Brazil – Bolivia: Bolivia Roll Over As Brazil Dominate Copa América Opener (3-0)
Tite’s tactical tweaks and a moment of brilliance decided the first game of the Copa América for Brazil. Following a solid defensive start from the visitors, the second half began terribly as they conceded two goals in quick succession. Brazil’s buildup was to be admired though, as Fernandinho’s intelligent movement would give space in the middle of the pitch.
Tactical analysis and match report by Tom Quartly.
The Copa América is finally upon us and, as expected in our preview, Tite opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation; this shape has become a staple of twenty-first century Brazilian football and used all across the nation at club level. Alisson started in goal, the perennial Thiago Silva and Marquinhos protecting him. Dani Alves and Filipe Luís were fielded in the fullback positions whilst Fernandinho and Casemiro operated as a 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’. allowing Phillippe Coutinho to play in his favored number ten role, roaming Zone 14 Zone 14 is a coaching term that refers to the part of the pitch just in front of the opponent’s box. Completing passes in this area of the pitch is a sign of territorial dominance and is usually associated with a good performance. in an attempt to carve out opportunities or strike at goal.
David Neres filled in the position of left winger – sadly vacant because of Neymar’s injury – whilst Richarlison started the game on the right flank. It seemed likely that Tite would allow a large deal of fluidity between these two positions, something that could prove difficult for Bolivia’s fullbacks to deal with. Up front was Champions League winner Roberto Firmino, somewhat surprisingy chosen over Gabriel Jesus.
Similar to Tite, Bolivia manager Eduardo Villegas started his side in a 4-2-3-1 shape, however, it was likely that without possession it would read more like a 4-4-1-1 formation, with wingers Erwin Saavedra and Alejandro Chumacero functioning as deep wide men. Shijiazhuang Ever Bright striker Marcelo Moreno would be the main scoring option for a Bolivia side that had not found the net against Brazil in an official game since the World Cup in 2006.
Young defender Luis Haquin is Bolivia’s shining star and began alongside Adrian Jusino in central defense. Haquin’s assertive approach to marking means he often nips ahead of the front man, allowing himself the time to drive into midfield. Alongside the more traditional operator Jusino, Haquin’s role of a quarto-zagueiro A Quarto-Zagueiro is a centre back that has the ability to bring the ball forward into midfield and pick a pass to a more advanced player. has made himself useful to his club side Puebla. Whether we would see this against star-studded Brazil was another question.
General positions of all players when Brazil had the ball.
Brazil build up and early chances
The surprisingly well-watered pitch in the Cicero Pompeu de Toledo Stadium in São Paulo meant that the ball zipped across the surface, allowing Brazil to adopt a high tempo in the opening exchanges. They found it relatively easy to build from the back – Tite used a version of La Salida Lavolpiana La Salida Lavolpiana refers to a concept used by former Argentinian coach Ricardo La Volpe. It essentially consists of a midfielder / fullback joining to make a back three in possession. to break through Bolivia’s press.
This detracted from the energetic running of Bolivia’s central midfielders Fernando Saucedo and Leonel Justiniano, as Tite alternated Casemiro and Fernandinho in the number eight position to occupy the defensive halfspaces. This gave room for Marquinhos, an excellent distributor of the ball, to play vertical passes into Coutinho and the wide players.
Intelligent movement from Fernandinho opened up the space for Marquinhos to find Coutinho.
The buildup play was successful and allowed Brazil to frequently operate in the attacking third of the pitch, but the biggest chances strangely came from set pieces. Woeful marking from the Bolivian defense following a corner gave Thiago Silva a free header, but he guided it wide of the far post. Another chance saw a side footed volley saved from close range by Carlos Lampe and the sides were still level come half time.
As mentioned earlier, Bolivia’s low 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. had done relatively well in limiting the space inside Zone 14, pushing Coutinho slightly wider than he would perhaps prefer and meaning that Richarlison and Neres were forced to play a large quantity of crosses into the penalty area. As the game progressed, it would become increasingly harder for Bolivia to retain this space, especially as legs began to tire. The half ended with Brazil having 76% possession and twelve shots, just one hitting the target.
Tired legs and Tite’s tactical tweak gave Brazil a quick two goals
Surprisingly, Bolivia could not hold on for as long as expected. This was, in part, due to Coutinho taking up a deeper role in midfield, as opposed to sitting just behind Firmino. This was a clever half time switch from Tite as five minutes into the second half, Brazil had the lead. A shift in pace from the Barcelona midfielder allowed him to escape his man and play into the feet of Firmino, who scooped the ball out wide to the onrushing Richarlison. A ball back across the box struck the hand of Jusino. It took a few minutes for the play to end but referee Néstor Pitana finally pointed to the spot, thanks to the VAR.
Coutinho converted comfortably. Brazil had been poor in the final third but this goal opened the game up a bit more. Bolivia’s early press was reduced to a saunter as a splitting vertical pass, this time from Filipe Luís, found the feet of Richarlison, who had briefly swapped with Firmino in the number nine role. The Everton man spun it round the corner to Firmino, whose dinked chip cleverly found Coutinho at the back post. A simple header and the game soon felt out of reach for Bolivia. Tired legs combined with Brazil’s persistence in their build up play had finally paid off.
Notice Casemiro, who is deeper than Fernandinho, and Firmino dropping into midfield.
A change in shape and a long range stunner
The second goal signified a change in tactics for Brazil. Firmino came off for Gabriel Jesus and Tite switched to a more direct approach in a 4-1-4-1 shape. Casemiro, as the holding midfielder, launched long passes to the wings and David Neres was given the freedom to drive at right back Diego Bejarano. The direct runners began to seriously trouble Bolivia and in the 85th minute we were treated to a very special goal.
Substitute Everton faced up Bejarano on the left wing, skipping inside and leaving him on the floor. After faking to shoot, Everton finally unleashed. The ball looked still in the air as it flew by the Bolivian defense, arrowing into the far corner. Lampe in the goal could only watch. As David Neres had played a quite anonymous game, maybe he should starting to be worried, as Everton had a good impact on the match.
After this, it was 3-0 and Bolivia had only had one shot on target all game. A decent start to the campaign for Tite and Brazil, who are under heavy pressure to win this tournament.
FIM DE JOGO!
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) June 15, 2019
Tite’s pragmatism and ability to adapt to in-game situations, specifically in dropping Coutinho slightly deeper at the beginning of the second half, was a positive sight in the opening game of the Copa América. However, Brazil did initially struggle to carve out chances from open play; perhaps the absence of Neymar played its part. Nevertheless, the strength in attacking depth, seen in the introduction of Gabriel Jesus and Everton, would give opponents no end of difficulties going into future games.
As for Bolivia, Villegas seemed to have his side well-drilled defensively, but their attacking woes continued. It is now thirteen years since they scored against Brazil in an official game. With Peru coming up next, they do have a chance of perhaps getting some points on the board. Brazil face Venezuela on Tuesday, a more considerable challenge.
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