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Brazil Copa America preview - prediction, fixtures, squad, star player

Ahead of the upcoming Copa America tournament, Sports Mole previews Brazil's chances as they attempt to defend their title.

The mission for Brazil this summer is a straightforward one - win. Nothing else will suffice for the football-obsessed nation that has won the Copa America a total of nine times in its history.

Following their triumphant Copa America victory just two years ago in 2019, a title defence this time around would make it the first time since 2007 that Brazil have won back-to-back Copa America titles.

Brazil players celebrate scoring on June 5, 2021© Reuters

Clear favourites to win the competition, Brazil are also in a hot vein of form, with the team having gone unbeaten since November 2019, when they were undone by Argentina in an international friendly.

Victory for the Selecao this summer would also be a true statement of intent that Brazil are back to their best on the world stage and just in time for the biggest international tournament of all - the World Cup.

Yet, it is also worth mentioning that the Selecao come into this tournament on the back of curious circumstances, with high-profile members of the squad such as Casemiro and Neymar expressing doubts over whether the competition should go ahead at all due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Here, Sports Mole previews Brazil's chances at this summer's Copa America.


GROUP

With guest nations Australia and Qatar having pulled out of this summer's competition due to scheduling issues, Brazil face no real challenges in Group A, which consists of nations from the continent's northern bloc.

Copa America Group B

The biggest challenge comes in the form of Colombia, who, without the likes of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao leading the line, have become a shadow of their former selves.

Venezuela and Peru offer little in the way of resistance against the might of Brazil's attack, while Gustavo Alfaro's resurgent Ecuador side were beaten 2-0 by the Selecao just last week.

FIXTURES

June 13: Brazil vs. Venezuela (10pm BST, Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia)
June 18: Brazil vs. Peru (1am BST, Olympic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro)
June 24: Brazil vs. Colombia (1am BST, Olympic Stadium, Rio de Janeiro)
June 27: Brazil vs. Ecuador (10pm BST, Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico, Goiania)


RECENT FORM

Coming into this tournament on the back of an unbeaten streak that goes all the way back to the tail-end of 2019, it is fair to say that Brazil are in pretty good shape at the moment.

Brazilian players celebrate Roberto Firmino's goal against Venezuela on November 14, 2020© Reuters

Tite's men ended 2020 with convincing wins against Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay, with Roberto Firmino, Richarlison and Neymar all putting in impressive performances.

In their most recent bout of World Cup qualifiers, Brazil comfortably saw off Ecuador in a 2-0 win, with Richarlison and Neymar both finding the net for the Selecao, while another 2-0 win against Paraguay saw Neymar open the scoring in the 4th minute.


SQUAD

Brazil players pose for a photo on June 5, 2021© Reuters

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Man City), Weverton (Palmeiras)

Defenders: Danilo (Juventus), Emerson (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Lucas Verissimo (Benfica), Marquinhos (PSG), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Sandro (Juventus), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid) Fred (Manchester United), Fabinho (Liverpool), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo)

Forwards:Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Richarlison (Everton), Everton (Benfica), Vinicius (Real Madrid), Neymar (PSG)


STAR PLAYER - Neymar

Neymar pictured for Brazil on June 5, 2021© Reuters

Who else? Neymar, the golden boy of Brazilian football, makes the Selecao tick and without their talismanic forward, the team is far less productive in every department.

Dubbed a "phenomenon" by legendary compatriot Ronaldinho, Neymar is famed for using his sublime dribbling ability and unique playmaking attributes to unlock defences and generally cause havoc in the final third of the pitch.

A prolific goalscorer, the Paris Saint-German forward netted 17 goals in all competitions last season despite only making 18 league appearances for the Paris superclub.

With 65 goals to his name for Brazil, Neymar is currently just 13 goals behind the nation's all-time top goalscorer Pele, and it is not unrealistic to suggest that the 29-year-old could considerably chip away at that deficit this summer.


MANAGER - Tite

Brazil coach Tite celebrates after winning the Copa America on July 7, 2019© Reuters

Due to the fact that Tite has spent the majority of his protracted career managing some of Brazil's most iconic clubs, not a lot is known about the 60-year-old coach outside of South America.

After a modest playing career that was cruelly cut short at age 27 by recurring knee injuries, Tite was quick to establish himself as a manager, taking the reins at Gremio Atletico Guarany just a year after he had finished playing.

Generally considered to be the best Brazilian coach of his generation, Tite forged a glowing reputation on the back of successful stints at clubs such as Gremio, Atletico Mineiro, Palmeiras and Corinthians.

Taking the Brazil job in 2016, Tite led the national team to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and then on to Copa America glory in 2019, a victory that went a long way in creating a renewed sense of pride in Brazilian football.

With five years already under his belt as national team head coach - a feat relatively unheard of in Brazil's recent history - you would think that back-to-back Copa America victories would certainly see Tite stay at the helm for the foreseeable future.


COPA AMERICA RECORD

Best finish: Winners (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2019)

Brazil players celebrate winning the 2019 Copa America© Reuters

Despite winning nine Copa America titles since the competition's foundation over 100 years ago in 1916, Brazil still trail both Argentina (14) and Uruguay (15) in terms of total cup wins.

Nevertheless, the Selecao's last Copa America triumph in 2019 was a special moment for the national team, who had not won any major silverware since 2007.

With the final held on home soil at the iconic Maracana, Brazil managed to put three goals past Peru, beating them 3-1, with Everton, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison coming up with the goods for the Selecao.

Yet, the night was not without controversy, with Jesus being shown a red card after fouling Carlos Zambrano.

Despite Jesus's theatrics, which he apologised for after the game, skipper Dani Alves said the victory was "really special because we built something together".


PREDICTION

With the strongest squad, the best manager and all games played on home soil, this is ultimately Brazil's tournament to lose.

The hosts are clear favourites this year and there are not many other sides out there, with the exception of Argentina and potentially Uruguay, who have what it takes to beat the Selecao.

We expect Tite's men to go the distance this year and make it back-to-back Copa America wins.

VERDICT: Winners

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