Bahia – Grêmio: Serious Grêmio Knocks Bahia Out Of Copa Do Brasil (0-1)
Grêmio qualified for the Copa do Brasil semi-finals by essentially maintaining composure against their rivals and making little mistakes. In the first half, Grêmio’s attempts at attacking through the wings were mostly stopped by the organized Bahia defense. In the second half, Bahia tried to be more aggressive in search for a goal, but that came at the cost of Grêmio counterattacks, which sentenced their fate.
Tactical analysis and match report by José Pérez.
Brazil is a ruthless environment for coaches. You bring in results, or you’re gone. About three years ago, Roger Machado was considered one of the upcoming Brazilian coaching superstars, proposing more modern coaching methods and a faster, more intense playing style. However, after his positive and well-received tenure at Grêmio (2015-16), his stock has decreased with successive failures at Atlético Mineiro (2017) and Palmeiras (2018), where he was fired mid-season in both cases.
That’s how Machado has ended up coaching the humbler Bahia. He faced his former team Grêmio in this Copa do Brasil tie. Bahia are arguably the leading club of the Brazilian northeast region, yet at the national level, they are much less successful and renowned than the giant clubs from the richer southern cities (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre).
Given this underdog status, Bahia’s football identity is a more defensive one, often staying in a low-to-medium block, A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box. A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. waiting to strike on the counterattack or through set pieces. Even Machado, who had been known as a more offensive coach, has adapted to his ideas to fit this identity, and this Copa tie against Grémio would be no different.
After getting a good 1-1 draw away against Grêmio in the first leg, Machado and Bahia used the exact same lineup for the second leg. Normally, a 4-3-3 shape is used for pressing, and a 4-4-2 formation is in place when defending in a low block. Central defenders Juninho and Lucas Fonseca protect the goal of keeper Douglas Friedrich, right back Nino Paraíba is the more cerebral, playmaking fullback while left back Moises is the more aggressive one in his runs.
In midfield, Gregore da Silva is the holding midfielder, accompanied by the more defensive Elton and the more offensive Eric Ramires. 18-year-old Ramires is one of the breakthrough players in the team, already a certified starter and called up to the Brazilian U-20 team. Up front is a trio of Artur Guimaraes on left, Élber on the right and Gilberto Souza as center forward.
Our readers will probably be more familiar with Grémio, one of those Southern giants and a household name of Brazilian top flight football. The team of coach Renato Portaluppi finally managed to string three consecutive victories in the Brazilian Série A, but the calendar ahead is daunting. After this midweek tie Copa tie against Bahia, they must face local rivals Internacional in the massive Porto Alegre derby, and then next midweek features their Copa Libertadores tie against Paraguay’s Libertad. Given the importance of these games, there’s a good chance Renato will do little rotations, so it will be an exhausting week for the Grémio starting eleven.
Grêmio lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 shape. The goal of keeper Paulo Victor was defended by the dominant central defender pair of Pedro Geromel and Walter Kannemann, with Bruno Cortez and Léo Gomes as fullbacks. The double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. consisted Matheus Henrique – the young prospect with the impossible task of replacing Arthur Melo – and Maicon. At number ten played the young Jean Pyerre, whose performances are attracting more and more attention all over Brazil. Up front, a trio of Alisson on the right, star attacker Everton – who completed an outstanding Copa America – on the left and André as a striker. Striker Diego Tardelli, who is involved in a weird scuffle with the Grêmio board, was once again left out of the matchday squad.
Grêmio’s 4-2-3-1 shape in possession against Bahia’s 4-4-2 deep block. Notice Grêmio fullbacks and midfielders keeping more conservative positions.
Bahia nullifies Grêmio’s offense on the wings, but cannot counterattack
With 72% possession in the first half, Grêmio had the ball for the vast majority of the time, but they failed to create clear-cut chances. By the end of the half, both Bahia and Grêmio had only two shots on target each.
This happened because even though Bahia’s attempts at pressing did not work at all (more on that later), their defense in their own half was rock-solid. Under coach Machado, Bahia’s 4-4-2 defensive block has seen little change from the one developed by Machado’s predecessor, Enderson Moreira. It is compact and difficult to disorder, even when the opponents shift over the ball from side to side. Marking and pressing are zonal rather than man-oriented. And since Grêmio’s fullbacks under coach Renato are not aggressive, and Bahia almost always had numerical superiority on the wings – with their fullback and winger combinations usually dispossessing the rival Grêmio wingers – there was not a lot of final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. action to be dealt with.
