Brazil wary of Venezuela after Argentina slip-up
Buenos Aires: Brazil will approach their Copa America opener against Venezuela with caution here on Sunday after seeing arch-rivals and hosts Argentina held 1-1 by lowly Bolivia on Friday.
Venezuela, ranked 68th in the world, are well used to being the whipping boys of their continent but Bolivia have already shown that success requires more than turning on the `jogo bonito` (beautiful game).
Brazil will thus be on their guard in the knowledge that their opponents reached the quarter-finals last time out, albeit at home.
Moreover, Venezuela nudged Peru and Bolivia down to the bottom of the rankings in the last regional World Cup qualifying tournament, proving that the baseball-loving Caribbean nation are no mugs with the ball at their feet these days.
Brazil coach Mano Menezes, in his first tournament in charge after succeeding the maligned Dunga last summer, says he knows there is a certain "pressure" to deliver a third straight continental crown, as well as show the Selecao are on track for their own World Cup in 2014.
"But I am feeling calm, as we have been working very well. A little tension is normal at the start of a tournament," Menezes told reporters on Friday at the team base in Campana, north of Buenos Aires.
Menezes says he wants to take the game to the Venezuelans but is aware that shocks can and do occur -- witness the fact that Cesar Farias` men managed a goalless draw in Brazil in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
"They will do their utmost to make life difficult for Brazil," Menezes predicted. "We will have to dictate the pace and play well."
Pace should not be in short supply and with a three-pronged attack in the shape of Robinho, Alexandre Pato and Neymar waiting to spring on their rivals, the outcome should be a formality.
"We know where we are and what we are about in facing Venezuela at the Copa America," says Menezes, who is refusing to think about the latter stages of the event.
"We do not have to think about either Argentina or Uruguay as they are not our current rivals. For now it`s about the group -- Venezuela, Paraguay and Ecuador," concluded Menezes.
After Venezuela, the auriverde go up against Paraguay in Cordoba, where they will then complete their group programme against Ecuador on July 13.