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Despite injuries, Brazil expect Copa America success

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Copa America presents a mix of expectations, pressure and status for Brazil as the five-time World Cup champions prepared for their opener against Ecuador on Saturday.

Expectations from within are to win the tournament, which brings pressure. But Brazil’s biggest star, Neymar, is skipping the Copa America to play in the Olympics, which his nation hosts in August. His club, Barcelona, would not let him participate in both.

Brazil coach Dunga said each tournament carries the same weight.

“I want to win everything,” he said. “If the referee tosses the coin, I want to win that.”

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Brazil’s group includes Peru and Haiti, and it could face the host United States in the quarterfinals.

Five Brazilians withdrew from the Copa America because of injuries, including Douglas Costa and his replacement, former FIFA Player of the Year Kaka.

“We have others who are very qualified and have this great opportunity to play with their national squad,” Dunga said. “We are very motivated and very trusting of all of the players.”

Brazil won the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup but finished in fourth at home in the 2014 World Cup, when it was embarrassed with a 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals. At last year’s Copa America in Chile, the Selecao were eliminated by Paraguay on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals, and their FIFA ranking is a very un-Brazil-like seventh.

Brazil has never won a gold medal at the Olympics, which for men is limited to players under 23 except for three wild cards per team over the limit. But at the senior level, Brazil has won a record five World Cups.

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Its roster includes Hulk, Jonas, Lucas Moura, Philippe Coutinho and Dani Alves.

“It’s just our history,” Dunga said. “When you open the books, the players have to have it in their DNA to win. Victories translate to dynamic quality, technique, perfection. We have to play to win. … Some players have more experience, others not as much, but we in Brazil, when we come into the field, we wear the shirt and we all assume the pressure. That’s something we have to accept and work with that.”

Ecuador, ranked 13th, has had two fourth-place finishes in the Copa America, most recently in 1993, and none higher. Its roster includes Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero.

“They mark really well and are fast. It’s a team that knows how to play collectively,” Dunga said. “Ecuador is doing many good things. It’s a team that over time has adopted the right mentality with their coach. They have a collectively strong game. Those players have been playing together for a long time and they all know what each other wants to do.”

Coutinho, Kaka headline preliminary Brazil roster for Copa America

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It appears that Neymar won’t be the only big name missing from Brazil’s star-studded squad this summer at the Copa America Centenario.

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The Selecao revealed their preliminary 40-man roster for this summer’s competition, and it includes Orlando City midfielder Kaka, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Douglas Costa of Bayern Munich.

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Chelsea pair Willian and Oscar also made the initial cut, in addition to Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firminho, who is coming off of a stellar season for Liverpool.

Among the biggest snubs for Brazil are a trio of defenders. Paris Saint-Germain duo Thiago Silva and David Luiz were each left off, while Real Madrid wing back Marcelo was also left out of the side.

Head coach Dunga will be forced to cut his roster down to 23 before the tournament starts for the Brazilians on June 4. The Selecao will take on Ecuador, Haiti and Peru in Group B play.

You can view the entire roster below:

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Neymar will play for Brazil in Olympics… if Barcelona allow it

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If Brazilian national team head coach Dunga has his way, Barcelona superstar Neymar will feature for his under-23 side at this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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There’s just one problem with that — getting his way will require Dunga to convince Neymar’s employers to make the 24-year-old (each side is allowed three overage players) available for the tournament, despite the fact it’ll almost certainly clash with Barca’s pre- and early-season schedule.

Nevertheless, Dunga remains hopeful, as he explained on Brazilian television Sunday night following the group-stage draw for the 2016 Copa America Centenario — quotes from ESPN FC:

“We will be speaking with the directors of Barcelona as well as their coach Luis Enrique and the player, who is the key piece, and will try to find a solution that works for everyone. There are players we plan to call up for both the Copa America Centenario as well as the Olympics.”

Everyone in the world, save perhaps Barca fans and those of Brazil’s Olympic opponents, want to see Neymar starring in the Olympics on home soil.

