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Dunga backs Zuniga ahead of Neymar reunion

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 17 Jun 2015

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Brazil coach Dunga defended Juan Camilo Zuniga ahead of the Colombia defender’s reunion with Neymar a year after his infamous challenge at the World Cup.

Zuniga fractured a bone in Neymar’s back during last year’s quarter-final, ending the Barcelona star’s tournament after Brazil’s 2-1 win.

The nations have met since – Brazil claimed a 1-0 victory in September 2014 – and Zuniga and Neymar both played on that day in Florida.

The duo will feature once more in Wednesday’s Copa America clash in Santiago, and Dunga said there will be no hard feelings when his captain meets the Colombia full-back again.

“There’s no concerns over Neymar,” Dunga said.

“He has already played against Colombia in the United States since that [in September 2014].

“The way I see it, it was a harsh but normal duel. Zuniga lost his coordination. He couldn’t stop so he fouled. I always think that no player goes into a tackle with a malicious thought; to try to take a colleague out of the match.”

Colombia slipped to a shock defeat to Venezuela on matchday one, leaving Jose Pekerman’s side in danger of falling out of contention despite their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites.

However, Dunga does not think his opponents need to react too drastically.

“I don’t think they’ll make that many changes over one match,” he said. “There’s pressure, yes, because if they don’t win everybody around football will think that everything’s wrong.

“At this Copa America, matches will keep getting tougher. Colombia will come out more determined and focused after their debut result. It will be a complicated match, like every other in this competition.”

Brazil were occasionally ponderous against Peru in their 2-1 opening day win and were again reliant on a virtuoso performance from Neymar to carry them through.

Dunga admits that his side need to improve before facing Colombia.

“We have to play better in a technical aspect,” he said.

“We missed a lot of passes against Peru, which is normal for a debut as you’re eager to get the win. Let’s hone this, and let’s hope it’s a calmer match, with fewer fouls.”

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