July 5, 2022, 12:07

Brazil are built on a solid defence and that wins World Cups

Brazil are built on a solid defence and that wins World Cups

Neymar will take the headlines but Brazil showed in their 2-0 win over Mexico that they have the defence to win this World Cup, writes Adam Bate.

“We should not place it all on his shoulders,” Brazil coach Tite said of the team’s star player Neymar earlier in the tournament. “The whole group will solve it.”

Neymar did indeed get the opener in the 2-0 victory over Mexico that put Brazil into the quarter-finals, but it was the team’s all-round ability to nullify their opponents that could take them to the trophy.

Mexico had shown how much damage they were capable of doing in beating Germany in their opening game at this World Cup and there were hints of that threat early on in Samara. But while the 2014 winners did not get enough bodies back to defend against the counter-attack, Brazil were ready and waiting with the blocks, tackles and interceptions.

Mexico won a corner but Thiago Silva headed it away. Fellow veteran Miranda was there waiting if his centre-back partner had missed it. The ball fell to Hector Herrera on the edge of the box but Casemiro was on the scene to cut out the shot. When Hirving Lozano did isolate Filipe Luis one-on-one in the right channel, he could not evade Marcelo’s deputy.

Lozano had been expected to give Fagner a torrid time on the other flank, and while the winger had some joy in the first half, it was not to last. By the time that the full-back with the relatively modest reputation executed a perfect tackle on Lozano with 12 minutes to go, there were high fives all round. Fagner and his team-mates knew the job had been done.

Mexico did not manage their first shot on target until the hour mark – and even that was a tame effort from Carlos Vela that was comfortably turned over the bar by Alisson. There would be no second shot on target. Brazil have only conceded five of them in their four matches at this World Cup so far. Every team bar Uruguay have let in more goals.

Forget Jogo Bonito. Brazil have had to deal with the fall-out from their 7-1 meltdown four years ago and that’s what Tite has done in bringing balance to this side. He has top-class goalkeeping options, experience at the back and cover in midfield. His Brazil are unbeaten in their last 15 matches in all competitions and have conceded only three goals in that period.

History shows that World Cup wins are built on solid defences. The last seven winning teams, dating back to Brazil’s own triumph in 1994, have conceded no more than four goals in their seven matches. It is three clean sheets in a row for Tite’s men now and that solidity is more than enough given the array of attacking talent that they possess at the other end.

“We are a balanced team,” he had said before the game. “For us, this is about getting stronger and growing. We have had three matches and things are on the up.” This fourth match will have only added to the confidence levels. They had already shown that they could cope without Dani Alves. Now they have made light of Marcelo’s absence too.

Brazil’s flying full-backs had been seen as crucial to the team’s structure given their playmaking roles, but the inclusion of Filipe Luis arguably made them more impenetrable against Mexico. At 32, he is no novice. In fact, with the talented Marquinhos on the bench, 29-year-old Fagner is the youngest defender to start any of Brazil’s last three matches.

Tite is leaving nothing to chance. Much will be made of the psychological scars from that dramatic defeat to Germany in 2014, particularly if Brazil make it to the semi-finals. But Tite has managed to freshen things up while still fielding a vastly experienced line-up. Nobody who played against Mexico was in the starting line-up on that fateful day in Belo Horizonte.

This is a different Brazil and that is bad news for their quarter-final opponents and every other team that’s left in this World Cup. In Neymar, Tite has the outstanding player left in the tournament – the man with the most shots on target and the most chances created of anyone in this World Cup. But behind him he has the team to deliver Brazil’s redemption.

Sourse: skysports.com

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