Manero

Brazil: Winning to Heal

By: Juan Mesa

The worst page in the history of Brazilian soccer—the most successful team in the history of the game, in case you forgot—is a fresh wound.

It happened last summer during the World Cup when Germany beat Brazil, the home team, 7-1. Almost a year after that collapse, Copa América gives them the chance to erase that memory. And Dunga, in his second stint as a coach of the Verde-Amarela, is the healer in charge of the rite.

BIGGEST STRENGTH: Jogo Bonito is not extinct, but recent results proved it is easy to contain. Under Dunga, the Brazilians have two guidelines: order and moderation. If the coach succeeds in convincing the players and the public of this philosophy, Brazil can become the tactical machine that ended up in first place of the South American qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. It might be ugly soccer, but it’s winning soccer, and Neymar will be the main beneficiary of a disciplined team of hard workers behind him.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Fans are supposed to be the 12th man, but with Brazil it’s almost the opposite sometimes. They like to see a perfect team and when that is not happening, they get impatient. The team is quick to feel the pressure of a soccer-obsessed nation, and that can only pave the way for another disaster. The Dunga boys might look for isolation to keep their plans in place.

COPA AMERICA CHANCES: Brazil will play in Group C against Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. The match against James’s gang will be the first real test of Dunga’s Brazil. If they reach the semis, there is a chance they will play Argentina there. Brazil is always a candidate for the title, but they may need extra effort in their current healing mode.

FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Brazil cut a 40-year title drought in the Copa América in 1989, when it was played on their soil, and it became the most dominant team in the tournament since then with five championships in 10 editions. Dunga won the last one (the eighth) in 2007, after beating Argentina 3-0 in Venezuela.

IF THEY WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: The Mission, spiritual healing through discipline and moderation.

Juan Mesa is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covers soccer and Latin music. When he's not writing, you can find him watching soccer games, talking about soccer or collecting soccer memorabilia. To relax, he plays house music vinyls.