By Andrew Downie
Brazil coach Dunga apologised after his comments about people of African descent sparked criticism ahead of the team’s Copa America quarter-final against Paraguay on Saturday night.
Dunga was asked to compare the pressure on his Copa America team with that of the side he captained to win the 1994 World Cup, Brazil’s first triumph in 24 years.
“Everything we did was bad,” he said, referring to criticism of his 1994 squad. “I even think I am an Afro-descendent because I get hit so much. People look at me and think, I’ll have a go at him.”
The comments provoked a storm on social media with some calling them racist while others said they acknowledged reality.
Dunga later said in a statement published on the website of the Brazilian Football Confederation: “I want to apologise to all those could have felt offended with my comment about Afro-descendents.
“The way I expressed myself does not reflect my feelings or opinions.”
Father David, head of Educafro, an organisation that aims to get blacks into higher education, said the comments reflected the injustices suffered by blacks in Brazil.
“I’d like to congratulate him for telling Brazil and the world that blacks here are hit simply for being black,” he told Reuters. “He is affirming what we know, that being black in Brazil is to suffer injustice.
“However, I challenge him to show me one black that likes to be hit. I have never found any in the 30 years I have worked with the black community.”
On the pitch, Brazil are expecting Paraguay to adopt a counter-attacking strategy in the clash in Concepcion, full-back Filipe Luis said.
Paraguay are one of three unbeaten teams in the tournament and have conceded only three goals in three matches, two of them to Argentina in their 2-2 opening-game draw.
“They defend well and look to win games on the counter-attack,” Chelsea defender Luis told a news conference. “We have to be alert at all times so they don’t outnumber us coming forward.”
Paraguay are often dubbed the underachievers of South American football but they have tightened up since Argentine Ramon Diaz took over as coach and have used a counter-attacking approach allied to their traditionally tough defence.
Brazil lost to Paraguay at the same stage in the last edition in what was viewed as one of the most remarkable matches in Copa America history.
It ended 0-0 but all four Brazil players missed their penalties in the shootout, including Thiago Silva and Robinho, both of whom could play on Saturday.
Filipe Luis said that match was irrelevant to Saturday’s encounter.
“I can’t really remember it but I know we lost on penalties,” he said. “You can’t compare the two. Tomorrow is another game, completely different, under different circumstances.”
Brazil have huffed and puffed their way through the competition this time.
They needed a last-minute goal to overcome Peru in their opener and were then downed 1-0 by Colombia in a game made memorable by Neymar’s sending-off and subsequent four-match ban that forced him out of the tournament.
Brazil eventually qualified top of Group C by beating Venezuela 2-1.
Paraguay finished second in Group B behind Argentina.