Copa América: can a new generation of stars drag Brazil out of chaos?

Brazil is on the move in the 2024 Copa América. A team that routinely waltzes into World Cups as favorites has fallen behind good European opponents. And in South America, the Seleção are also finding it increasingly difficult.

They have yet to find their feet in the post-Tite era. The former head coach was moved after back-to-back World Cup quarter-final appearances in Russia and Qatar. And in the eighteen months since Tite’s departure, little has gone according to plan. CBF chairman Ednaldo Rodrigues guaranteed that Carlo Ancelotti would replace Tite towards the end of his contract at Real Madrid, and employ the creative (or unusual) tactic of installing Fluminense coach Fernando Diniz as a bridge appointment until Ancelotti arrived, with Diniz retaining his club responsibilities alongside the national team.

Diniz was not the first choice. He was the second bridge appointment while the federation waited for Don Carlo. Ramon Menezes, the under-20s coach, was initially called up on an interim basis while Brazil waited for a permanent coach, but he oversaw a dismal run of friendlies against Morocco, Guinea and Senegal that spurred Rodrigues into action.

Embarrassingly, Rodrigues was ordered to leave his office due to a court ruling. That was made worse by Ancelotti’s decision to extend his contract with Real Madrid. The CBF opted to stick with Diniz, one of the shining leaders of South American coaching, despite him pulling double duty at Fluminense. Diniz set himself a personal mission – bordering on a tactical crusade – to return Brazil to its football roots and advocated a style of play known as relationism. But opting for style over substance was a flop, with Diniz taking charge of just six games. Under Diniz, Brazil won twice, drew once and lost three games in a row to Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina – the latter in a packed Maracanã, where Brazil also lost the 2021 Copa América final to their arch-rivals.

Diniz left the court with Brazil sixth in the South American World Cup qualifying group. The who and how of the defeats were just as disturbing: Brazil lost three in a row for the first time; they lost to Uruguay for the first time in eight years; a defeat to Colombia marked the first time they had lost to the country in qualifying matches. Off the field they were threatened with deportation of the 2026 World Cup and completed ventilator disorder after a qualifying defeat against Argentina.

While the team collapsed, Rodrigues was reinstated as president of the CBF. His first decision was to fire Diniz. Rodrigues replaced the tactical ideologue with Dorival Júnior, who had just won the Copa do Brasil with São Paulo. He took charge with the aim of getting the national team back on track for friendlies against England and Spain. Back-to-back friendlies against strong European competition would prove a rare test; the creation of the Nations League has limited the national team’s exposure to the best that UEFA has to offer, to the detriment of the squad’s development.

The European friendlies were a success. Brazil recorded a 1-0 win over England at Wembley and then grabbed a late goal in a 3-3 draw in Spain. The mood in the team improved. The quick turnaround had a lot to do with Endrick’s rise. The youngster, who will join Real Madrid after the Copa America, scored the winning goal at Wembley and became the youngest ever male goalscorer. dedicated his attack to Bobby Charlton – and played an important role against Spain at his future home, the Santiago Bernabéu.

Even though he’s only 17, and from the manager demands from the football world to handle him “very carefully”.Endrick is one of the players that Dorival trusts. His time has been limited so far, but he is the face of what is being called a new ‘cycle’ in Brazil – the end of which will coincide with the 2026 World Cup and the expiry of Dorival’s contract that year.

Endrick took center stage again during the team’s Copa América tune-up matches. He scored a 96th-minute winner in a 3–2 win over Mexico, although he was less involved in Brazil’s 1–1 draw with the US. Nevertheless, he will wear number 9 during the Copa, a shirt that carries a lot of weight in Brazil and which players like Fred, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison have failed to convince. Endrick has yet to start for the national team, but will be assigned number one. 9 indicates that Dorival plans to accelerate his role in the team – with an eye to the next World Cup.

The number 10 shirt also has a new resident. Rodrygo will replace Neymar, who has played less than a minute under Dorival after being injured following the defeat in Uruguay. But even though he recently won his second Champions League title with Madrid, Rodrygo comes into this summer under pressure. His future at Real is bleak, due to the arrival of Kylian Mbappé and Endrick. The comments, which he said were misinterpreted, showed him flirting with a possible exit, calling Manchester City the “best team in the world” and saying they “play the best football”.

