For the second time in 12 months, Dunga’s men face a crucial test at a major tournament without their star man, who has been suspended
Brazil face a crunch Copa America clash in Sunday’s Group C meeting with Venezuela, and they do so without star forward Neymar.
The Barcelona man has been handed a four-match suspension following his red card at the end of Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to Colombia.
After the final whistle had been blown, Neymar appeared to kick the ball in the direction of Pablo Armero before attempting to headbutt Jeison Murillo.
It is the second time in 12 months that Brazil head into a crucial fixture at a major tournament without their talisman.
At the World Cup on home soil last year, Neymar suffered a back injury in the quarter-final win over Colombia, and was ruled out of the last-four clash with Germany, where the hosts suffered a humiliating 7-1 thrashing.
The ban rules him out of the rest of the Copa, even if Brazil make the final, but first Dunga’s men must focus on qualifying from their group.
Wednesday’s defeat, coupled with Venezuela’s 1-0 loss to Peru, means all four sides are tied on three points heading into the final round of action.
Philippe Coutinho, fresh from stunning individual displays for Liverpool this season, is being tipped to replace Neymar in the starting line-up, and the diminutive playmaker insists he is up to the task.
“I’m ready. Neymar is our main player, but I’m ready to play,” he said.
Meanwhile, Venezuela have their own suspension to contend with after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off for stamping on Peru’s Paulo Guerrero.
Amorebieta – likely to be replaced by Gabriel Cichero – took the blame for the defeat afterwards, and head coach Noel Sanvicente says his players are happy to come into Sunday’s meeting in Santiago as underdogs.
“We knew that this group was quite difficult, but we must move fast from the defeat because it is Brazil,” he said.
“We’re going with a defeat, but we have the match against a favourite and that motivates us.
“We know what Brazil are, and without Neymar, we have the team to win.”
The last two meetings between these sides have ended goalless, with their most recent clash coming in the group stage of this tournament four years ago.
Venezuela went on to finish fourth in 2011, while Brazil’s challenge ended at the quarter-final stage – a disappointing conclusion after winning four of the five editions prior to that.