Even if wingers Everton and Alisson managed to beat the first man, a second Bahia teammate would quickly follow up. When Grêmio had more extended possessions, the fullbacks would push up to help their wingers, but neither the fullbacks nor wingers were having a good day with their end product. And even if Grêmio fullbacks or wingers managed to produce a cross, Bahia’s central defenders or double pivot would be quick and attentive to clear the incoming danger. All in all, Grêmio produced nine crosses in the first half, none of them were completed.
However, with Bahia defending so deep, it was near impossible for them to counterattack. As explained by analyst João Cardoso, Grêmio’s key defensive change in this second leg was the deeper, more conservative position of Matheus Henrique. Both central defenders—Geromel and Kanneman—and both double pivot midfielders – Henrique and Maicon – stayed back and were ready to anticipate potential counterattacking runs from Bahia wingers Arthur and Elber. Besides, this “defensive square” put had rival center forward Gilberto in constant numerical inferiority and prevented him from holding up the ball for too long. Bahia practically generated nothing from open play in the first half, and their best chance came from a few bounces off a set piece in the 25th minute.
Grêmio’s midfield trio overcomes Bahia’s timid pressing
To recover the ball in more advanced zones, Bahia normally tried to press Grêmio’s midfielders and occasionally their central defenders, with striker Gilberto and midfielder Ramires usually pushing up to press, and wingers Arthur and Élber occasionally pushing up to press Grêmio’s fullbacks.
However, Grêmio would rarely lose the ball, thanks to the dominance of their central midfield triangle. Henrique and Jean Pyerre were particularly good at dribbling past that first timid wave of pressing and help Grêmio rack up passes in the opponent’s half of the pitch. Most importantly, with Bahia covering the wings well, it was Jean Pyerre and Henrique who had to find a way to break the Bahia defense through the middle.
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Grêmio’s best chance of the first half came from this midfield duo, with Jean Pyerre fending off his markers and coming up with an excellent through ball to striker André, whose shot was saved by keeper Friedrich.
Bahia gets aggressive in the second half, but that comes at a cost….
With the threat of penalties looming, Bahia started to play more aggressively. Possession in the second half was very evenly distributed (Bahia’s 48% vs Grêmio 52%), with Bahia pressing more aggressively and trying to impose a higher tempo game. In the 57th minute, winger Élber was replaced by striker Arthur Caíke in order to have greater presence in the well-guarded Grêmio box.
Bahia’s increased aggression generated more chances, yet not higher quality chances. With young starlet Ramires having a lackluster game in the middle, Bahia were mostly forced to generate chances on the wings, often early crosses that carried relatively little danger to the Grêmio box. They actually outshot Grêmio six to five during the second half, but none of those shots were on target.
Most importantly, increased aggression comes at a cost. Bahia’s defensive block A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block. was not compact anymore and Grêmio’s attackers had more space to operate in. This was particularly noticeable in the case of Bahia’s left back, Moises. The constant come-and-go meant that it was more difficult for him to defend well, and that’s what led to the two defining situations that would change the game.
In the 64th minute, Moisés was out of position, seemingly following the ball more than his assigned zone, giving Alisson a lot of space to run. Alisson dribbled past Moisés and despite Caíke’s marking, found space to produce a low, driven shot to the first post that Friedrich could not stop. In the 76th minute, Bahia and especially Moisés were caught off guard on the counterattack with a long ball from rival midfielder Henrique. Alisson easily outsmarted and ran behind Moises’ back, and the left back had to commit a last-man foul (verified through VAR) that led to his sending off.
The final fifteen minutes of the game were mostly controlled by Grêmio, who had numerical superiority but no rush to score a second goal. Bahia desperately tried to score by committing more men forward, including substituting Ramires by striker Fernandão in the 82nd minute, while Grêmio maintained the sober defense of their while trying to keep the ball and hide it from Bahia. Even with a huge nine-minute injury time added, Bahia generated very, very little, other than a good Fernandão header around the 85th minute mark. Grêmio through to the next round.
Compared to the first leg, Grêmio’s attack occupied the wings more effectively, which helped create more spaces in the center of Bahia’s defense. Besides, their defensive adjustments nullified Bahia’s counterattacks, which were a significant problem in the first leg. And finally, Grêmio maintained composure in the face of Bahia’s second half attacks and patiently awaited for their chance to strike and kill the game. As expected of a side with their quality and experience in knockout ties, Grêmio completed a serious performance with little individual mistakes in defense.
As for Bahia, they may have changed managers but their fundamental problem remains. Bahia usually play well whenever they have to be the reactive underdogs, remaining organized and waiting for the opponent to attack. But whenever Bahia have to take the initiative they struggle, as shown by their second half issues.
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