Brazil – Venezuela: Brazil Unable To Break Through Against Determined Venezuela (0-0)
Brazil’s asymmetric shape created some interesting possibilities against Venezuela in the first half, but ultimately suffered from small structural issues. After some reshuffling, Brazil found more balance in the second half but were ultimately unable to break down a resilient Venezuela defense.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Brazil came into this game top of their group after their 3-0 win over Bolivia on the opening day of the Copa América. They made one change from their previous line-up as Arthur, being deemed fit to start again, slotted into a central midfield position instead of Fernandinho in their 4-2-3-1 formation.
Meanwhile Venezuela made three changes from their opening game, a 0-0 draw against Peru. Luis Mago and Jhon Chancellor dropped out of the defense to make way for Yordan Osorio and Ronald Hernández. Meanwhile, Jefferson Savarino was replaced by Darwin Machís as a winger in their 4-3-3 shape.
Asymmetry in Brazil’s possession
When they had the ball, Brazil interpreted their 4-2-3-1 formation asymmetrically. Filipe Luís basically functioned as an inverted fullback on the left, remaining in the left halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. to create a line of three in front of the center-backs, or dropping deeper alongside the center-backs. Meanwhile David Neres stayed wider on the left touchline, with Coutinho inside naturally gravitating towards the left halfspace.
Brazil’s fluid 4-2-3-1 formation.
On the other side, Richarlison came into the right halfspace with Alves moving outside him with forward runs on the right wing. Firmino operated as the central striker, but with plenty of dropping movements into midfield and occupying the number ten space as he is often seen doing at his club Liverrpool as well.
Brazil’s asymmetry also had some effects on Venezuela’s defensive shape. With Filipe Luís and Richarlison both drifting inside from their nominal positions, their direct opponents also followed them. So Venezuela’s left back Roberto Rosales found himself many times in very central positions, leaving large spaces on the right wing for Brazil.
Dani Alves tried to arrive in the space to receive diagonals in behind the defense on some occasions. He tried to arrive into this space from a deeper starting position rather than stand in it, as he was being tracked by the left midfielder Darwin Machís for Venezula.
Brazil could actually access the right halfspace quite easily. Alongside Richarlison pinning the left back and Alves being able to drag the left midfielder away into wide areas, there was also Tomás Rincón the left central midfielder for Venezuela who often pushed slightly higher than his other central midfielders, which further opened the space behind him, the right halfspace for Brazil.
However, Brazil were however unable to use this opening in a focused or dangerous way, and ultimately the dynamics on the right side deteriorated somewhat as the first half went on.
Brazil generally faced relatively little pressure in central midfield zones. This was again affected by their own structure, as Coutinho’s higher positioning between the lines in the left halfspace dragged Yangel Herrera into deeper positions to try and cover passes into him. Júnior Moreno, the defensive midfielder alongside him, was also generally quite passive and they allowed Brazil to advance on them with the ball, inviting them to try and beat their crowded defense.
Tweaks in Brazil’s structure
As the half went on there were some changes in Brazil’s attacking structure, however. Increasingly, Alves fell into deeper and narrower positions, similar to Filipe Luís’ role as inverted fullback on the left. This was not balanced by Richarlison moving wider though, so they ended up with no one occupying the right wing against the deep defending of Venezuela, which reduced their options in attack.
Just under ten minutes before half-time Neres and Richarlison swapped wings but interpreted the role as they had on the other side. In other words, Neres now hugged the right touchline, while Richarlison floated inside from the left.
This revived Brazil’s threat from their right wing as Neres had a couple of promising moments in the following minutes, however the dynamics on the left side were now less clean than before. Coutinho continued to occupy advanced areas in the left halfspace while Richarlison drifted inside from the left wing. This created a very awkward integration of both players as they ended up trying to move into similar positions in the left halfspace, essentially getting in each other’s way and making it easier for opponents to cover them.
Venezuela expansive with the ball
Brazil saw by far the majority of possession in the game, but when Venezuela got on the ball, they were actually quite expansive and open, willing to commit plenty of players ahead of the ball.
Their basic structure was a 4-3-3 shape, with the wingers and fullbacks pulling high and wide, which the central midfielders also made runs into advanced positions to support the lone striker Rondon and potentially arrive into the box for crosses.
They took risks with the open spaces they left, especially in the defensive halfspaces with the large distances between the center-backs and fullbacks, which were only occasionally filled by the central midfielders.
They were ultimately wing focused, looking to work overlaps When a wide player, most of the times a wing-back, runs outside to fill in the space left by a winger going inside with or without the ball, this is called overlapping. and underlaps Underlap means that the full-back joins the offensive play by playing on the inside of the winger he supports. This is the reverse of an overlap, where the full-back plays on the outside and the winger moves inside. from the fullbacks or one-versus-one situations for the wingers. Their main aim of course was to bring the ball into crossing positions to try and create chances for Salomón Rondón, a striker known for his aerial prowess. They were able to create one such chance in the first half, as he headed just wide of the post.
Brazil lack the finishing touch
The second half started at 0-0, with Brazil having had a goal disallowed in the first half for a foul by Firmino in the build-up. Coach Tite decided to make a change at half-time, introducing Gabriel Jesus in place of Richarlison.
Gabriel Jesus would slot in on the left wing, and showed rather more positional discipline than Richarlison in that role as he held the width on the left side. This meant that Neres played from the right wing. Alves was now pushing further forward on the wing again after playing deeper as the first half went on.
There were still issues with some of the wing play, for example Neres was sometimes rather late moving inside from the right wing as Alves pushed forward, so Brazil ended up with double wing occupation with the two stood in the same line, with the right halfspace left empty.
After some time, Jesus and Neres switched sides again, and Brazil moved more clearly into a 2-3-5 structure in possession, with Neres in a more comfortable role wide left, Jesus drifting into the right halfspace with Alves overlapping.
Behind them, Arthur was in the defensive midfield role, flanked by Filipe Luís left inside and Casemiro (or later Fernandinho) in the right halfspace. From this structure they were usually able to move the ball into the feet of the three central forward players, especially Jesus as the passing lanes through the right halfspace for Brazil were opened up by Venezuela’s left midfielder being dragged by Alves into wide areas, often ending up as a temporary fullback and losing his defensive connection to the nearest midfielder.
Still though, Brazil found it hard to get the final pass or shot right, even though they were getting into decent areas. They did also have two more goals disallowed in the second half, both from VAR for offside.
Drawing a game 0-0 as the favourites is always frustrating, especially after dominating the ball. There were some aspects of Brazil’s possession game which were somewhat poorly coordinated as mentioned. They still managed to arrive into good areas at times but lacked something in the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. Despite the lack of goals and low amount of expected goals created, there is a solid basis to Brazil’s play, which needs some perfecting.
A hard-earned draw for Venezuela means that they could advance from the group if they can beat Bolivia in the next round of games, as long as Brazil and Peru do not draw their match.