Brazilian former football player Cafu poses on the red carpet before the 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony at the Sporting Monte-Carlo complex in Monaco on Feb 18, 2019. (VALERY HACHE / AFP)
SAO PAULO - Dual World Cup winner Cafu said Wednesday that Brazil have the depth in talent to cover for injured talisman Neymar, backing the Selecao to at least reach the Copa America final as hosts.
Brazil's chances of winning the world's oldest international continental trophy for a ninth time suffered a blow last week when Neymar was ruled out of the competition with an ankle ligament injury.
I'm certain that the Brazilian team will reach the final. Then we have other great teams that can make it, such as Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay
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But 22-year-old forwards David Neres, Richarlison and Gabriel Jess are ready to fill the void left by the Paris Saint-Germain No. 10, according to Cafu.
"I'm certain that the Brazilian team will reach the final," the former Roma and Milan right-back told reporters. "Then we have other great teams that can make it, such as Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay."
Brazil will kick off the tournament against Bolivia at Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium on Friday before facing Peru and Venezuela in Group A.
The final will be played at Rio's iconic Maracana stadium on July 7.
Cafu cited the 2002 World Cup, when the Selecao lost captain Emerson with a shoulder injury just before the tournament, as an example of how no player is indispensable.
"We lost Emerson 10 hours before our debut in the competition," said Cafu, who also won football's top prize in 1994. "He was our reference, our captain, and in the end, Brazil were world champions without having one of our best players at the time."
Cafu, 49, described Neymar's absence as "an important loss" but backed head coach Tite to find a suitable replacement. "Neymar is so dangerous and one of the biggest references in Brazilian football. Whoever takes his place will have to lift his game to another level.
Brazil's players Arthur (left) and Firmino (right) take part in a training session for the national team at Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil on June 8, 2019, ahead of the upcoming Copa America 2019. (JEFERSON GUAREZE / AFP)
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