Brazil hosts COPA America, hopes to be football champs once again

World Today

In the COPA America Football Championship in South America, Brazil is hoping to win, once again, even without its star player Neymar. It’s the world’s oldest football competition and it kicks off on Friday with the first game being Brazil versus Bolivia.

CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco has more.

Undermanned, but undaunted to strive for victory. While the women’s team is in France battling for the World Cup, Brazil’s national men’s team is preparing for the 46th edition of the COPA America.

Not only is Brazil hosting this year`s tournament but the country is also celebrating the 100th anniversary of their first Copa title.

But the challenge will be to play the tournament without superstar Neymar—a blow for both the team and the world’s most expensive player.

He suffered a ligament rupture in his right ankle and was cut from the team. Making matters worse, his sponsors dropped him too, after a rape allegation was leveled at him. Both setbacks occurred last week. Neymar denies any wrongdoing.

Coach “Tite,” who has shown support for the star striker, said Neymar was key for the team but not crucial for winning: “He’s indispensable for the team’s quality. Neymar’s skills are indispensable. But no one is irreplaceable at any place or position.”

It is more pressure for “Tite” who has been in charge since 2016 and signed a new four-year contract despite last year’s quarter-finals elimination at the World Cup in Russia.

Brazil has won a total of eight COPA America titles, including its victories in all four times the country hosted the tournament. And once again the team is expecting nothing less than another championship.

Brazil goalkeeper coach Claudio Taffarel says that having a winning spirit is crucial: “I think Brazilian football for us, for the fans, needs to live out of victories, not just performing well, but I think victory is important”

A victory may mean more to Brazil than to the other 10 South American nations and the two guests – Japan and Qatar- fighting for continental supremacy.

The last time Brazil tasted victory was at the 2016 Rio Olympics when it won its first gold medal in football ever and expectations are still high for the five time-world champions even without Neymar.