Virus hit Brazil but they're still bugged by lack of flair

Brazil once again come up short, after their humiliation in the World Cup at home.
Brazil once again come up short, after their humiliation in the World Cup at home.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

CONCEPCION (Chile) - Brazil coach Dunga blamed a mystery virus for his team's shock Copa America exit on Saturday as the most successful footballing nation struggled to digest another tournament setback.

The five-time world champions' penalty shoot-out jinx struck again as Paraguay sent them crashing out in a stunning repeat of their 2011 upset.

Striker Derlis Gonzalez was the hero for Paraguay, slotting a second-half penalty to level the match at 1-1, after Robinho had fired Brazil into a 15th-minute lead, before stepping up to rifle home the spot-kick to clinch a 4-3 win in the shoot-out.

Dunga said as many as 15 members of his squad had been affected by the virus, which he noted had disrupted preparations for the quarter-final.

"I'm not making excuses but around 15 players had viruses which limited our training," he added. "Some had headaches, back pain, body aches.

"Some players felt it more than others and had to reduce training, some players vomited. Today was a game where we needed speed and we didn't have it."

Dunga's explanation caused confusion among members of his squad, with midfielder Filipe Luis telling reporters that he was unaware of any illness.

Goalkeeper Jefferson, however, backed his manager. "Everyone woke up with a fever, headache and body aches," he said.

Dunga appeared to have nursed the Selecao back to health following the traumatic humiliation of last year's World Cup semi-final drubbing by Germany, overseeing 10 consecutive wins in friendlies leading up to the Copa America.

But those results merely camouflaged the same problems that existed at the World Cup, a dearth of creative flair and an over-reliance on Neymar, who was banned for four matches following his antics during Brazil's second match against Colombia.

"We knew from the beginning it would not be easy," Dunga said.

"We had many victories but we still were not happy. We will try to come back and get better.

"Many great players have failed on penalties. If it was easy, a lot of people could do my job but it's not.

"We can't ignore the fact that other teams have got a lot better."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Virus hit Brazil but they're still bugged by lack of flair'. Print Edition | Subscribe