Brazil 2-2 Paraguay: Brazil snatch the draw
Mano Menezes ditched the “European” 4-2-3-1, went for a Dunga-style compromise system, then ended up with 4-2-2-2…
He dropped Robinho from his starting line-up, favouring Jadson who played much narrower on the right, as he has done in previous friendlies.
Gerardo Martino went for the 4-4-2 / 4-3-3 hybrid that he often favoured at last summer’s World Cup. Roque Santa Cruz played on the right, and made diagonal runs to a centre-forward position.
Both sides were ahead at some point in the game, but neither side ever had overall control. Brazil were much better than in the first game going forward, but looked significantly more vulnerable at the back (perhaps because they were up against a better team).
Martino had a habit of frustrating bigger sides at the World Cup last year with this shape, and Brazil found it difficult to stamp their authority on the game. Santa Cruz nullifed Andre Santos, who wasn’t brave or intelligent enough to influence the game on the left, and the left-back also switched off and let Santa Cruz run past him for a couple of chances.
In the midfield, Enrique Vera sat deep and picked up Ganso, with two central midfielders ahead doing battle with Brazil’s two holders. Marcelo Estigarrabia took on Dani Alves. Paraguay generally defended very narrow both at the back and in midfield, forcing Brazil to go down the flanks.
The decision to bring in Jadson over Robinho was not about personnel, it was about shape. In Brazil’s first game against Venezuela, Ganso struggled to provide decisive passes for Brazil’s front three. Part of the problem was that there was too much emphasis placed upon him for creativity, and there was a separate issue: he played too high up, and Brazil couldn’t find him with an initial pass from midfield.
In purely numerical terms, having one man providing creativity and using three men higher up the pitch ready to put the finishing touches to moves didn’t make sense – the introduction of Jadson, in a deeper, more central role than Robinho, was about shifting the balance. Jadson meant Brazil’s build-up play was more gradual, and Ganso had a colleague in close proximity to help create.
This worked pretty well, even if Brazil’s attacking play was still patchy. The Ganso-Jadson combination caused problems for Paraguay between the lines, and twice they linked up well – first when exchanging passes for a great chance Pato wasted, and then for the goal, where Ganso teed up Jadson to fire home.
Interestingly, this change in system also meant an alteration to the way the two holding midfielders played. In the Venezuela game, Ramires generally played to the left of Lucas, but here he played to the right, presumably as Menezes wanted him to shuttle out to the right and cover the (barer than usual) right flank. Pato also moved out to the right more – his movement was less restricted with only one forward alongside him. Brazil again tried to hit long balls towards Pato, though, which doesn’t really play to his strengths.
Paraguay compete in midfield
Paraguay were defending well as a unit, pressing at the right moments and meaning that Ganso rarely picked up the ball on his way to goal – he had to come deep, or receive the ball with his back to goal, unlike in the first game, where Venezuela pushed up too high and gave him space between the lines.
Nestor Ortigoza was good on the ball for Martino’s side, dictating play from deep, and coming short to collect the ball. This caused Brazil some confusion in midfield as Lucas moved up the pitch to close down Ortigoza, when he would have preferred to sit deep with Ramires higher up.
Menezes made a change at half time, withdrawing Jadson and bringing on Elano in the same position. His reasoning, presumably, was to guard against a second yellow card – and with Alves being given something of a difficult time by the tricky Estigarrabia, some extra cover was needed.
Unfortunately, this destabilized the Brazilian side, and despite enjoying a good relationship at club level, the Elano-Ganso combination didn’t work particularly well. Nor did it help defensively – Elano was caught out for Paraguay’s equaliser. Alves made an individual error for the slightly fortunate second Paraguayan goal.
Menezes made two further attacking substitutions to try and get back in the game. First, Ramires went off, and Lucas Moura came on. This meant Elano going deeper into the Ramires role, and Lucas Moura playing as something approaching a second number ten alongside Ganso, even more narrow than Jadson had played. There was now no right-winger, with Alves trying to cover the entire flank by himself.
That narrowed Brazil on the right, and the second change narrowed them on the left. The ineffectual Neymar was removed for Fred, who played as a central striker, and suddenly Brazil were more like a 4-2-2-2 – Lucas Leiva and Elano holding, Ganso and Lucas Moura creating, Fred and Pato upfront. This narrow system almost played into the hands of Paraguay’s narrowness, but late on an attack right through the middle got Brazil their equaliser – Ganso again got the assist with a clever flick, and Fred struck the ball into the corner.
The first Copa game with more than three goals in it – first and foremost, this was an entertaining match.
Martino kept roughly the same shape throughout, whilst Menezes chopped and changed. Neither conclusively won the tactical battle – Paraguay defended well in open play but sometimes got overloaded between the lines with two Brazilian creators.
Brazil’s problem defensively was their right flank, although Andre Santos had a habit of switching off and letting men run past him. Another change for the final group game wouldn’t be a surprise, perhaps with Fred starting permanently as a central striker.Brazil 2-2 Paraguay: Brazil snatch the draw