Football: Brazil's glory days are over, says Elber

According to former Bayern striker Elber, Brazil captain Neymar is the only top attacker at the Selecao's disposal. Brazil will be without Neymar at the Copa America Centenario, however, with the Barcelona forward being saved for the Olympics instead
According to former Bayern striker Elber, Brazil captain Neymar is the only top attacker at the Selecao's disposal. Brazil will be without Neymar at the Copa America Centenario, however, with the Barcelona forward being saved for the Olympics instead.PHOTO: REUTERS
Retired striker Elber played down Brazil's Copa chances.
Retired striker Elber played down Brazil's Copa chances.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Ex-Selecao forward says Neymar is only top player, blames Brazilians leaving top leagues

In his heyday in the early 2000s, former Bayern Munich footballer Giovane Elber was one of the finest strikers around but even with his quality, he never earned more than 15 caps for Brazil.

Stiff competition from the Selecao's three attacking Rs - Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho - blocked his way but today's Brazil are a mere shadow of their glorious past, according to the former Bundesliga hitman.

After a 7-1 home demolition by Germany in the 2014 World Cup and last year's Copa America quarter-final exit to Paraguay on penalties, Elber is sad his country is no longer a force in the world game.

"It's not such a great team anymore. It's painful and even heartbreaking to see an amazing side in such a state now," said the 43-year-old in fluent German through a translator.

"Brazil has lost its credibility in football. In our prime, we had four or five attackers to pick and choose from. Now, there's only one and that's Neymar. We lack the breadth of players that we used to have at our disposal."

Elber, who won four Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in a distinguished spell with Bayern, is in Singapore for the first time to make pre-trial selections for July's Allianz Junior Football Asia Camp.

NO CHANCE OF WINNING

We won't win it for sure. Usually, we're the favourites to win but no one is scared of us now.

GIOVANE ELBER (above), former Brazil striker, is not optimistic about his country's chances at the Copa America Centenario.

Speaking on the sidelines at the Home United Youth Football Academy at Mattar Road yesterday, Elber added: "Previously, when you selected the best 10 footballers on the planet, four or five Brazilians would easily make the list.

"Now, it's just Neymar and that's about it. There are no more defining players in the big leagues who can turn a game around. They just blend in with the rest of the club."

Part of this problem, according to Elber, is the exodus of players to the Chinese and Russian leagues.

He said: "It's also more difficult to groom talent for the national side when players go to China and Russia to play. There's no challenge there. Only in the Europe with the Bundesliga, (English) Premier League and La Liga can you compete with the best and grow."

That has got him concerned about his country's fate at the Copa America Centenario.

Neymar will be playing only in the Olympics. Former internationals like Ramires and Paulinho have been omitted from Dunga's squad after joining Chinese Super League clubs. The team also suffered two injury blows after midfielder Rafinha and goalkeeper Ederson were ruled out of the Copa yesterday.

Brazil may have won four out of five Copas between 1997 and 2007, but Elber is pessimistic this year.

"We won't win it for sure. Usually, we're the favourites to win but no one is scared of us now. Argentina and Ecuador are going to be the strong contenders," he said.

"The Olympics, yes. Brazil can win that. There'll be a lot of young players to drive the team forward and we have a chance at that."

Besides footballing problems, Brazil also faces turmoil ahead of its hosting of the Olympics in August as it comes to grips with unfinished infrastructure, corruption claims and the Zika virus.

However, Elber is highly confident of a successful Games in Rio, saying: "Once the Olympics begin, the nation will rally behind it and drive it forward.

"Brazilians are a people of leaving everything to the last second and then, making it work."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'Brazil's glory days over'. Print Edition | Subscribe