Brazil went out of Copa América in the quarterfinals. Again. And just like four years ago, it was on penalty kicks to Paraguay.
Now Brazil is left to wonder where the hell its national team is. In the last three major tournaments, the Seleção has been eliminated in the quarterfinals, embarrassed 7-1 in the semifinals of the World Cup and then eliminated in the quarterfinals again.
Hiring Dunga for a second stint as manager last fall was supposed to change that. Maybe it wouldn’t be the fun and thrilling Brazil that made them the most successful team in the sport’s history, but it would win. After Copa América 2011 and the Germany thrashing in last year’s World Cup, winning is all that mattered. Even if it was ugly.
Nearly a year after being hired, that hasn’t happened. The only goal came via Robinho, who is somehow still a member of the Brazil team. And while penalty kicks are always a harsh way to go out of a tournament, it wasn’t as if Brazil looked the part of, well, Brazil.
Might there have been a reason for it?
“It’s not an excuse, but 15 of our players suffered from a virus this week,” Dunga said after the match. “We had to limit some training sessions.”
For so many players to be sick certainly didn’t help and if the team had been able to train harder, maybe things would have gone differently against Paraguay. But Brazil did not have an illness going around during its underwhelming win over Peru to open Copa América. There was no virus plaguing the team during the loss to Colombia, either. The Paraguay match wasn’t an anomaly,
Brazil has struggled for years now. The Seleção hasn’t looked like one of the world’s best teams in years. Brazil used to be a team full of remarkable talent and world class players, able to play magnificently as a unit. Now it’s just Neymar and a bunch of other players. Neymar drags the squad along and when he goes out, as he did through injury at the World Cup and through suspension at Copa América, the team is left with nothing.
Dunga has a big task ahead of him, but the real problem extends well beyond management. The Brazilian federation is both flawed and corrupt. Maybe United States Department of Justice indictments, which included several high officials and other power brokers in the sport, will end up forcing reforms upon the CBF. But however it happens, change needs to come.
Brazil is in trouble. Brazil has been in trouble. And the fix is not going to be easy.