Exclusive: Only Brazil can beat Brazil in Fifa World Cup, says Dunga

1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga believes Brazil have a very big chance to win their sixth World Cup in Qatar


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Dunga (centre) lifts the famous trophy after Brazil won the 1994 World Cup, beating Italy in the final. (AFP final)
Dunga (centre) lifts the famous trophy after Brazil won the 1994 World Cup, beating Italy in the final. (AFP final)

Published: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 6:20 PM

Last updated: Thu 29 Sep 2022, 6:41 PM

In every Fifa World Cup year, it’s not uncommon to see ex-Brazil stars, their football-obsessed fans and media sounding bullish.

They can go on about how their team is going to steamroll every opponent in the global showpiece.

After all, it’s Brazil, the spiritual home of the beautiful game that has produced the most successful team in World Cup history.

But it’s been 20 years since Brazil won a World Cup, with their fifth success in the biggest football tournament coming in 2002 when Ronaldo, the original one, scored two goals in the final against Germany at the International Stadium in Yokohama.

So will this finally be Brazil’s year again?

Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri, popularly known as Dunga, doesn’t have an iota of doubt that Brazil have the best chance to end their long wait for the famous trophy in Qatar.

Dunga knows a thing or two about winning a World Cup, having captained the 1994 Brazil team that ended the South American giant’s 24-year drought for the World Cup trophy.

The legendary holding midfielder believes the current team featuring Neymar, Raphinha, Richarlison, Marquinhos, Casemiro and Rodrygo, all big names in European club football, could be too strong for the rest of the field in Qatar.

Since losing to bitter-rivals Argentina at home in the Copa America final last year, Brazil are enjoying a glorious unbeaten run, winning 12 matches and drawing just three.

The Neymar-led Brazil strikers have been too hot to handle for defenders in the final third, scoring 38 goals and their defence is pretty solid too, conceding just five goals since the defeat to Argentina last year.

Neymar (10) celebrates his goal with Raphinha (right) during Brazil's 5-1 win over Tunisia in Paris on Tuesday. (AFP)
Neymar (10) celebrates his goal with Raphinha (right) during Brazil's 5-1 win over Tunisia in Paris on Tuesday. (AFP)

But Dunga, who drew criticism from the hard-to-please fans and media back home for his pragmatic tactical approach from the touchline during his stint as Brazil coach, has a word of warning for Tite’s team.

“Don’t lose focus because the World Cup is a different beast,” Dunga warned.

During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, the World Cup-winning former Brazilian captain also admitted that Lionel Messi’s Argentina could be a threat to Brazil in Qatar.

Q. The Brazil team is brimming with talent. They qualified for the World Cup very comfortably and they have been playing so well since last year. How confident are you of their chances in Qatar?

Brazil are doing fine. In fact, they have been perfect until now. They don’t seem to have any opposition on the field, almost. But they must keep focus when the World Cup starts. It’s a completely different tournament, the atmosphere will be completely different in the World Cup. We don’t have time. So if they stay focused in the World Cup, the chances are very big for Brazil this year.

Q. Yes, Brazil are looking very strong. But France, the defending champions, also have a very strong team, even though their form going into the World Cup hasn’t been so convincing. So who could be Brazil’s biggest opponent?

I don’t think the opponents will be the biggest problem for Brazil in the World Cup. But Brazil need to have the belief, if they have the belief in their own ability, nobody can beat them. I think only Brazil can Brazil in this World Cup. So if they don’t still have the belief that they can do it in the World Cup, Brazil will be Brazil’s biggest opponent.

Q. No South American team have won the World Cup since 2002. Can you tell us why the European teams have done better in the last 20 years?

It’s so weird because the best South American players play in Europe. But when these players play for their national teams, it’s completely different. The World Cup is a different competition. But I think it’s possible this year to see a South American win the World Cup.

Q. Argentina have been unbeaten for 35 matches. They are not quite as strong as Brazil and France, but they have built a team that is allowing Lionel Messi to play better than he did for Argentina in the past. So will you consider them as a World Cup contender in Qatar?

The most important thing they (Argentina) have done is that they have finally found one game, one system to help Messi. And if you help Messi, Messi for sure will help you. As you know, it’s going to be the last World Cup for Messi. I think Argentina will be quite a dangerous opponent for Brazil in Qatar.

Q. Many consider Messi as the greatest player of all time. What’s your opinion because you have played against Diego Maradona and, of course, there was Pele, you famous countryman?

They played in different generations, so I can’t compare them. How can you choose one from these three great footballers? It’s different generations, you know. But all three of them are great footballers.

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