Vinícius Júnior has struggled to replicate his club form with the national team. Photo: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports

It’s different for his clubmate. Vinícius Júnior is in the form of his career. He is expected to lead the way for Brazil this summer and is the favorite to lift Brazil’s first Ballon d’Or since Kaká in 2007. Adding an international trophy to last season’s Champions League would putting him past the other frontrunners for Europe’s top individual prize. . But it won’t be easy. Vinicius has struggled to replicate his club form for Brazil so far. He has scored just three goals and provided four assists for the national team since 2019, the kind of figure he looks set to achieve in Madrid in a fortnight.

However, it is not just the winger who has had problems adapting to different playing styles since the Tite era. The switch from a rigid positional model that Tite adopted at the end of his reign – and to which most players are accustomed at their clubs in Europe – to the relationalism of Deniz was a difficult task for some.

Adjusting to Dorival should theoretically be ‘easier’, according to newly appointed captain Danilo. Dorival’s style is similar to Tite’s – although he has less defensive strength in his squad – but he has also shown a willingness to adapt, unlike Diniz, who is more of a doctrinaire coach.

Dorival is now in the midst of an overhaul, albeit with ideas that reflect how the team played under Tite. He has left Casemiro, Richarlison, Thiago Silva and Gabriel Jesus out of the Copa America squad, cutting big-name players in favor of those who fit into his plan and can grow together before the next World Cup. Danilo says he sees sense in Dorival resetting.

“I think we have a very important role in this transition, which is to be open to new ideas and changes,” says Danilo wrote this month. “It’s about understanding the balance between what can be useful in the future and what really needs to change.”

Given the background, Dorival and Brazil are not under much pressure to win this summer’s Copa América and certainly not as much as Tite was in 2019, where a failure could have cost him his job, or in 2021, when the tournament was home soil was played, but against a Covid-tinged backdrop and a battle between the coach and the country’s president.

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Dorival Júnior is the coach who must get Brazil back on track. Photo: Omar Vega/Getty Images

If anyone outside the usual expectant crowd is putting pressure on the national team, it is surprising sources like Ronaldinho. He vowed to boycott this year’s Copa América, in comments that harked back to the way Diego Maradona routinely talked down his national team successors before tournaments.

“That’s it folks. I’ve had enough,” said Ronaldinho wrote on social media. “This is a sad moment for those who love Brazilian football.” He called the team “one of the worst teams in recent years” with “no respectable leaders” and “mostly average players”, who have a “lack of love for the shirt, lack of courage and most importantly: football”. .

Once Raphinha Ronaldinho exclaimed, which revealed that the Barcelona legend had recently asked Vinicius for tickets, Ronaldinho withdrew. He said that he would “never abandon Brazilian football” – before shamelessly putting in a plug for his latest sponsorship campaign.

But the truth is that many Brazilian fans Doing You also have that feeling about the current team. Perhaps it is only fresh blood that is dazzling this summer that can put the storms aside again.

This is Brazil after all. Winning with flair is always the minimum requirement. “For the Englishman, football is an athletic exercise; for the Brazilian it is a game,” wrote Mazzoni, a journalist for A Gazeta, in 1949. That theory has persisted for almost a century, with World Cup victories after World Cup victories, along with some of the most awe-inspiring football in the sport . history. But with the game evolving away from individuality, Tite sought to drag Brazil towards a new ideal, preaching discipline over artistry. Under Diniz, elegance was restored; In fact, style is preferable to results. Dorival will have to find a third way to re-energize the Brazilian crowd: embracing the artistry of its young forward while showing enough accuracy to get results.

Should they fall short this summer, Dorival can hide behind the argument that the team is a work in progress. But there needs to be at least a vision of what this side is building towards.

In a Players’ stand column, Danilo acknowledged the dissatisfaction. “For a long time we haven’t been good enough,” Danilo wrote. We are a group with a lot of hunger and a lot of pride in representing our country. At the same time we see and hear what is said about us. Every player who wears the yellow jersey feels its weight, no matter what people say. “We don’t feel the pressure.” Nonsense! It’s Brazil. You always feel pressure”

Brazil has traditionally not taken the Copa América seriously, which partly explains how Argentina and Uruguay have won 15 titles to the Seleção’s nine. But regaining that title lost to the Albiceleste at the Maracanã would convince some that Dorival is the right man to lead the team to the 2026 World Cup, while also restoring the pride that many in the national team have lost.