Brazil will approach their Copa America opener against Venezuela with caution tomorrow after seeing arch-rivals and hosts Argentina held 1-1 by Bolivia yesterday. Venezuela, ranked 68th in the world, are well used to being the whipping boys of their continent but Bolivia have already shown that success requires more than turning on the 'jogo bonito' (beautiful game).
Brazil will thus be on their guard in the knowledge that their opponents reached the quarter-finals last time out, albeit at home. Moreover, Venezuela nudged Peru and Bolivia down to the bottom of the rankings in the last regional FIFA World Cup™ qualifying tournament, proving that the baseball-loving Caribbean nation are no mugs with the ball at their feet these days.
Brazil coach Mano Menezes, in his first tournament in charge after succeeding the maligned Dunga last summer, says he knows there is a certain "pressure" to deliver a third straight continental crown, as well as show the Selecao are on track for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. "But I am feeling calm, as we have been working very well. A little tension is normal at the start of a tournament," Menezes told reporters on Friday at the team base in Campana, north of Buenos Aires.
Menezes says he wants to take the game to the Venezuelans but is aware that shocks can and do occur - witness the fact that Cesar Farias' men managed a goalless draw in Brazil in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. "They will do their utmost to make life difficult for Brazil," Menezes predicted. "We will have to dictate the pace and play well." Pace should not be in short supply and with a three-pronged attack in the shape of Robinho, Alexandre Pato and Neymar at the Brazilian's disposal.
"We know where we are and what we are about in facing Venezuela at the Copa America," says Menezes, who is refusing to think about the latter stages of the event. "We do not have to think about either Argentina or Uruguay as they are not our current rivals. For now it's about the group - Venezuela, Paraguay and Ecuador," he concluded .