Dunga noncommittal over Neymar's presence at Copa America
NEW YORK – Neymar's name and image are plastered all over every ad, press release and promotional item for Copa America Centenario, but it's still not a certainty that the Brazil and Barcelona star will compete in the competition.
Brazil manager Dunga remained noncommittal over Neymar's place in this summer's tournament, for which Brazil was drawn into Group B with Ecuador, Haiti and Peru.
"We don’t have the decision yet. We have to talk to Barcelona and the player," Dunga said through a translator following Sunday's draw at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
One reason Neymar could miss out on Copa America even with the competition being on the FIFA calendar–meaning clubs are obligated to release their players–is that he's also in contention to be an over-age player on Brazil's Olympic team. With Brazil hosting the Olympics and Neymar, 24, the nation's centerpiece superstar, it'd make all the sense for him to try and lead Brazil to its first men's soccer Olympic gold medal. He was on Brazil's team that fell to Mexico in the 2012 gold medal game in London.
Brazil's 7-1 ouster from the 2014 World Cup semifinals on home soil is also still lingering in the memory, and the Olympics provide an opportunity for Neymar to restore national pride on the soccer field and lead the country to the top of the winner's podium at the famed Maracanã.
Barcelona would not be obligated to release Neymar for the Olympics, given that it is not on the FIFA calendar, but the club and Brazil national team could come to an understanding that he would play in one tournament or the other.
It's unlikely that Barcelona would want one of its most prized assets doubling up on international duty.
As for whether Dunga would take any issue with Neymar playing in both, he smiled and said, "If he wants!"