Brazil hopes to avoid stumbling in opener

Brazil faces Venezuela in its opener in the Copa America on

Sunday, hoping to avoid the unimpressive start of the host team and

co-favorite Argentina.

Argentina could scramble only a 1-1 draw on Friday against

Bolivia in the curtain-raiser of the 3 1/2-week South American

championship.

Bolivia and Venezuela are traditionally the two weakest teams in

South America and, like Argentina, Brazil has a side brimming with

stars who are expected to overwhelm the opposition.

”Venezuela will also create problems for us,” Brazil coach

Mano Menezes said on Saturday. ”But how severe will depend on how

we play.”

Menezes, who is using mostly young players looking ahead to the

2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, is likely to start Robinho,

Alexandre Pato and Neymar up front. Neymar’s teammate at Santos,

Paulo Henrique Ganso, will be directing play from midfield.

”We have great players and if we play well we can dominate with

our game,” said Menezes, who hopes to lead Brazil to its third

conseutive Copa America title. It defeated Argentina in the last

two finals.

Brazil’s match on Sunday will be in La Plata, about 60

kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Buenos Aires. The other Group B

match is Paraguay vs. Ecuador in Santa Fe.

Venezuela coach Cesar Farias suggested his team would not be

awed by Brazil.

”We also have players with European clubs,” Farias said. ”We

don’t have the star level of Brazil, but this is football and it’s

a team game. If we can get a point against Brazil it will send a

message about the hopes we have here.”

Venezuela’s top scoring threat is likely to be Nicolas Fedor of

Spanish club Getafe and Jose Salomon Rondon, who plays for Spain’s

Malaga.