It’ll be an extremely tight schedule, though, with the men’s soccer competition kicking off Aug. 3 and finishing Aug. 20, likely the same weekend the 2016-17 La Liga season will begin back in Spain. Should Neymar play in both the Copa America and Olympics, he’ll have played 12 months straight without an offseason. At that point, he’d need three to four weeks off to rest and recover, followed by a week or two of “preseason” to get up to speed with his Barca teammates.

Injured Oscar out of Brazil squad for upcoming Copa America

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Chelsea attacking midfielder Oscar will not be a part of Brazil’s Copa America squad this summer thanks to an unspecified injury that has kept him out of recent Premier League action and threatens to end his season and beyond.

Brazilian manager Dunga said that after speaking with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, he has left Oscar out of his Copa America squad after learning of a recent training ground injury.

The 23-year-old has not appeared since being removed at halftime against Arsenal with concussion-like symptoms following a crunching collision with Gunners goalkeeper David Ospina. He was an unused substitute two weeks ago against Leicester City and was left out of the squad against Crystal Palace this past weekend as Chelsea clinched the Premier League title.

“We spoke with Mourinho and the doctor at Chelsea and his recuperation will take time and he won’t be at his best during the Copa America,” Dunga told the media. “After the Copa America we have the World Cup qualifiers, and we thought it best for him to be ready for the qualifiers.”

It’s unclear what the nature of the injury is, or if it will sideline him for the rest of the Premier League season. If Oscar’s injury is concussion related and will keep him out for this extended period of time, it casts serious black clouds over the training staff’s handling of his head injury immediately following his collision with Ospina, leaving him on the field for a half-hour before his eventual removal at halftime. Dunga did say his injury was picked up in training, which would seem to eliminate his concussion from the cause, but that could be misinformation from Chelsea to diffuse negative attention.

Brazil’s opening match in the tournament is June 14 against Peru, and the tournament will run through the finals on July 4. Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers are during the early October international window after the upcoming Premier League season is two months old.

Oscar will be a major loss for Brazil, with his pace and tenacity leading to six goals and eight assists in Premier League play this season, and has created 36 chances according to Squawka Statistics. The man to replace Oscar is Philippe Coutinho, a star component of Liverpool’s season. Oscar’s Chelsea teammate Willian made the roster, as did his former teammate in David Luiz. Another man who misses out is Zenit St. Petersburg striker Hulk, who has underperformed in his recent stints with the national team. Here is the full squad:

Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Diego Alves (Valencia), Marcelo Grohe (Gremio).
Defenders: Fabinho (Monaco), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Danilo (Porto), David Luiz (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG), Miranda (Atletico Madrid).
Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Elias (Corinthians), Casemiro (Porto)
Forwards: Everton Ribeiro (Al-Ahli), Douglas Costa (Shakhtar Donetsk), Willian (Chelsea), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Robinho (Santos), Neymar (Barcelona), Diego Tardelli (Shandong Luneng), Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim).

PSG’s captain Thiago Silva still waiting for Brazil playing time under Dunga

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The embarrassment of talent riches that is Brazil soccer needs no less evidence than Thiago Silva’s lack of playing time for the Canarinho.

Silva, 30, was part of the Brazil set-up for the World Cup this summer, but was not in the lineup that lost to Germany 7-1 in the World Cup semifinal thanks to yellow card accumulation. Still, he has yet to play under new coach Dunga.

And Brazil has yet to lose, going 5-0 since their home nation dip in form completed with a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands in the third place game.

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But Silva didn’t see this coming, losing his captaincy for country to Neymar (a position he still holds at high-powered club Paris Saint-Germain). He remains one of the best defenders in the world, but is a casualty for the Little Canary.

From Goal.com:

“Sincerely, I didn’t expect this,” Silva said, ahead of Brazil’s friendly with Austria on Tuesday.

“But I think we must be prepared for everything, somehow, even if I thought I was going to come and play. I have to be ready to be on the bench also.

“We have quality players, like David Luiz and Miranda, so I knew that it was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect to be dropped. But it’s part of football and I’m ready to fight for my place back.”

The absence is likely just Dunga rolling with the players who have him on a hot streak, winners of five in a row all by clean sheet against high-profile opponents Colombia, Argentina, Japan, Ecuador and Turkey. Still, could Silva be out even after a loss? It’s hard to believe, but if Dunga keeps winning he’ll be able to do whatever he wants.