Brazil cruised to a 6 nil victory over Australia, further affirming their status as the favorites to lift the 2014 World Cup. Luiz Felipe Scolari had to deal with the absence of Oscar, Hulk, Daniel Alves and Fred as he made the brief switch to a solid a 4-3-2-1, giving Ramires and Bernard a start.
To summarize their philosophy –
# 2 man holding defenders
# Full-backs acting like complete wing backs
# 3 intelligent holding midfielders with the capability of being aware of their positions
# Jo’s false 9 like attributes
# Very high pressing
Luiz and Silva were the partnership chosen at the back, and they were solid. There was close to perfect communication between the two and transitions were smooth. The absence of Daniel Alves, gave Maicon a start, who had a decent game by showing his ability to link up well with the inner midfield and Bernard. Marcelo was choosen on the opposite flank. In the middle, Gustavo, Paulinho and Ramires were opted. A splendid game for them, as they most definitely were the leading causes of all the 6 goals, directly or indirectly. Neymar was once again given game time, as his ability to cut in and ease his way past the Australian defense was key to Brazil’s play. The same goes for Bernard. Injury to Fred, gave the former Manchester City striker Jo, the chance to relish some time in a Brazilian jersey. Overall a good game for him.
The absence of Oscar was seen as quite a problem, but Scolari opted for a quick solution. The basis was to have high pressing, and the ability to roam out of position without having any restrictions. This obviously would leave holes, but this is Australia we’re talking about. No offence to them, but Scolari was sure they wouldn’t be able to exploit it with a quick counter-attack. The 3 man midfield darted into the #10 area one by one when the other was pressing at the ball. Jo used to drop deep, which allowed Neymar and Bernard to cut inside while the full-backs pushed up. The mistake Australia made was to completely neglect any threat from the #10 area. This was mostly done due to the fact that Oscar’s absence was seen as good news for the Socceroos. However they ended up paying for their negligence.
Moving on to the first goal –
We start with Maicon having the ball. Jo, the one encircled in orange, is dropping deep, as mentioned before, having the attributes of a false 9. This gives the midfield more options to create or launch an attack to successfully go through transition. We are going to take Luiz as plan A, where if anything goes wrong, we go back to square one, i.e. give it to Luiz and let him distribute.
Luiz gets the ball, and we see the risky kind of philosophy Brazil have applied. A brave move to have two defenders, where one of them (Silva) isn’t even in a proper position. If Luiz was to let’s say, disappear into thin air, Australia could have pushed forward and capitalized. However as black magic doesn’t exist, Luiz is able to play it to Marcelo.
Things to note includes the distance between the 3 midfielders. Splendid communication as they are in good positions, Ramires is well positioned on Bernard’s side, whereas the player directly opposite to him is moving into position for Marcelo to have more passing options. Furthermore, they’re positioned well enough to get back into the middle third, i.e., the highlighted orange part. This would technically take away 50% of the dangers of an impending counter-attack.
Marcelo proceeds to give it to Neymar, who returns it back to Marcelo. Here we clearly see the positional awareness of the midfielders. One is pressing or trying to receive the ball (encircled in green) , one is holding it tight in the middle ( encircled in orange), and one enters the proverbial #10 area (Ramires) . They keep themselves close to each other, remember what to do, and have great communication. Very intelligent on their part. Then we have Jo, who keeps moving away from the defensive line in a bid to distract them.
Go through all three frames. We can see Brazil’s unit play clearly, as all the players move towards the direction of the ball, regardless of their positions.
On the next frame we see the Brazil defense playing a ridiculously high line. If you remember correctly, this is plan A, i.e. going back to Luiz to start from square one. It’s an outright insult to Australia, considering how high up the pitch the full-backs are, and it’s only two defenders holding the line. Here we see the midfield play again, Ramires (encircled in green) moving in to position to give Maicon more choices. Jo keeps moving around giving us a clear idea on Brazil’s unit play, and Ramires’s opposite partner begins the move to the #10 area. The area behind covered in orange is the high line Brazil used against Spain when transitioning into attack. Right behind the halfway line with 4 defenders and 1 midfielder.
Maicon ends up loosing the ball, when trying to find Ramires who is high up the pitch after venturing too much. Here we notice their high pressing pattern combined with positional awareness. The ones encircled in white are the pressers, they keep pushing towards the ball. Notice Maicon also has been encircled in dotted blue lines. The one’s encircled in complete dark blue lines are the retrievers. They’re pushing back into their positions. Bernard needs to be back since Maicon is venturing. If he doesn’t, Brazil are vulnerable down that flank. Ramires needs to come back to form that 3 man midfield again.
Luiz joins in the pressing phase. Here we see Silva panicking to get back into position, and Marcelo retreating as well. Luiz eventually wins the ball, but what if he was brought down ? Brazil would have had serious problems. Maicon still remains in the center of the pitch (right of the referee) which further affirms that players can roam out of positions without any restrictions.
Luiz keeps on venturing forward and gives it to Neymar. The man encircled in orange, Maicon, remains in the center, almost frozen. The defensive midfielder has a disciplined part to play now. He can’t join in the attack as he needs to hold his ground and stay in the right position to retreat back at the perfect time.The other two midfielders however, carry out their usual roles, i.e. one provides options, the other moves into the #10 area.
The last frame. Neymar crosses the ball in, it reaches Bernard who takes a shot. It is deflected off the post and onto the path of Jo, who finishes it. Points to note include Bernard showing up at the far post. This narrows the shape of Brazil, almost making it a 4-3-3. Moreover, Ramires is well positioned to take up the #10 area as in the previous frame, and also get back in time . Luiz and Maicon have also stopped their unrestricted ventures.
A firm win for the Selecao, as Australia throw the game away. A huge example on how small mistakes can lead to a costly loss.