Can Brazil escape the ghosts of 2014 at Copa America Centenario?

The scene of the crime was the Estadio Mineirao. The date July 8, 2014. The culprit was Germany, and the weapon of choice? Four goals in six minutes, and seven goals in all.

That night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil weren’t just embarrassed. They were completely and utterly eviscerated, the 1-7 scoreline stripping the hosts of their pride. It was the single worst defeat in the Selecao’s glorious history, and a worse national nightmare than even the Maracanazo of 1950, where Brazil lost the decisive World Cup game against Uruguay, also on home soil.

Two years later, Brazilians still haven’t recovered. Germany’s slaughter will stand as one of, if not the most, spectacular shocks in World Cup history. That bed has been made. But whether or not Brazil’s national team can finally start the healing process is the big question heading into Copa America Centenario.

Since that notorious defeat, Brazil have yet to rediscover the famous swagger and flair that the world repeatedly falls in love with them for. At last summer’s Copa America in Chile, Brazil bowed out in the quarterfinal round, to Paraguay on penalties. Through six games in CONMEBOL’s next World Cup qualifying cycle, Brazil sit in sixth place with only nine points, adrift of even the inter-confederation playoff spot.

Neither David Luiz or Thiago Silva will be able to exorcise the demons at Copa America Centenario

Confidence is at an all-time low, it seems, and manager Dunga is about as popular at home as telemarketers during dinner. Brazil fans wistful for the glory days are more concerned about not suffering further embarrassment on the global stage.

Perhaps that is the biggest reason why Neymar won’t even be at Copa America, and will instead strip on the famous yellow kit with green trim at the Rio Olympics this summer. Brazil simply can’t afford to lose another men’s soccer tournament on home soil — even if Olympic men’s soccer leaves a lot to be desired.

But what does this mean for Brazil’s chances in the United States?

With Hulk leading the line, the Selecao still possess one of the three or four best out-and-out forwards in the competition, and with Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho, Orlando City’s Kaka (replacing Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa), Santos playmaker Lucas Lima and his prodigious young teammate Gabriel Barbosa, there’s enough creative juice to make opposing defenses quiver.

Defense, however, may once again prove to be Brazil’s Achilles’ heel. As if the country’s confidence in the backline wasn’t already trampled to the ground in Belo Horizonte, they’ll enter Copa without Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo, for various reasons.

Ominously, both Thiago Silva (suspended) and Neymar (injured) were missing from the side that capitulated to the Germans two years ago. The federation’s prioritization of a first Olympic gold medal only makes it more difficult for Brazil to bounce back from their previous two tournament disappointments at Copa America Centenario.

But one thing even the most pessimistic of Brazil fans can take solace in? At least they can’t run into Germany.

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