It's been a long road back from the hugely disappointing finish to the 2014 World Cup for Brazil, but Dunga's squad can reinvigorate their status as an elite nation with a Copa America title. Brazil enter the knockout stage of the South American tournament on Saturday when they take on underdog Paraguay at Estadio Municipal de Concepcion in Concepcion, Chile.
Brazil failed to dominate their Group C opponents, losing to Colombia in their second match, and barely edging Peru and Venezuela. It hasn't helped that world-class forward Neymar has been suspended for the tournament after apparently head-butting Colombian center back Jeison Murillo in the dying moments of the match.
Brazil bounced back from that setback to defeat Venezuela when Thiago Silva delivered a fine volley in the opening minutes to put Brazil up for good, but there remains questions about how Dunga will find the type of attack that will put to rest fears that a more determined Paraguay defense can stifle the attack.
Paraguay has already proven to be a quality side in the competition, having earned draws with frontrunners Argentina and Uruguay in the group stage, and disposing of Jamaica with a solid defensive effort. Head coach Ramon Diaz can't match Brazil's exceptional talent, but does boast some solid veteran attacking players like forwards Nelson Valdez and captain Roque Santa Cruz. Winger Raul Bobadilla, who recently made his Paraguay debut despite being born in Buenos Aires and starting his career with River Plate, has been a productive club player in Switzerland and Germany and could prove to be an unexpected catalyst to Diaz's attack.
Dunga counters with a pair of young Liverpool stars, who might be hitting their stride on the international scene. Attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino recently joined the Reds on a £29-million fee after 140 appearances for 1899 Hoffenheim, and the 23-year-old could be poised to make a name for himself this summer after only limited appearances for Seleção. He already has a goal in the tournament, and could be Brazil's best scoring option. But playmaker Philippe Coutinho might be Dunga's most effective weapon, as the 23-year-old is one of the most skilled midfielders in the tournament. Former superstar forward Careca compared Coutinho to Zico, considered one of the greatest Brazilian attacking midfielders of all-time. It seems that with Neymar absent, this is Coutinho's opportunity to shine.
Paraguay may be prime to upset a vulnerable Brazil side, after strong showings in the group stage. But Brazil seem to have a more cohesive collection of talent, who appear to have put some of the struggles of group play behind them. However, there might be a fear that Brazil could be looking ahead to their next opponent. The winner of this quarterfinals match will face the winner of Argentina vs. Colombia.
Prediction: Brazil over Paraguay, 1-0