Copa America final tactical analysis

Brazil – Peru: Brazil Nullifies Guerrero And Overcomes Peruvian Defense Through Wing Play (3-1)

After a twelve year drought, Brazil win their ninth Copa América title with a well-deserved victory over Peru. The Peruvians tried to fend off Brazil with a well thought-out defensive plan, but Brazil’s wing play managed to progress through midfield and create chances anyway. Meanwhile, Brazil nullified Peru’s attack by nullifying star striker Paolo Guerrero. Once Gabriel Jesus was sent off in the 70th minute, Brazil shut down the game, scored a third goal and deservedly lifted the trophy.

Tactical analysis and match report by José Pérez

Ricardo Gareca’s Peru have always relied heavily on star striker Paolo Guerrero, but this tournament their offensive mechanisms seem more dependent on him than usual. Peru has mostly abandoned elaborate buildup phases and have gone for directness instead. Goalkeeper, central defenders and double pivot will send the ball long to Guerrero and Cueva, who are expected to hold up the ball against the opposing defenders and flick it to the wingers Carrillo and Flores, or midfielders Yotún and Tapia. Once Peru loses the ball, their aggressive counterpress After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. tries to recover the ball back quickly to keep the opponent trapped in their own half.

Against Brazil, Gareca chose the same lineup that succeeded against Chile, in a nominal 4-2-3-1 shape. The goal of Pedro Gallese was defended by Luis Abram and Carlos Zambrano in the center, with Luis Advíncula and Miguel Trauco acting as fullbacks. Midfield featured the aggressive 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’. of Renato Tapia and Yoshimar Yotún. Up front, wingers André Carrillo and Edison Flores accompanied attacking midfielder Christian Cueva and striker Paolo Guerrero in the center.

In the absence of Neymar and Coutinho’s lackluster tournament, Brazil struggled to figure out what they really want to play like. As the tournament went on, they found a simple but effective structure focused mostly on wing play, due to the good form of Dani Alves, Gabriel Jesus and Everton. Due to this excessive focus on wing play, Brazil have been very predictable when they have to take the initiative and face deep defensive blocks, 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. usually looking better when they are more reactive.

Against Peru, manager Tite used the same lineup as in the semi-final against Argentina. Alisson Becker’s goal was defended by the usual center-back pairing of Marquinhos and Thiago Silva, with Alex Sandro and Alves as fullbacks. In midfield, Casemiro and Arthur form a double pivot when Brazil has the ball, with Coutinho moving ahead of them almost as a second striker. Up front Firmino is the center forward, accompanied by wingers Everton and Gabriel Jesus. 

Brazil’s shape often looked like a 4-2-4 when attacking and a 4-1-4-1 midblock when defending, with Coutinho tracking back into midfield. 

Peru: doomed if they pressed, doomed if they didn’t?

Peru’s midblock defense against Brazil was a compromise solution, a result of coach Gareca understanding his team was in a tough spot tactically speaking. If they pressed too high, Brazil could wreak havoc with false nine Firmino floating behind Peru’s midfield as well as Everton and Jesus running into the spaces behind Peru’s defenders. If they did not press, however, Peru would be forced to defend deep, something their players – especially on the flanks – are ill-suited to do.

Thus, Peru tried being less aggressive in their pressing game than they were against Chile. Only Guerrero would press Brazil’s central defenders, with Peru’s midfield line at the center circle, waiting for the ball to arrive to Brazil’s fullbacks and midfielders. Peru wingers and fullbacks would closely track Brazil’s fullbacks and wingers, respectively, to prevent Brazil from having any numerical superiorities on the wings.

Brazil’s 4-2-4 attacking shape against Peru’s 4-4-1-1 defensive midblock. Notice the mobility of Brazil’s attackers, and how Guerrero is often outnumbered by Brazilian defenders.

And to a certain degree, Peru’s strategy worked. Their occasional pressing and close guarding of the wings limited Brazil to only a handful of passes into the Peruvian box and four shots throughout the entire first half. 

However, the few times Brazil did make it to the Peruvian box, they were clinical, taking advantage of Peruvian defensive mistakes. In the fifteenth minute, Jesus beat his man and crossed into the box for an unmarked Everton to score. Right back Advíncula amateurishly failed to track Everton, following the ball instead of his man.

The second goal of the match came in the injury time of the first half. After Firmino recovered the ball close to the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. and started a counterattack, he, Jesus and Arthur were surrounded by five Peruvian defenders. Despite their numerical advantage, Jesus managed to slip into scoring position almost undetected since Peruvian defenders were mostly focused on the ball carrier (Arthur). 

