Ganso says he has to improve at Copa America
Young Brazil playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso acknowledges he has to start playing better at the Copa America to keep Brazil on track for a third straight title.
Ganso and the rest of Brazil's players have been struggling, and the team enters its final group match needing a victory against Ecuador on Wednesday to advance in the South American competition.
The 21-year-old Ganso is seen as a key player in the team. Coach Mano Menezes waited until the last minute for the Santos player to recover from injury and make the squad, but he is not performing as well as expected despite setting up Brazil's two goals against Paraguay on Saturday, including the late equalizer by Fred.
The Copa America is Ganso's first big test with the national team. Along with Neymar, Lucas and several other promising youngsters, he is being prepared to lead host Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
Fans and local media remain behind Ganso despite his lackluster play in the Copa America, but the shy playmaker is not as easy on himself.
''I'm the first to criticize the way I'm playing when things are not working,'' he said Monday. ''I try to look at what's wrong, at what needs to improve, and then I try to fix it so I can start playing well again.''
Ganso failed to shine against Venezuela and played only decently against Paraguay, but his two passes that led to goals were crucial in keeping Brazil in position to reach the quarterfinals. For the 89th-minute equalizer, Ganso flicked the ball into the area in a perfect position for Fred's strike.
Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino praised Ganso on Monday for the ''crafty'' pass that cost his team victory.
A loss would have left Brazil in serious danger of being eliminated. The five-time world champions would have needed other results to go their way to stay alive in a 12-team competition in which only four teams don't advance to the second round.
Ganso said he knows where he needs to improve to help Brazil keep going.
''I've looked at the match numbers and I'm making too many passing mistakes,'' he said. ''I'm not being able to make that last pass to put the strikers in a position to score.''
Ganso said the tough defending by Brazil's South American opponents has not been a factor, although he says some defenders are going a bit too far when trying to stop him, committing too many hard fouls.
Ganso recovered from a muscle injury just in time for the Copa America. Menezes didn't pick the player in his initial squad, waiting until he'd healed before including him, saying ''there is no one like him'' to play in the Brazilian midfield.
''It's good to know Mano has confidence in me,'' Ganso said. ''But I need to perform when I get on the field because if I don't he will have to pull me out.''
Ganso wants to take advantage of his next chance, against Ecuador.
''I'm sure that on Wednesday we will all play better and help Brazil go through to the next round,'' he said. ''Hopefully we will start playing the type of football the Brazilian fans are used to seeing in the national team.''
Tales Azzoni can be reached at http://twitter.com/tazzoni