Move over Chile, Brazil has reclaimed its position as a futbol powerhouse in South America! They did it by winning the 2019 Copa America championship.  Brazil’s first Copa title since 2007, and it’s first championship of any kind since winning the Gold Medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Brazil’s program as a whole has dealt with a great deal of adversity over the last few years, dropping the team in pound for pound rankings among Latin American teams, so winning this year’s Copa has lifted a great deal of pressure. from a team that’s struggled in it’s last few international competitions. The world witnessed these shortcomings while the Brazilian people had to endure them along with their beloved “Selecao”.  Although it’s too early to call them World Cup contenders, they’re certainly headed in the right direction. Here is how “Canarinho’s” got to this point….

The Descent

Things started to slide after Brazil won the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. During this period Brazil began a shift from the Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka era, and into the age of Neymar and Co. In their last two qualifying games for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Brazil had a surprising loss to Bolivia followed by an un-Brazil like scoreless draw against Venezuela. At the actual 2010 World Cup Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals by The Netherlands who had lost their three previous matches to Brazil by the combined score of 9-5.

Things did not get much better in 2011. At the 2011 Copa America, Brazil won Group B despite having a record of just 1-2-0 (5 points). Their only win game against Ecuador but played to stalemates with both Venezuela and Paraguay. In the quarterfinals, Brazil would fall to eventual winner Paraguay.

In 2012 there was a glimmer of hope as Brazil qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London but used mostly their younger players at this event. They did, however, have a few veterans in tow with Neymar, Hulk, and Thiago Silva and advanced to the gold medal game before falling to Latin American archrival Mexico. Although they took home the silver medal Brazilian fans wanted gold more than anything.

Turning a Corner

It seemed, however, that Brazil had turned the corner after winning the Confederations Cup in which they scored 14 goals (five of which came from Neymar) while only allowing three. They followed up that championship performance by going 6-1 in the seven friendlies that came afterwards.

2016 was an interesting year for Brazil. Not only were they participants in the Copa America Centenario, but they also qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics which were held in Brazil. Both events ran almost concurrently with one another.

Neymar created a buzz when he decided to stay home in Rio and captain a Brazilian team with mostly younger players, while the main team came here to the U.S. to participate in the Centenario. Brazil successfully defended their home turf at the Olympics and walked away with the first soccer gold medal in the nation’s history. But for as much excitement as the gold medal brought, there was almost as much disappointment towards the fact that Brazil didn’t even make it past the group stage at the Centenario. It was only the second time ever -first time was in 1987- that Brazil didn’t reach the knockout rounds of any Copa America.  It also turned out to be just the fifth time in any event period in which Brazil was limited to just group play.

Brazil in the 2019 Copa America

Heading into this year’s Copa, Brazil started to look like the team that we’d all come to know and respect. They played a total of 10 international friendlies before the Copa, didn’t lose any of them (9-0-1 record) and outscored their opponents 25-2.

They picked up huge wins over Team USA, Argentina, Uruguay, Honduras and played Panama to draw in the process. They did so while going big on defensive talent with current captain Dani Alves (115 caps, 8 goals), Thiago Silva (85 caps, 7 goals), Miranda (58 caps, 3 goals), Filipe Luis (44 caps, 2 goals), and goalkeeper Allison (42 caps since 2015). But the real test would come at this year’s Copa America on their home soil (the fourth major international soccer event held in Brazil this decade) where they had to answer five questions….

Could they advance past the group stage? Was revenge on Paraguay possible? Was a halt to Argentina’s attempted resurgence likely? Was defending their homeland in the cards?

They claimed the Group A block with a 2-0-1 record (7 points, 8 goals scored). The team took Paraguay to penalty kicks once more, but this time earned the victory and the payback. They shutout Argentina in the semifinals and they defeated Peru in the final match to defend their homeland. In the process they have put themselves back atop CONMEBOL and the world has taken notice.

CONMEBOL is adjusting their calendar so the next Copa America will take place in 2020. Next year’s Copa will definitely give us a good indicator of whether or not Brazil can make an impact in Qatar in 2022. But for now; they are on top in South America and took a major step closer to returning to the dominant team that we all remember.

About The Author

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Gabe has worked in media for the last 20 years. In addition to 'LLERO; Gabe has also written for NBC Latino, Fox News Latino, Extra Newspaper, ESPN's The Undefeated, The Sporting News and Athlon Sports among others. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.

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