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Copa America 2015: Can Dunga's new-look Brazil squad triumph in Chile?
Last Updated: 14/06/15 9:47pm
Brazil are seeking redemption for their World Cup nightmare, and Dunga hopes his new-look squad has what it takes to win the Copa America. Here, Nick Wright previews their chances of lifting the trophy...
Luiz Felipe Scolari described it as "the worst day of his life", while tears streamed down the faces of those in yellow shirts. Brazil's astonishing 7-1 defeat to Germany in last year's World Cup semi-final rocked the country to its very core.
"I'd ask the people to excuse us for this mistake," said Scolari in the immediate aftermath at the Estadio Mineirao. "This is a loss. A catastrophic, terrible loss. The worst loss by a Brazilian national team ever. But we have to learn to deal with that."
Now, with Scolari long gone and Dunga back in the hot seat for the Copa America, we will find out just how much Brazil have learnt from that traumatic evening in Belo Horizonte.
Dunga captained Brazil's World Cup winners of 1994 and led them to 2007 Copa America and 2009 Confederations Cup success in his first stint as manager. He was axed after their disappointing World Cup 2010 campaign, but his second spell in charge has started with 10 consecutive victories.
Dunga's Brazil are still heavily reliant on Neymar, and they are solid, rather than stylish, but eight clean sheets in 10 games have aided the World Cup healing process and there have been victories over heavyweights Colombia, Argentina and France. The Copa America now presents another opportunity to move forward.
Dunga has sought to breathe new life into the Selecao, and the result is a Copa America squad that bears little resemblance to the group at last summer's World Cup.
Of the 23 players selected, only Neymar, Willian, Fernandinho, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and goalkeeper Jefferson were involved last summer, meaning there are 16 new faces in total.
Admittedly, that number has been swelled by injuries to Marcelo, Oscar, Diego Alves and Luis Gustavo, but Dunga has always had an overhaul in mind. "We need to learn from what happened," he said last summer. "There needs to be constructive criticism, and things done differently."
Old head Robinho has returned to the fold, but Dunga's squad is younger and hungrier overall, with an average age of just 26.3 compared to 28.4 at the World Cup. Neymar has replaced Thiago Silva as captain and his brilliance will be crucial in Chile, but there are new members of the supporting cast who could also shine.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
After a stellar season with Liverpool, Coutinho, who was left out of Scolari's World Cup squad, has featured heavily under Dunga. Oscar's absence in Chile means the 22-year-old is likely to feature prominently, and his recent performances for the national team have been encouraging. He got his first international goal with a superb, curling effort in their 2-0 friendly win over Mexico this week, and he will hope to add to his tally in Chile.
Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim)
Firmino is another exciting, pacey player who could ease the attacking burden on Neymar. The 23-year-old got seven goals and 10 assists for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga last season, and he has been equally effective in a Brazil shirt. He scored the only goal in their final warm-up game against Honduras, his third strike in six international appearances so far.
Miranda (Atletico Madrid)
Scolari's decision to omit Miranda from his World Cup squad after such an impressive 2013/14 campaign with Atletico Madrid was baffling, and the recalled centre-back has been key to their defensive improvement since Dunga's appointment. The 30-year-old is set to partner David Luiz at the back in Chile.
Diego Tardelli (Shandong Luneng)
Despite playing his club football in China, Tardelli is another player who has become an important squad member under Dunga. The 30-year-old former Atletico Mineiro striker may not be first choice at the Copa America, but his goal in the 2-0 win over Mexico was his third in five starts for the national team. He will certainly provide more of a threat coming off the bench than World Cup flop Jo.
Casemiro (Real Madrid)
Luiz Gustavo's injury has put Real Madrid's Casemiro in contention for a starting spot in central midfield. The 23-year-old, who impressed on loan at Porto last season, is fighting Manchester City's Fernandinho and Elias for a place, but he is another dynamic young player whose energy and physicality could be useful.
Despite the new faces and impressive results, however, it's fair to say Brazil supporters are not enamoured with Dunga's side. They were booed by their own fans after their disjointed performance in the 2-0 win over Mexico, and the competitive environment of the Copa America will provide the first true test of Dunga's reign.
Dunga is a pragmatic coach well known for putting substance over style. "Everybody talks about 'jogo bonito' but all that people are really going to talk about is whether we won or lost," the 51-year-old said back in March.
His methods may not be pretty, and Lionel Messi's Argentina will take some beating, but if Brazil continue their winning streak in Chile there will be few complaints.