Millennium Post

Neymar-less Brazil in search of Copa identity

In previous eras, Brazil would arrive at the Copa America brimming with confidence, with the only debate revolving around who they could expect to face -- and defeat -- in the final.

Between 1997 and 2007, Brazil won four out of five editions of the tournament, helping to make them the most successful nation since 1975, when the Copa America began to be held regularly after an eight-year absence.

Yet as Brazil prepare to embark on this year's tournament, the familiar swagger is gone. The humiliating 7-1 thrashing by Germany in 2014 has left a team in search of an identity, torn between a more pragmatic, defensive approach and the hardwired instincts towards flamboyance.

So far, under the second managerial tenure of 1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga, the results have been mixed. A quarter-final exit at last year's Copa America in Chile has been followed by a stuttering start to South America's marathon qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

Brazil currently lie in sixth place after six matches, outside the qualifying positions.

Their form has reflected the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Dunga's team, where they have produced flashes of attacking brilliance only to be undermined by defensive frailty.

They were comfortably beaten by Chile in their opening qualifier and failed to convince in either of their two solitary wins against Venezuela and Peru. Against Uruguay in Recife in March, the old Brazil appeared to be back as they swept into a 2-0 lead inside the first 25 minutes.

But an Edinson Cavani goal in the 30th minute punctured Brazil's fragile confidence, and after Luis Suarez made it 2-2 they spent much of the remainder of the game on the ropes.

Four days later, a similarly disjointed display saw them lucky to leave Asuncion with a point. Paraguay romped into a 2-0 lead and Brazil needed a Dani Alves equaliser deep into stoppage time to scrape a 2-2 draw.
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