LONDON, March 3 – Brazil coach Dunga admits his side must raise their game to an even higher level to live up to their billing as World Cup favourites.
Dunga’s team showed the good and bad sides of their game in Tuesday’s 2-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and the Selecao coach knows there is still room for improvement in South Africa later this year.
As ever, the five-time World Cup winners are regarded as strong contenders to win the tournament, but Dunga claims he is surprised by that tag because he keeps hearing how badly his players are performing in Europe this season.
While that comment was laced with irony, Dunga is honest enough to admit Brazil will have to improve on a curiously flat first half against Ireland.
It took Keith Andrews’ own goal just before half-time to finally spark the South Americans into life.
Robinho’s 76th minute finish to a sublime 22-pass move featuring back-flicks from Kaka and Grafite perfectly encapsulated the magical play the world expects from Brazil, yet Dunga cares more about putting out a team with the right balance than entertaining his country’s demanding fans.
"Every time Brazil goes to the World Cup it is the same story. To be favourite or not doesn’t really tell me anything. We just have to play," Dunga said.
"For me it is a surprise that Brazil is a favourite because I have been reading lately that all the Brazilian players are playing badly in Europe!
"When we go to the World Cup we will have to improve and accelerate in certain areas. Everyone knows we will encounter opponents who are just as good as Brazil. They will have to play for their lives during the World Cup.
"But we have spent three-and-a-half years building this team and almost everything is clear to us.
"We have a good team with motivation. We won the Copa America and qualified for the World Cup so there is no reason not to be happy."
After a nightmare spell in England with Manchester City, Robinho looks reborn since his loan move to Santos and Dunga believes the winger’s return home will prove a significant boost to his squad.
"Robinho is someone who has always had a big emotion for the national team. He has been decisive here," Dunga said.
"I saw two highlights films at the end of the year and 70 percent of them involved Robinho, yet at the end of the year people talked bad about him.
"Everyone can go through a bad moment but we have to motivate them because every player can be important.
"It has helped him a lot to be back in Brazil because you can see he is happy again. He is a player who needs the ball at his feet and needs to be playing well."
While Robinho looks certain to be one of the flair players allowed to flourish in Dunga’s line-up, there seems virtually no chance that AC Milan duo Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato will make the cut.
Neither featured in Brazil’s last serious fixture before their World Cup opener against North Korea and Dunga said: "Everybody has had his chance to show on the pitch what they can do. Both Ronaldinho and Pato had their chance to play and now things have been decided."
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni felt robbed by the decision not to rule Robinho offside in the build-up to Brazil’s first goal, but he admitted his side had been beaten by potential world champions.
Trapattoni said: "I think for 45 minutes we played a good game. We played at the same level as Brazil.
"In this moment I thought we could hope for a good result but then the first goal was offside.
"If the first half had finished 0-0 the Brazil approach in the second half would have been different.
"But they have the creative players and technical ability. Also they have the squad with many different options. They can go a long way in the World Cup, maybe to the final."