Brazil 4-2 Ecuador: Brazil finally grab a win

July 14, 2011

The starting line-ups

An open game was always likely to favour Brazil, and they took advantage to confirm their progression to the knockout stage.

Mano Menezes changed his right side completely – Robinho and Maicon replaced Jadson and Dani Alves.

Reinaldo Rueda left out Segundo Castillo in the centre of midfield, with Oswaldo Minda coming in.

Brazil turned in their most impressive display in the Copa so far, though they still lacked cohesion upfront, and remain a little nervous at the back.

Ecuador tactics

Ecuador defended with two banks of four, but the key to their attacking play was fluidity. The talented Christian Noboa sat just ahead of Minda in midfield and looked to distribute the ball cleverly to the front players, but ahead of that it was difficult to give set roles to the attacking four.

Christian Benitez started as the left-winger but always wanted to move forward into his natural position as a striker, and so Felipe Caicedo sometimes moved out to that flank when the ball was lost. On the other side, Michael Arroyo and Edison Mendez played deeper, but also sometimes alternated.

Brazil shape

More interest stemmed from Brazil’s side. The major news was that Maicon replaced Alves after the Barcelona full-back played poorly in the previous game against Paraguay. It was notable how different they are as players, particularly in the way they attack. Alves is excellent at making off-the-ball runs down the right, but Maicon much prefers motoring forward on the ball, as he did most obviously for the final goal, which he assisted for Neymar to tap in.

It’s arguable that Maicon or Alves should be picked according to the type of player ahead of them. Alves always wants the player in front of him to stay in the centre of the pitch in order to leave space – he spent much of the Scotland game telling Jadson to get out of his way. Jadson learned his lesson by the time the Copa came around, and his role against Paraguay meant he could afford to play narrower anyway, because of a change in the shape of the midfield. Therefore, Alves was decent in an attacking sense.

However, if Menezes wants to play Robinho – more of a winger who will make direct forward runs – Alves won’t have that space to exploit. In that case, it might be better to have Maicon there, who can push forward with the ball at his feet.

Elsewhere, Ramires remained to the right of Lucas Leiva, and put in a good contribution with his off-the-ball running. Brazil were more compact than in the previous two games – Ganso’s positioning has improved immeasurably since the opening day disappointment against Venezuela – he comes and picks up the ball in deep if he can’t receive it between the lines, and Ramires shuttling forward meant that this section of the side was fluid, rather than the ‘broken team’ we saw in the first game.

Ecuador let Brazil play

Brazil were helped by a sloppy attitude from Ecuador. They stood off Brazil and let them play – often simply standing ten yards away and letting the opponent pick a good pass, as was the case when Andre Santos crossed for Pato’s header.

This attitude from Ecuador was combined with the necessity that they had to win the game. And, whilst they never looked likely to do that, this meant they they did try to push forward, leaving spaces in midfield for Brazil to break through. In the next round, where Brazil will face Paraguay again, they’ll face a completely different challenge – a side putting men behind the ball and trying to soak up pressure.


This tournament was something of a disaster for Ecuador – two games where they failed to score, followed by a defeat. A couple of decent moments brought them two goals, but there was little to suggest they’ve been harshly done by in this tournament, finishing with a single point.

Maicon was an improvement on Alves – less dodgy defensively, more threatening on the ball. The reintroduction of Robinho was less successful – he contributed little on the ball and his movement and positioning was inferior to Neymar’s in a wide position. Menezes might find another creative midfielder, playing deeper and narrower, more useful in the knockout stage. Jadson did reasonably well against Paraguay, and he might be the answer for the repeat of that contest.

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