Brazil Cops Copa America Title Without Neymar - World Cup Next?


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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Shortly before the Copa America 2019 competition kicked off, Neymar was ruled out of the whole competition because of an ankle ligament injury he picked up in a friendly against Qatar. He had a pretty injury-filled year missing many of PSG's matches this year due to injury. With that said, I was so nervous about the team going into the competition. This is not to say that Brazil didn't have quality players but I have very vivid memories of Neymar missing a game with Brazil in a huge competition. That ended badly. Yes, I'm referring tothatmatch. It was also announced that Willian was supposed to be Neymar's replacement which left me stunned.
However, Brazil went above and beyond as they were determined not to disappoint the Brazilian crowd once again. Brazil was drawn in an easy group. Struggling in that group would almost certainly mean that the trophy wouldn't be for them. Brazil finished on top of their group beating Bolivia 3-0, drawing with Venezuela 0-0 and demolishing Peru 5-0. They strolled into the quarter finals where they struggled a little bit with Paraguay. They went all the way to penalties and beat them 4-3 in penalties. It was a close call, it really could have gone either way. Their next match was the semi finals between them and their fiercest rivals Argentina. It would have been an absolute disaster for Brazil to lose to Argentina at home. Luckily for them, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino netted a goal each and kept Argentina from finding the back of the net. The finals at the Marcana vs Peru was the final step. Brazil doesn't have the greatest track record in the Marcana. Think back to the 1950s World Cup finals. At the same time, they had beaten Peru 5-0 in the group stages, they do know how to beat Peru. They broke the curse of the Maracana by winning a big international finals there, both this Copa America and the 2016 Olympics. They won the match 3-1 with goals from Everton, Gabriel Jesus (before he was sent off of course) and Richarlison.
Going into this match, Brazil knew what was expected of them. Tite, their manager, was often criticized and would have probably been sacked if he had failed to deliver in front of the home fans. Personally, I like how he has managed the team this far despite their failings. When the squad was announced, I was super skeptical. For example, he had left out Marcelo which was a little understandable. He also left out Lucas Moura who had scored a hattrick to sent Spurs to the Champions League finals just a little while before the squad was announced. In addition to that Ederson missed out on being called up because of injury. I wouldn't have started him over Alisson but I would have felt better knowing the Man City goalie was there in case something happened to Alisson. What worried me the most was that Neymar wasn't going to be playing. Say what you want about Neymar but he tends to step up for Brazil and that's always useful quality in a team. Not every team has a player that steps up when the going gets tough. Think back to the fact that he brought Brazil to their first Olympic football gold in 2016. While his fouls and dives overshadowed his World Cup performance in 2018, he was got the job done.
The Brazilian fans have been getting impatient with the national team and people were losing faith in them. I think the coach and the players were well aware of this and with injuries stacked against them they did what they had to do. The team worked so well together in Copa America. Sure there weren't names as big as Ronaldo (R9), Ronaldinho and Rivaldo on the field but they meshed well together and gave us the results we wanted. I was very impressed with Dani Alves who actually is the most decorated footballer in terms of trophies won. He was playing so well despite his age. David Neres, the Ajax starlet didn't delivered as he was expected to however, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Phillipe Coutinho and Everton kept the goals coming. Brazil was even solid in defense, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos kept the back line in check. Alisson was my favourite player as he only conceded two goals which were both penalties.
Brazil fans may feel like their beloved Selecao are coming back to the level of excellence they are used to. Brazil is now looking to the 2022 World Cup. Even though it is far away, you can't deny that there is an air of optimism around them. They have squad depth again. There are many players Tite could have called in. He will need to call on them because players like Marcelo, Dani Alves, Thiago SIlva are aging and so he has to make sure that the upcoming footballers can replace them. If Neymar gets it together and returns to his top form Brazil would be a real force to reckon with. There is a separate conversation that maybe Brazil is fine without Neymar. I think it's too early to determine that because we haven't seen them perform with strong European team for example without him. Brazil has been fumbling with European teams as of late. Brazil has also been struggling to win Copa America because their last win was 2007. The point is, they're improving. With all of this, Brazil fans can remain optimistic and confident that the Selecao is back to winning ways.
-- Trevann Hamilton

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