Brazil 4 USA 1
Hmmm. I need to re-watch this one.
On the face of it, this was the best match Brazil has played under Mano, at least as far as the scoreline goes. And there were extended periods where Brazil played the level of fluidity we all hope to see on a consistent basis. And I don’t necessarily feel that the scoreline is flattering, as some would suggest. Yes, USA had a shot hit the bar, and another cleared off the goal line, but Damiao missed a 1v1 for Brazil, and Pato’s sitter could only clear the post. So Brazil could have easily finished 6-1. But the game displayed once again that we have gaping holes in our backline.
Briefly, here are some of the positives that I took away as far as the TEAM went:
- Pressing. The pressing throughout the first 50 minutes was superb. The best, easily, under Mano. We saw some of this for the first 30 minutes against Denmark, and the team surpassed it today. Everyone got in on the action, including our four attacking players, especially Oscar, who all did a wonderful job of closing down on Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, and Landon Donovan whenever they got the ball. It was this more than any other factor that gave Brazil their early lead. I really cannot emphasize enough how much this took the US out of their game, and how many chances it created for Brazil.
- Fluidity…at least for awhile. This didn’t last, but for most of the 1st half, Brazil looked much more fluid than what we’ve seen. I mentioned in my article at the end of last year that Brazil is slowly but surely starting to develop some cohesion as Mano at last gets his lineups right, and we saw that today. Neymar and Marcelo created a spectacular partnership all-night long, Hulk and Danilo did the same on the right wing (and Hulk and Sandro, to a lesser extent) and Oscar was the beating heart at the center of it. Fluidity is also not just about passing. It’s about communication. When Oscar passes ahead to Neymar, and Neymar dummies the ball so that it falls to Damiao (whose blocked shot led to the penalty) than that’s a BIG part of fluidity. The entire squad were playing with their heads up and their eyes open early on, and were always looking for each other. The only exception was when Hulk should have given the ball to Neymar in the box after Tim Howard’s failed clearance. Instead the soon-to-be-Chelsea man aimed a shot for the far post.
- A slight in improvement in width, mainly thanks to Neymar and Marcelo. Neymar’s habit of hugging the touchline was both a positive and a negative tonight, but the positive was that it allowed Marcelo the ability to cut into the middle. This repeatedly confused the USA defense, as they were uncertain who should be tracking Marcelo. This movement led to both Marcelo’s goal as well as Marcelo’s cross to Pato. For the latter, instead of picking him up, Parkhurst and Onyewu gave him the time to pick out Pato with a precise cross.
Now for the negatives…
- Despite the scoreline, none of our three forwards/wingers/whatever had hugely impactful games. (I might make an exception in Neymar’s case. I thought he had an very good match, but it was subtle. From a cohesive standpoint, this may have been the best match I’ve seen from Neymar since Scotland. That said, he didn’t have anywhere close to the kind of virtuosic performance you’d expect, and other than the spot kick, he didn’t take a single shot all night.) Part of the reason for this was because all three players were constantly dropping deep to press, meaning that their chances near the box were limited. That said, all three men have things they need to work on. Leandro Damiao continues to miss chances that he normally buries, and Neymar and Hulk both take WAY too long to decide what they are going to do when dribbling into the box. It’s like they both want to see how far they can get rather than actually take shots or pass.
- Once again, Brazil almost completely ceded possession in the 2nd half. They also stopped pressing. The latter in this case doesn’t concern me, which I’ll explain in a minute.
Brazil had dominated possession in the 1st half, but in the 2nd, the USA took the advantage. By the end of the match, Brazil “won” possession by the relatively pedestrian score of 52% to 48%. Hardly that impressive. In addition, the USA had eight shots in the 2nd half, while Brazil had only 4. Brazil were clinical, which is ultimately what counts, burying 2 of those 4 shots, but still, the fact is worrying after Denmark did the same thing last weekend.
Another problem, beyond just possession, was that for some reason in the 2nd half Brazil’s play drifted almost solely to the left. Neymar and Marcelo both had great games, (and their interplay was breathtaking on occasion) but it also made it much harder for Brazil to maintain possession, and it almost completely shut out Hulk and Damiao. Hulk especially. Hulk had a very good 1st half – he was all but having his way with Fabian Johnson – but was silent in the 2nd half..save for his small-but-integral role in Marcelo’s goal. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that as soon as Hulk drifted out of the match…or as soon as Brazil started neglecting the right wing, USA leftback Fabian Johnson began moving forward at will, devouring Danilo. Indeed almost all of the US’s best moves came from Johnson’s side.
It’s worrying to me that we keep showing a tendency to lose the plot in the 2nd half. In tournament play, whether at the Olympics or the World Cup, to lose your grip like that usually spells disaster. Just ask Dunga. Until this improves, and Brazil show they can play a complete 90 minutes, I’m still not going to feel great about this side.
As far as pressing goes, while it was inexecusable that Brazil just inexplicably stopped pressing after 35 minutes against Denmark, it’s more understandable against the USA. The main reason is, it’s hard work to press for an hour, and when you add to that the fact that Brazil were playing an away match, in their 2nd hemisphere in their 3rd country in a week’s time, it’s perfectly understandable that they would lose their legs. It also helps explain why we had such a hard time clearing the ball towards the end of the match. Thiago Silva (who, it should be remembered, is coming back from injury) looked dead on his feet, and Sandro looked beat as well. Still, if this continues, it’s going to need to be addressed.
