Copa America a fresh start for Brazil under new coach after period of turmoil

Dorival built a reputation as a versatile coach specialising in working his magic as fixer by taking over struggling teams halfway through a season with a remarkable success

By Reuters

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Brazil head coach Dorival Junior. — AFP
Brazil head coach Dorival Junior. — AFP

Published: Sun 23 Jun 2024, 5:31 PM

Brazil open their 2024 Copa America campaign against Costa Rica on Monday in Los Angeles with a whole new look almost from top to bottom, with Real Madrid's rising star Vinicius Jr leading a group that were waiting for an opportunity for a fresh start.

After a heartbreaking shootout defeat by Croatia in the World Cup quarterfinals at Qatar 2022, Brazil went through two caretaker managers as they waited for almost an year trying to lure manager Carlo Ancelotti from Real Madrid.

But after the Italian extended his contract with the Spanish giants, Brazil settled on journeyman Dorival Jr.

Dorival built a reputation as a versatile coach specialising in working his magic as fixer by taking over struggling teams halfway through a season with a remarkable success.

He won the Copa Libertadores and the Copa do Brazil with Flamengo a few months after taking over and when his six-month contract was not renewed he joined Sao Paulo and led them to a Brazilian Cup title before accepting the Brazil job in January.

Dorival had a lot on his plate with the national team as, while Brazil waited for Ancelotti, they went through a spell in the wilderness during which they had historic negative results.

They suffered defeat in three consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the first time, their first loss to Uruguay for 22 years and saw the end of a 58-match unbeaten home streak in the qualifiers, which led to their worst campaign ever with seven points from a possible 18 after six rounds.

Add to that the loss of talisman Neymar, with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee on international duty in October, and Brazil hit rock bottom.

With no Ancelotti and a team in turmoil, Dorival turned his attention to recovering the confidence and self esteem of a young and revamped squad in which Vinicius Jr claimed the responsibility of carrying the load as Brazil's key player.

With two months to prepare for matches against England and Spain, Dorival relied on his players' grit and pride, fixing up a team that was more feisty than colourful.

They got a 1-0 win over England at Wembley and fought back to draw 3-3 with Spain at the Bernabeu earlier this year.

In both games his hero was teenage sensation Endrick, who became the youngest to score at Wembley aged 17 and a few days later got the equaliser against Spain, leaving Real Madrid fans salivating as he is will soon join the European champions.

The Copa America will be the first time Dorival has had time to work extensively with his players, who face Costa Rica following a three-week training camp in Florida before taking on Paraguay and Colombia in Group D.

With most of the attention on world champions Argentina and Lionel Messi, now playing in the MLS, Brazil will start their Copa America campaign without great expectations - something Dorival will be familiar with from his experience at club level.


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