Brazil’s victory comes from the wings

Brazil’s MVPs in this tournament had been their wing players right back Dani Alves and wingers Everton and Jesus and this game would be no exception. As the passmap shows, Brazil’s ball progression happened primary through the wings. Brazilian fullbacks and wingers would try to beat their opponents one-on-one or through quick passing combinations, often aided by central midfielders Arthur and Casemiro.

Once Brazil got to the final third, the mobile Coutinho and Firmino would often drift wide to try to overload the Peruvian defense on the wings and help create chances. Right back Alves would often act as a playmaker in the final third (see image below), moving into the right half space, with Firmino and Jesus alternating between the wings and the box, trying to drag Peruvian defenders out of position.

Brazil nullified Guerrero to nullify Peru

Gareca’s Peru are very direct – as the passmap below shows – and thus very dependent on star striker Guerrero. He wins the aerial duels, holds up the ball, and lays it off to his wingers and midfielders who are rushing forward to attack. Tite and Brazil understood this and built a cage for him, a “rocky triangle” comprised of Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Casemiro, all keeping a close watch on Cueva and especially Guerrero. 

This triangle would do their best to anticipate Guerrero and win duels against him, either on the ground or aerial. And if Guerrero managed to win aerial duels (he won eight throughout the game), this triangle would make sure to pick up the second balls before Peruvian players did. Unless Guerrero drifted wide to the wings, he could not hold up the ball for long enough to allow his wingers and midfielders to move forward. Peru lost their main attacking mechanism from open play, and this was reflected in the numbers: during the whole game, they only generated 0.02 expected goals The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. from open play. Their threats came almost exclusively from set pieces, including the penalty kick that Guerrero scored in the 44th minute.

After Jesus’s sending off, Brazil shuts down the game

With no half-time substitutions, the first 25 minutes of the second half were dominated by Brazil, who took advantage of a more desperate Peru. Peruvian midfielders and forwards tried to press more aggressively than in the first half, but their defensive line did not always step forward to maintain compactness. So whenever Brazil broke the Peruvian press, their attackers had more spaces in between Peru’s defense and midfield lines. Brazil could have easily created better shots and scored a goal to kill the game, but their attackers – in particular a lackluster Coutinho – were too precipitated in their decision making, going for longer distance shots instead of a pass. Brazil outshot Peru seven to one in this time period, but only three of those shots were from inside the box. 

In the 70th minute, Jesus was sent off and Tite – in his usual conservative approach – decided it was time to shut down the game through defense. Firmino and Coutinho were replaced by Richarlison and defender Éder Militão, with Brazil shifting into a curious 4-4-1 shape. Militão played as right back, allowing Alves to occupy the position of right winger, left by Jesus, while Richarlison became the lone striker. Brazil sat back and conceded all the initiative to Peru, who had 70% of possession in these final twenty minutes.

Peru and Gareca responded to Brazil’s defensive substitutions with their own aggressive substitutions. Gareca replaced midfielder Yotún with striker Raul Ruidíaz in the 78th minute, and four minutes later, midfielder Tapia was replaced by Christofer Gonzáles (another midfielder). Perú tried to load the Brazilian box with crosses, but Brazilian defenders would clear most of the incoming danger. Finally, an Everton solo run in the 90th minute led to a penalty kick that was scored by Richarlison, putting the game to rest.


This title is a well-deserved reward for Tite’s Brazil, who have been the strongest team in South America since 2017. The results obtained in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the World Cup itself and now this Copa América confirm their position as front runners.

Perhaps this Brazil was not the super-dominant and attractive champion fans wished for, but there are no doubts that they were the most consistent (or should we say least inconsistent?) team of the Copa América. Despite some predictability in their attacking approach and issues in their buildup phase, Brazil was the team with the fewest weaknesses, especially in their defensive phases. Only one goal conceded – and that one coming from the penalty spot – speaks volumes in that regard. 

To boot, they had some of the most in-form players in the tournament, with a spectacular Dani Alves doing his usual  “playmaker fullback” act, Gabriel Jesus thriving in his role off the right wing, and an inspired Everton replacing Neymar, constantly dribbling past defenders, assisting and scoring.

Use the arrows to scroll through all available match plots.

José Pérez (31) writes and talks about anything football-related: players, tactics, analytics, the relationship between football and society. Whenever he is not working on high-power lasers, he tries to keep up with all big five European leagues, but focuses particularly on La Liga. Outside of Between the Posts, you can find him arguing with people and posting analyses on Twitter or answering questions on Quora. [ View all posts ]


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