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Brazil will be hopeful that the absence of Neymar will not have a significant effect on their chances of claiming a sixth Copa America crown. The PSG star has been ruled out of the duration of the tournament after injuring his ankle in a warm-up game against Qatar. It means that the pressure has already been upped again for the hosts who will be looking to repeat the triumph of the 1989 tournament were they lifted the continental crown on home soil.
Recent additions of the Copa America have been forgettable for the Seleção who reached the quarter-finals in 2011 and 2015 before being unceremoniously dumped out at the group stage in 2016. Even without their star man, Brazil will be confident of going all the way especially after a string of impressive friendly victories including a 7-0 thrashing of Honduras ahead of the tournament.
Placed in a relatively comfortable group A against Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru the squad has time to grow into the tournament which could be crucial if they are to win on home soil. Don’t forget, the last time Brazil hosted a major football tournament they went on to claim the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games.
The Coach – Tite
Well-travelled coach Tite has overhauled the Brazil side since being appointed in June 2016. Moving away from attacking play and focusing on a more balanced outlook has paid dividends for the 58-year old coach who has only lost two games in the thirty-six he has managed the Seleção.
Tite may not have a world class striker in his ranks, but has plenty of options in defence and midfield which could give the Brazilians the edge at the very end. After all, most winning sides at the international level today are not defined by their attacking merits but rather their balance and defensive stability at crucial moments.
Player to Watch - Philippe Coutinho
The absence of Neymar leaves the door for Philippe Coutinho to leave his mark on the side. The Barcelona midfielder endured a miserable season with the La Liga Champions and has already been linked with a move away from the Nou Camp. However, it’s a different story in the yellow and green of Brazil, where the 26-year-old has been one of the better players in the side.
Coutinho is likely to be employed as the replacement for Neymar in the side, and confidence will be all important for the playmaker if he is to make his mark on the Copa America. Surprisingly, Coutinho is the second top scorer in the side with thirteen goals, a few goals and some influential performances at the tournament could go some way in proving the doubters wrong.