PORLAMAR, Venezuela, April 16 (Reuters) - Look out Brazil, here come mighty Venezuela -- or so President Hugo Chavez would have his counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva believe before this year’s Copa America.
For fans, the odds that world powerhouses Brazil will face Venezuela in Latin America’s main international soccer tournament are slim.
They are drawn in different groups and hosts Venezuela are the traditional whipping boy who have never made it out of the first round in the competition’s 40-odd years.
Still, Chavez, whose rhetoric matches his larger-than-life image, said the team from his baseball-loving nation were no underdogs at a tournament the country is hosting for the first time.
“Don’t think Venezuela is the Cinderella team as usual,” he told the Brazilian who was visiting the country for an energy summit. “Lula, I have a surprise for you. Be careful”.
Venezuela have never qualified for a World Cup and in their absence Venezuelans typically support Brazil as their favourite team.
The Copa America runs from June 26-July 15.