top four, also displayed glimpses of the form that has made him a sensation in Germany, but still has a lot of developing to do.

Willian has not showed his best performances for his country, while despite boasting lots of experience Robinho is at the wrong end of his career to be a logical option for the long-term.

Of the rest of Dunga’s attacking options, the likes of Diego Tardelli and Everton Ribeiro have opted to play their club football in lower-grade competitions in China and the United Arab Emirates respectively.

As such, the task of switching from playing restricted football for a club and lifting performances against superior opposition at national level becomes a real issue.

In the centre of midfield Fernandinho and Elias were workman-like without being spectacular, while the likes of Filipe Luís and national captain João Miranda are not guaranteed regular action with their clubs.

Moving forward, Dunga must deal with a crisis of confidence amongst the Brazil squad, with a change in emphasis and mentality needed.

Whether he is the man to oversee this is questionable, while it appears that Brazilian football has lost a substantial amount of its flair and panache along the way.

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