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Copa America Group C preview

Dunga is hoping his second spell as Brazil coach goes better than his first.

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Brazil

The Brazilian national team headed into last summer's World Cup under the weight of a nation. The most decorated side in the tournament's history were hosting it for the first time since 1950, and they were big favorites to reclaim the title. However, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side proved overly reliant on Barcelona's star striker Neymar, and when he sustained a back injury against Colombia in the quarterfinals, they suffered catastrophic effects. A 7-1 defeat to eventual champions Germany was the greatest humiliation in Brazil's proud footballing history, and the fallout was immediate.

Bringing back former coach Dunga wasn't the most progressive move, and it certainly wasn't welcomed by all. However, no one can deny that he hasn't been swift and decisive in his response to the national crisis. He's rectified some of Scolari's mistakes, bringing Atlético Madrid defender João Miranda and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho back into the fold, as well as handing opportunities to talented youngsters like versatile defender Fabinho and attacker Roberto Firmino. He's also shown a willingness to ruffle a few feathers, most surprisingly axing Chelsea's attacking midfielder Oscar for this tournament.

However, the results so far have justified his decisions. Since their World Cup humiliation, Brazil have won every one of their eight matches. Sure, they've all been friendlies, but Colombia, Argentina, France and Chile are no pushovers whatever the occasion. They're looking like a team once again, and a triumph at the Copa América would certainly go some way to banishing the bad memories of Belo Horizonte last year.

Expectations: Brazil have won this tournament eight times, and four of them have come in its last six editions. Don't let the embarrassment of last summer fool you: they're absolutely in this competition to win it. Having been handed a perfectly manageable group, there shouldn't be any spanners thrown into the works early on. Anything other than a deep run would doubtless be considered a failure.

Star: Neymar

The 23-year-old striker is extremely young to be captain of his country, but it's a pressure under which Neymar thrives. That Brazil still play wonderful football in Pele's samba mould is, unfortunately, no longer true, but look at Neymar and you wouldn't know it. His dribbling ability bamboozles the planet's best defenders, and contributes to a general unpredictability that makes him a nightmare for opponents to second-guess. He also has a handy knack of finding the back of the net from seemingly anywhere he chooses, contributing to his transformation from Brazil's boy wonder to a global superstar on and off the field.

If Neymar's on form, then it won't matter if the Seleção aren't quite at their best elsewhere; if he's not, they may well struggle.

Projected lineup (4-4-2): Jefferson; Marcelo, João Miranda, David Luiz, Danilo; Everton Ribeiro, Luiz Gustavo, Elias, Willian; Neymar, Roberto Firmino.

Colombia

Colombia headed into last summer's World Cup under such expectation that their quarterfinal exit was something of a damp squib. José Pékerman's side waltzed through the knockout stages with some fantastic football, only to come unstuck in an uninspiring match against tournament hosts Brazil. However, they've managed to pick themselves up and have won their last six friendlies, and will no doubt be looking to use their current momentum to make amends for last summer and lift the Copa América for only the second time in their history.

When they're in full flow, Colombia are one of the most attractive national teams on the planet to watch. They're a team brimming with talent, and they invariably look to take the game to their opponents with skill and plenty of pace. Sitting behind the ball and playing the percentages game is certainly not the Colombian way. Whether it's Juan Zúñiga or Juan Cuadrado flying down the flanks, James Rodríguez dictating the play from midfield or Radamel Falcao sniffing out chances in the area, there's plenty to enjoy.

Expectations: Colombia have the defensive talent to match their more illustrious counterparts like Argentina and Brazil, but not yet the experience. They'll certainly be expecting to make a deep run in Chile -- and will consider themselves in with a chance of lifting the trophy -- but it may well be that they aren't quite steely or cynical enough to outfox the tournament's biggest favorites.

Star: James Rodríguez

Heading into last summer's World Cup, James Rodríguez was a good talent, but not yet a great one. However, by the time Colombia had been eliminated, he'd established himself as the most prized possession in football. His string of astonishing performances in Brazil -- in which he scored a couple of wondergoals and created a handful more -- promptly earned him a big move from Monaco to Real Madrid, and he hasn't disappointed. A season of experience in Carlo Ancelotti's first team has seen James mature into one of the greatest attacking midfielders on the planet, and he'll be instrumental to Colombia's attacking play at this tournament.

