Los Angeles, June 3 (IANS) Winger Willian believes Brazil will need to perform as a strong collective unit if they are to win a ninth Copa America football title.
The 2016 tournament starting on Friday is a special centenary celebration of the championship which is why it is taking place only a year after the previous one, won by Chile, rather than the usual four years. For the first time, the competition will be held outside South America, with the United States hosting.
While the absence of Neymar will inevitably have an impact on Brazil’s attacking play, the fact both David Luiz and Thiago Silva, two hugely experienced defenders, are also missing means other players within the squad will need to step up in terms of providing leadership both on and off the pitch if they are to go all the way.
“We have Luis Gustavo, Fernandinho, Dani Alves so it’s important for us to stick together. No one player can win a game alone so we must play as a team. Together we can go far in the competition,” Willian was quoted as saying by his club, Chelsea’s website on Friday.
“Brazil have a big history and have won so many Copa Americas, we know that and with our supporters behind us we will have a good chance to win.”
Brazil, coached by Dunga, kick their campaign off against Ecuador before facing further tests against Haiti and Peru in the group stage.
“It’s a difficult group because in football nowadays there are no easy teams to play against,” Willian said, when asked to assess their chances of reaching the knockout rounds.
“Against Brazil, every team wants to play at their best which makes it tough for us, so it’s important we show our quality. I think we have a good chance to reach the next phase.”
If any added incentive were required, Brazil will be determined to make up for a disappointing 2015 tournament when they were eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in the quarter-finals.
“For sure it was very disappointing but I think we have more experience now and we must show that,” he said.
“There is big pressure in Brazil for us to win the competition and we already know Neymar is out, but we have many great players so we have a chance.”
On a personal note Willian impressed during last year’s competition, the Chelsea winger starting every game and providing a real attacking threat for his side.
He goes into the 2016 tournament off the back of a fine campaign at club level, where he collected both the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards due to the consistent nature of his performances.
“I’m very happy because since Dunga took charge I’ve started every game so it’s very good for me,” added the 27-year-old. “With every match I gain more confidence and now, when I’m with the national team, I am able to play with more freedom.
“Dunga is a very good manager and a good person. He has a big heart, he’s a Brazilian legend so I enjoy it a lot playing under him.”