The Selecao hit home soil for the first time since the tournament's dismal final two matches, and coach Dunga is confident they are ready to put their misery behind them
Brazil have returned for their first match on home soil since the fateful end to their World Cup campaign, where their 7-1 thrashing by Germany was followed by a defeat to Netherlands in the third-place playoff.
Since going down to the eventual world champions, the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour provided some breathing space for coach Dunga as he set about rebuilding the team that suffered such a disastrous end to a campaign that was supposed to deliver a historic first world title on home soil.
|Time to wake up from World Cup nightmare
On Sunday, the Selecao will take to the field at Palmeiras’ Allianz Park in Sao Paulo to face Mexico for the penultimate Copa America warm-up. Eight consecutive victories since Dunga’s July arrival have gone some way to restoring the country’s faith in their side, with over 30,000 tickets sold for the match.
"The Brazilian fans, by ticket sales, have already demonstrated their continued affection for the national team,” said Dunga. “We need their support. And now we have to play our part.”
The team has undergone a refurbishment since Dunga succeeded Luiz Felipe Scolari. Only four of those tipped to start against Mexico formed part of the 23 that went to the World Cup: Jefferson, David Luiz, Fernandinho – who is now a doubt after picking up a knock in training – and Willian. Of those four, only David Luiz was a starter when the campaign began.
|Neymar-less for first time
The most high profile absentee in Sao Paulo on Sunday will be captain Neymar. The 23-year-old guided Barcelona to Champions League victory on Saturday and so will miss the clash with Mexico. He was instantly handed the armband upon Dunga’s appointment and has grown in personality and proved his leadership qualities.
It will be the first time since the World Cup that the Selecao have lined up without their star forward, who has hit eight goals in his last eight games for his country. Midfielder Oscar is another big miss, after being forced to withdraw from the squad this month through injury. A switch in style is anticipated from Dunga, with Shakhtar’s Fred set to come in and form a more conservative midfield three. He and Liverpool’s Coutinho will have the chance to prove that they are worthy of a first-team place in Chile.
|A thorn in the side
Mexico may well have just 10 victories over Brazil in 39 meetings between the two, but some of them proved traumatic for the Selecao. The most recent arriving in the gold medal match at the Olympics Games in 2012. El Tri have repeatedly been a thorn in Brazil’s side. They will face Dunga's side without their full squad, saving the likes of Carlos Vela and Chicharito for the upcoming Concacaf Gold Cup.
But the match will be a real test for a new-look Brazil team. Dunga is keeping one eye firmly on next year's Olympic Games and a young Mexico squad will provide the perfect test for some of those eligible to take part in the under-23 competition in Rio.
Sao Paulo will provide the perfect setting for the likes of Douglas Costa, Casemiro, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa to reacquaint themselves with the locals after making much of the careers in Europe. Some of those in the squad remain almost strangers to a public that is hoping to welcome a team back into their arms by celebrating success, not by sympathising for a team that once again feels the prick of a ‘pedra no sapato’.
|Patience is a virtue
Despite more than 30,000 tickets having been sold for the match that will take place in the stunning Allianz Park, home of Palmeiras, Brazil will face a Sao Paulo public that is notoriously impatient. They expect the best, and numerous national sides have heard boos echo around the stands after getting off to a slow start. The demanding Paulista faithful may not be so forgiving when welcoming back the protagonists of Scolari’s World Cup squad. But Dunga has said it’s time his team step up and play their part in the rebirth of the national team – few settings seem more appropriate to kick-start revival than the state of Sao Paulo.
Dunga will certainly see what his players are made of on Sunday night. "It changes the way the team plays a bit,” Dunga said of his forced alterations. “It gives us a chance to put some different players in the team and assess a few things we might need going forward.”
The time for talking is over. The new breed must prove themselves up to the task. And for many, it will be a chance to make their arguments for a promotion to the starting line-up in Chile this month.
Predicted Brazil XI to face Mexico: Jefferson, Danilo, Miranda, David Luiz, Filipe Luis; Fernandinho (or Casemiro), Elias, Fred, Philippe Coutinho, Willian; Diego Tardelli.