The FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport. It is a tournament like no other. And there has been no better team to dominate the competition and capture the hearts of millions around the planet like Brazil. With five World Cups to their name, they have dazzled fans and critics alike with their stylish play and inspiring victories.
The 1950 World Final heartbreak on their home soil inspired Brazil. From Pele’s iconic moments in the 60s and 70s to Romario’s World Cup heroics in the 90s and finally, to Ronaldo’s famous trim in 2002 which was followed by a spectacle, the Selecao have influenced world football. However, the nation embedded with moments for over half a century has gone through a slow and painful rebuild in the last ten years.
Now the tides have turned. The fresh-look Selecao led by none other than Neymar Jr arrived in Qatar as favorites to take home the crown and they have started the tournament like they mean business. Tite has a talented bunch at his disposal with a mixture of flair, flamboyance, grit, and a sense of unity at his helm. This team is undoubtedly ready to conquer the world. This article focuses on the manager’s approach that has seen Brazil dominate in attacking phases, while also being defensively stable.
Attacking combinations and solid rest defense
Tite has built a solid outfit with the team built around Neymar’s creative brilliance alongside Vinicius Jr’s dynamic wing play. He has preferred a 4-2-3-1 system, but there are several variations to the shape in and out of possession. From a 4-2-3-1 on paper, Brazil’s shape shifts to a back three with one of the full-backs dropping alongside the two center-backs.
The other full-back (usually Danilo) moves into an inverted position to form a double pivot with Casemiro. This suits Brazil since Eder Militao – a center-back by trade plays right back, while Danilo has the experience of playing as an inverted full-back from his Manchester City days.
Brazil’s wingers are usually wide and hold the width. Raphinha in particular hugs the touchline, while Vinicius is sometimes allowed to drift inside to create an overload. But the combination in the wide areas on the left and right sides are different. On the right side, Lucas Paqueta, who starts as the central midfielder, usually looks to make under-lapping runs between the center-back and the full-back to create space for Raphinha to cut inside or receive the pass himself.
Occasionally against high-pressing sides, Paqueta also drops deeper to aid the buildup, leaving Raphinha isolated against the full-back. Tite could pick Fred in this role in the upcoming knockout games to lay a solid foundation behind Brazil’s dangerous front four. Meanwhile, on the left side, Neymar usually operates high up the pitch, while Vinicius keeps the opposition full-back occupied. The PSG man, however, has the license to roam centrally and receive the ball between the lines.
But he usually drops deeper to collect the ball, therefore attracting opponents which isolates Vinicius against the full-back. Neymar and Vinicius have an excellent understanding between them, and opponents regularly try to double and sometimes even triple up on the duo.
Brazil’s front five do the damage up front, but their back five form the spine. Their 3-2 shape in the first line means that their rest defense is shaped to limit the counter-attacks. The full-back doesn’t bomb forward, while Casemiro mops up the danger in front of him. This is perhaps also aided by the fact that Brazil’s wingers are excellent in the wide areas and have the ability to beat their man. Moreover, Neymar and Paqueta support the front three brilliantly. The arrangement is one of the reasons that Brazil have an exceptional defensive record in the past year and during this World Cup.
The Samba football, used to describe the Brazilian style of play, is certainly full of enthusiasm and flair. It is a style that has been embraced by players and fans alike, and it has become an integral part of the country’s footballing history. They kept us waiting, but their performance against South Korea in the round of 16 was worth the wait, especially their third goal, which was pure magic.
In their opening encounter against Serbia, Brazil struggled to break down their opponents, but Richarlison, who was handed the number 9 shirt, proved why he is Tite’s first choice. A typical poacher’s goal was followed by a stunning scissor kick to seal the victory for his team. A similar script was imposed in the following encounter against Switzerland, but this time, it was Casemiro who took the baton as his venomous volley hit the back of the net with some force to ensure a 1-0 victory.
We haven’t even seen Neymar in full action, but they seem to have the edge to overcome everything thrown at them. Nevertheless, they lost to Cameroon in the next game, and with injuries to key players, Brazil seemed to hit a block. But the return of Neymar in the round of sixteen saw the Seleccao return to their breathtaking best.
They have some alarming weakness in the backline, especially in the full-back region, but their individual brilliance, combined with the attacking depth, can take them all the way. A tough matchup against Croatia awaits, but Tite’s men will arrive at the game with full confidence. With the talent at their disposal, it will undoubtedly be a disappointment if Brazil does not reach the final stage of the World Cup.