- Our back line. Once again, Danilo and Juan were terrible in defense. I do not know what Mano sees in Juan. He proved it in the U21 WC, he proved it against Denmark, and he proved it tonight. His defensive instincts are horrible. He chases the ball out of defense when he should stay back, and he drops deep and gives ground when he should be making a challenge. He completely failed to track Hercules Gomez’s run for the USA’s only goal.
Danilo was not quite as conspicuously bad as against Denmark, but it was close. Fabian Johnson was clearly the superior player, and time and time again, Danilo was caught not only slightly too high on the pitch, but too far in the center as well. He was always having to “recover,” giving chase to the opponent rather than meeting him. Most of the US’s most promising attacks came from his wing. He just isn’t Selecao material at this point. Considering that he has the instincts of a right-winger, I don’t know if he’ll ever be Selecao quality. He doesn’t offer what we need, and what he offers, we don’t need. There are better options.
As for Marcelo…sorry, I remain concerned. Yes, he had a MotM performance. He was godly in attack, and his 1v1 defense was also exceptional. But we CAN’T forget the Denmark match so quickly. Again, while his actual tackles were spot on (and his ability to dribble the ball out of defense rather than clear it is a sight to see) the MAIN reason he wasn’t burned tonight, as he was against Denmark, was because the rest of the team did such a good job pressing. His teammates gave him the time to recover.
I’m not saying he shouldn’t start in the Olympics. But I am saying that the rest of the team has to be prepared…because as much as Marcelo giveth, also doth he taketh away.
I’m going to save my Player Ratings until AFTER I rewatch the match. The main reason is because I’ve been noticing something lately – we spectators do a terrible job with player ratings. I’m not just talking about on this site. Everywhere. The main reason is because we try to make it WAY simpler than it really is. There are a THOUSAND things that happen on the pitch during a football match, and at any given moment, there are lots of things that shape the action. For example, say Player X goes on a solo run, then lays it off to Player Y for the goal. Simple enough, right? But what we don’t see is that Player Q shielded one midfielder from tracking back, and that Player Z made an opposite run, dragging another defender away and giving the keeper something to worry about, giving Player X the room to run and Player Y the opportunity to make HIS run unmarked. But we usually don’t notice that. And we almost never factor it into our Player Ratings…even if its happening consistently.
In sports like basketball, the stats revolution is giving us the ability to effectively rate players by tracking almost everything they do that positively impacts their teammates, and everything they do that negatively impacts their teammates. There is a cumulative aspect to team sports, where one thing can affect two other things which in turn affects four other things, etc. In no sport is that more true than in football. But statistics in football are woefully inadequate. We have to rely on the eye test most of the time. But each of us can only see so many things going on at once, and we tend to look for only a few certain things in a few certain players. It’s always amazing for me to read the comments on this site – many of you will point out things that I never noticed. And the reverse is also true: my notes often contain things that no one here comments on. We also reveal our biases. I certainly have them. So does everyone. I don’t mean biases FOR or AGAINST players, but biases as to what we expect. If we EXPECT the #10 player to be making killer throughballs, then that’s what we look for. And if he doesn’t do that, we say that he’s not a good playmaker. But then we don’t see all the other things he did that ended up creating plays…because we weren’t looking for them. As human beings, we all of us have very narrow viewpoints. Most of us here are very open-minded people, I’ve found…but only in retrospect. When observing IN THE MOMENT, we’re all tunnel-visioned. For example, a lot of people are going to say that Leandro Damiao had a poor game and Pato had a great one. And I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. But then some people will say that this is proof that Pato should be starting…which I don’t agree with. Because I feel my points as to why Leandro Damiao – or more properly, a true center forward – is so invaluable still stand. But many people aren’t going to see it that way, because they weren’t looking at the things Damiao provided despite not scoring. And similarly, Dude or Kenny or Zetona or Kachisaw could point to something else as evidence to prove THEIR point…and I probably missed it altogether.
So, I’m going to wait to rewatch this match. Then I’ll post player ratings. Because I have a feeling that there was a lot more going on in this match – positive and negative – than what meets the eye. And I’ve got a feeling that I missed most of it.
In any case, to finish, I’ll say this: ever since the Germany match, this team has made progress. Slow, subtle progress. Incredibly flawed progress. But progress nonetheless. And this match was no exception. It’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s your Question of the Day:
Which Over 23 player do you take? Thiago Silva is a lock, obviously. The last two spots come down to Marcelo, Hulk, and David Luiz. Hulk looked to lock up a spot on Saturday; Marcelo did today. But then you remember Juan’s awful performance, and suddenly David Luiz seems pretty indispensable. So who do you take?
Personally, I take Silva, Hulk and Marcelo. With the latter two, we can just outscore our under-aged opposition. They can wreak havoc. I’d just replace Juan with Bruno Uvini, or maybe even move Sandro to the centerback spot. David Luiz is good, but I don’t see that he offers the team more than Hulk and Marcelo.
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