Brazil looking to recover lost status, says coach Menezes

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) -- Fallen Brazil must regain their prominent role in world soccer, their 2014 World Cup coach Mano Menezes said on Tuesday.

"We're sure our prominence will return and we're working towards that. We must take on that role in world soccer," Menezes told reporters.

Brazil won a record fifth title at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea, but have since fallen off their perch with elimination at the quarter-final stage in the last two tournaments.

The South American power's image has also lost its sheen along with marquee players' struggles in Europe, including the likes of Adriano for disciplinary reasons, Ronaldinho through loss of form and Kaka owing to injuries.

Menezes said world champions Spain were now the benchmark.

"The next reference is always the (World Cup) winners and that's Spain today. Brazil used to be the prominent team and we're trying to regain that reference," Menezes said at the presentation of new national team sponsors.

Former World Cup coach Dunga's team, beaten in the 2010 quarter-finals by Netherlands, were criticised for being too cautious and Menezes is looking to recover their attacking identity.

Menezes, building towards the 2014 World Cup finals through the 2012 Olympic soccer tournament, has turned his attention towards young, home-based players like Santos pair Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso and Lucas of Sao Paulo.

Neymar, 19, will miss the under-20 World Cup in Colombia starting in July as Menezes looks to include him in his senior squad for the June 1-24 Copa America in Argentina.

"The priority is the senior team. There is a possibility of using him in the senior team and not taking him to the under-20 World Cup, because it would (mean) taking him away from (his club) Santos for a very long spell and we have to be sensitive," Menezes said.