Projected lineup (4-3-3): David Ospina; Juan Zúñiga, Jeison Murillo, Cristián Zapata, Pablo Armero; James Rodríguez, Abel Aguilar, Fredy Guarín; Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado.

Venezuela

When it comes to football, Venezuela have traditionally been the poor sibling of South America: They're the only team from the region's CONMEBOL confederation to have never participated in a World Cup. However, there have recently been signs that La Vinotinto could well be an emerging force. They were the best of the rest in qualification for the last summer's tournament in Brazil, edging out Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay to finish just a place below Uruguay in the region's playoff spot.

Now, Noel Sanvicente's team will look to cause an upset in the Copa América, just as they did when they reached the semifinals four years ago. This time around, they'd do well to just progress through the group stages, having been drawn in a group containing both Brazil and Colombia. If they're to stand a chance of progression, they're going to need outstanding performances from their best players, including midfield anchorman Tomás Rincón and striker Salomón Rondón.

Expectations: It's difficult to see Venezuela beating either Brazil or Colombia, though they have sufficient talent in key areas to suggest they could snatch something. If they do, as well as picking up three points from their most winnable game against Peru, then they could advance to the knockout stages as one of the two best third-placed sides. Anything more than that would surely be considered a triumph.

Star: Salomón Rondón

The 25-year-old Salomón Rondón has seen his stock steadily rise over the last few seasons, where he's shown a knack for finding the back of the net in both La Liga and the Russian Premier League. Now a fixture in André Villas Boas' Zenit St. Petersburg side, the striker has continued to attract the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs.

He's a big, physical presence in attack, with the aerial ability to cause opposition center-backs serious problems on crosses, and the deadly finishing to capitalize on any loose balls in the box. He's quick and strong enough to be a great asset on the counter-attack, and he'll have to turn in some outstanding individual performances if Venezuela are to have any success in this tournament.

Projected lineup (4-2-3-1): Dani Hernández; Gabriel Cichero, Fernando Amorebieta, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Roberto Rosales; Franklin Lucena, Tomás Rincón; Josef Martínez, Juan Arango, César González; Salomón Rondón.

Peru

Peru went close to ending a barren few decades at the last Copa América, only to fall at the semifinal stage. That in itself is Peru's footballing history in microcosm; they're seemingly always threatening to challenge the traditional order, but rarely getting there. The highlight came when they reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1970 and won the Copa América for the second time five years later, though they've not achieved anything of the kind since. Much like many of CONMEBOL's weakest teams, they have tended to have only a smattering of talent in pretty average squads, rather than the necessary even spread.

Still, their showing of four years ago offers them hope that they could well do something at this tournament, even if they're almost certainly going to have to hope they progress into the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed sides. It's difficult to see them beating Brazil or Colombia, despite their impressive firepower in attack. Claudio Pizarro is now 36 years old and is unlikely to do much damage, but youngsters like Sporting Lisbon's André Carrillo and Red Bull Leipzig's Yordy Reyna will be hoping for breakthrough tournaments. It's just a shame they're not as strong at the back as they are going forward.

Expectations: Much like Venezuela, Peru head into this tournament with hope more than expectation. They certainly have what it takes to beat Venezuela, though beyond that it's difficult to see them causing an upset. If they do progress to the knockout stages it will likely be from third place, and anything more than that would be a big bonus.

Star: Carlos Zambrano

There's no doubting the talent that Peru have up front; rather more of a concern is how they're going to fare at the back against players like Neymar, Falcao and Salomón Rondón. They're certainly a top-heavy outfit, and will be pretty reliant on the performances of Eintracht Frankfurt defender Carlos Zambrano at the back.

The 25-year-old, formerly of Schalke, has established himself as a regular in the Bundesliga, and has been constantly linked with a move to the Premier League with Liverpool over the last couple of years. As if the pride of a nation wasn't motive enough for Zambrano to perform, his Frankfurt contract expires next month, and good performances will no doubt mean more interested parties. Let's just hope the injury problems that restricted him to just 16 league starts this season are behind him.

He's almost certainly Peru's best defender, and will have to be at his best if they're to achieve anything of note at this tournament.

Projected lineup (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese; Yoshimar Yotún, Christian Ramos, Carlos Zambrano, Luis Advíncula; Josepmir Ballón, Carlos Ascues; Juan Manuel Vargas, André Carrillo, Jefferson Farfán; Paolo Guerrero.

Sections

Introduction
Group A preview
Group B preview
Tournament predictions
Why Copa America is a launching pad for global stars