After Copa America Failure, Brazil Seeks Refuge in Neymar and Its History

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Brazil (Credit: Getty Images)

As Brazil was eliminated in the quarter-finals of Copa America 2024 by Uruguay on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Neymar wept for his distraught teammates during a samba concert in Brazil.

Brazil and its all-time leading scorer were not fully focused when the continental tournament began, but they will need each other desperately in 2 years if they want a different result at the next World Cup.

For now, there is little sign that Neymar and Brazil will re-engage in time to make a significant difference.

Also Read: Messi Leads Argentina to the Copa America Final Again Beating Canada 2-0

Neymar was never going to play in the Copa America after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in October last year. Brazil’s top scorer Vinicius Junior, with two goals in the tournament, missed the quarter-final against Uruguay due to suspension. And Endrick did not score during the tournament.

Expectations that Brazil would win the continental title were low before the tournament began, not without Neymar, not with the team in 6th place in the South American World Cup qualifiers, and not with world champion Argentina lurking.

But being outplayed by Colombia, a goalless draw with Costa Rica, and failing to score against 10-man Uruguay was worse than expected.

Former Brazilian expert players and analysts say the team can regroup, but they question whether coach Dorival Junior, who has only taken over since January, is the right person to lead the process.

They also think that Neymar is just wasting his talent in Saudi Arabia, far from the big leagues in Europe, and too focused on his private life. They also point out that Brazil wasted a full year under interim coach Fernando Diniz, supposedly because CBF executives were waiting for Carlo Ancelotti to leave Real Madrid.

Nostalgic fans point to 2001 to think that Brazil can turn things around quickly. That year, Brazil, under new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, was eliminated from the Copa America quarterfinals by Honduras. That embarrassment led fans to think that Brazil had no hope for the World Cup 2002 in South Korea and Japan.

Brazil’s then Ronaldo star, missed that Copa America but, alongside a revamp of the squad, recovered from his second ACL injury to lead the team to its fifth World Cup star.

Several members of the team that competed in the USA have degraded their chances of being considered for the 2026 season. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Danilo, midfielder Joao Gomes, and forward Raphinha have performed below expectations.

“It was really an honor for me to be part of this team. A lot of work, professionalism, and dedication was put in,” said Danilo after the elimination in the quarter-finals. “This young team showed that it can achieve great things. I just hope that people are more patient.”

Neymar, between love and hate:

In his recovery from an injured knee, Neymar has become a controversial figure in Brazil. He has had several clashes with politicians, celebrities, and fellow footballers. Many fans have begun to argue in favor of not calling up him for the Brazil national team.

But after the disappointing performance in the Copa America, analysts indicated that Neymar emerged as the big beneficiary after the fiasco and that he remains a key piece for the future of the national team.

“Neymar is one of the greats of world football and, God willing, he will continue to be so,” Dorival told ESPN. “We need to be patient for him to return to his best form. He is an essential player for us and we need to give him time, we don’t want to rush him.”

A CBF source told The Associated Press that Neymar is unlikely to return to the national team for the next two World Cup qualifying matches in September. The source asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

With or without Neymar, Dorival insisted that Brazil would be a stronger team for the World Cup.

“In two years, the same people who are now talking too much will have to swallow another great achievement by our team,” the coach said. “Be calm and patient, let us continue with our work. I would have liked a better result in this Copa America, but this is a process.”

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