Brasil Global Tour look back at the key talking points from the Selecao's Copa America Centenario stalemate at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday
Brazil opened their Copa America Centenario campaign on Saturday night with a goalless draw against Ecuador at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It was also the first time since the infamous '7-1' that not a single starter from that fateful World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany began a match for the Selecao.
The Selecao made a fine start to the game, controlling possession and moving the ball much more effectively than we’ve seen in previous matches under the current coach. But despite taking the initiative they were ultimately unable to convert their improved approach play into an all-important goal.
|Alisson the libero
Dunga has, surprisingly, taken concrete steps to usher in a more expansive approach from his side over the past week. In the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour victory over Panama last week he even went as far as sending his team out for the second half without a specialist holding midfielder as Luiz Gustavo was replaced by Hulk.
And on Saturday that approach saw goalkeeper Alisson take up a new role, repeatedly wondering from his goal-line to act almost as a fifth defender at times. Time and again he rushed from his penalty area to operate almost as a libero, encouraging his team-mates to push further up the field.
|Marquinhos & Gil form understanding
The week prior to the big kick-off saw Dunga’s preparations rocked as he was forced to make yet more changes to a squad that has been ravished by injuries. No less than six of Brazil’s original 23-man squad were forced to pull out ahead of the Saturday’s Copa America opener.
And they very nearly lost a seventh, as captain Miranda was the latest to go down with a muscle injury. The Inter man is expected to return on Wednesday, but was forced to sit out of the match with Ecuador. Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos came in and impressed, slotting in alongside Gil in a defence that gave up few chances to the opposition. Gil dominated in the air and Marquinhos sat in behind to cover during an impressive showing from the duo.
|On the front foot
Dunga returned to the dugout in July 2014 for his second spell as Brazil boss. Between 2006 and 2010 the pragmatic coach built a side that was compact, organised and ruthless on the counterattack. The lack of creativity in that team, however, attracted criticism.
The same accusations were levelled against him at last year’s Copa America but he has now introduced passing midfielders into the team most notably Renato Augusto. Against Ecuador we saw yet more indication that Dunga is changing tact, and there were positive sides as the side put together a number of impressive passing moves, repeatedly attempting to pay out from the back via quick, short passes. They were left open to the counterattack, though. Will Dunga hold his neve?
|Where's the cutting edge?
Coming into the tournament most of the talk around Brazil was inevitably regarding the absence of captain Neymar, who is sitting out of the tournament in order to lead the Selecao’s charge at the Rio Olympics in August. He has scored a quarter of Brazil’s goals since Dunga’s arrival despite having missed almost a quarter of the matches.
New arrival Jonas is expected to provide the goals but after netting against Panama last week he failed to carve out many opportunities in Pasadena. Santos starlet Gabigol replaced the Benfica man in the second half as Dunga looked for a cutting edge. He didn’t have the same impact he had against Panama when he found the net within ten minutes of his international debut. Jonas linked the play well once more, creating a great chance for Coutinho. Dunga may well be wondering where the goals will come from.
|Can Elias bridge the gap?
The return of Elias from injury has seen him reform the brilliant partnership he forged with Renato Augusto in the championship-winning Corinthians of last season. Back in the side, Elias was selected ahead of the likes of Manchester City’s Fernandinho to bridge the gap between defence and attack.
A competent all-rounder, Elias is a firm Dunga favourite but failed to make a real impression against Ecuador. He picked up a yellow card for a cynical, yet intelligent, foul when he scythed down Jefferson Montero to stop what looked like a very dangerous counter-attack. Going forward, however, Dunga will hope to see him make more of those late, intelligent runs into the box that saw him grab five league goals last term.