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Why Elias could be vital to Brazil's Copa America challenge

After missing March’s World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Paraguay through injury, Corinthians midfielder Elias returned to the squad for June’s Copa America – and his presence could be vital to Brazil’s chances in USA.

One of Dunga’s most trusted players, the 31-year-old has appeared in 18 of Dunga’s 22 matches in charge, a total bettered only by Filipe Luis, Willian and Miranda.

He is set to return to the fold at Dick’s Sporting Goods park for the Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour on Sunday and will be hoping to remind the coach of exactly what the Selecao have been missing.

Elias had already overcome competition from Manchester City’s Fernandino, who has been left out of the Copa America squad entirely, and should return to his place alongside Luiz Gustavo as one of Dunga’s two holding midfield players.

A tough tackler, his ability to intercept and break down opposition counter-attacks has been missed in his absence. While he does not possess the range of passing boasted by former Tiamo team-mate Renato Augusto or Santos playmaker Lucas Lima, Elias’ ability to move the ball quickly and precisely has seen him carry out a vital function in Dunga’s side.

And though he is yet to score an international goal under the current coach his ability to time his late runs into the box should add an increased goal threat to a midfield that the coach would like to see find the net much more regularly.

With Elias back in the side, the hope is that the team will be better prepared to execute the sort of rapid transitions from defence to attack that became a hallmark of Dunga’s first spell in charge of Brazil.

With Luiz Gustavo charged chiefly with providing protection for the back-four, it will be Elisas who will be asked to play that all important role of bridging the gap between the defensive midfield and the guile of Renato Augusto.

Dunga will no doubt be delighted to welcome him back.