The notion of traditional footballing powerhouses is becoming obsolete, Brazil coach Dunga said after reigning champions Italy were eliminated from the FIFA World Cup on Thursday.
Italy joined 1998 champions France in finishing bottom of their respective groups for an early flight home. England and Germany left qualification to the second round until their third group match while joint-favourites Spain still have to nail down their passage to the round of 16.
But Dunga said it was to be expected as players for other "lesser" teams gained experience and accrued invaluable technical skills starring for high-profile clubs in Europe.
"Argentina and Brazil are already under a lot of pressure," he said. "We have to start evolving. Forget the notion of 'traditional teams'. If you don't play well, you'll be eliminated. Long gone are the days when a traditionally strong team could just turn up and expect to win. Players in other 'weaker' teams play for some of the best clubs in the world, like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Chelsea, as is the case with Ivory Coast. We have to constantly be on the look-out."
Speaking on the eve of his team's final Group G game against Portugal, Dunga predicted a "very interesting game" between the five-times champions and their former colonial masters. "It'll be a very good game for football lovers," he said. "Portugal are going to have to attack to secure some points."
Brazil are already qualified for the second round, but Portugal need at least a draw to book their berth. Third-placed Côte d'Ivoire will have to beat win-less Korea DPR handsomely to push Portugal should they fail to muster a draw.
It'll be a very good game for football lovers.
"We have to play balanced football," Dunga said. "Whenever Brazil are well organised and play technically well, we always get good results. We have to face up to the round of 16 and play the best football we can."
Dunga, who captained Brazil to the 1994 FIFA World Cup crown, was in no doubt about what his team's target was against the Carlos Queiroz-coached Portuguese team. "Brazil have to win. Otherwise it's a great problem for me. We have no option: we play to win," he said.
"Both Brazil and Portugal have shown their competitiveness over the years. With the quality both teams are able to show, it should be a good game. Our style of football is similar to a certain extent. Brazilian players adapt very well in Portugal, with the same language and style of play, and vice-versa."
Dunga confirmed that Elano would not likely play as he recovers from a calf injury sustained in a tackle against Côte d'Ivoire, adding that Roma midfielder Julio Baptista could take the place of suspended playmaker Kaka. "Baptista has already played in the Copa America," Dunga said. "He's a strong player, good in midfield and going forward. He can shoot from long distance and has played for Brazil for a long time."
The coach also praised his side's "calmness" in the face of a tough-tackling Côte d'Ivoire team in their 3-1 victory. "Tackles came in on Elano and Michel Bastos, but the team remained cool and collected. We continued to play," he said. "Since the qualifiers, I've stressed that we start the game with 11 players and must finish with 11."
He also played down the significance of Brazil's last encounter with Portugal - a 6-2 win for the South Americans in 2008, saying that was water under the bridge. "The past is the past. That's history and we're now in the World Cup in South Africa two years later. Tomorrow is a new game.
"When we have possession, very simply, we've got to score."