The knockout stages, like the group phase, kicked off in style, with an exciting encounter featuring the host team and their raucous fan base. They were up against one of the tournament’s upstarts, Chile. A Chilean victory wouldn’t have been as shocking as many might think, considering the fact that La Roja had already dumped out the defending champions Spain in the last round. Nerves before the start of the match were evident. You could see it on the faces of both sets of players when they were getting ready in the tunnel.
Formation & Line Ups
Brazil: Cesar, Marcelo, Luiz, Silva, Alves, Fernandinho, Gustavo, Hulk, Neymar, Oscar, Fred.
Chile: Bravo, Medel, Silva, Jara, Aranguiz, Isla, Mena, Diaz, Vidal, Sanchez, Vargas.
Brazil started with a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 ish formation with Neymar behind Fred and Hulk and Oscar the left and right respectively. Fernandinho started in the midfield instead of the first choice Paulinho, partnering Gustavo. The back four was as expected.
Chile had a much more basic 5-3-2/ 3-4-3 formation. Varagas and Sanchez were supported by Vidal with Aranguiz and Diaz forming the midfield. Isla and Mena were deployed on the wings with an expected back 3.
The game had a good tempo throughout the 90. But most part of the extra time was played at a significantly lower pace as Chile clearly wanted the game to go to penalties.
In the early exchanges of the first half, Chile narrowed down space really well and pressed energetically in midfield. Neymar was particularly stifled by the Chileans as he was fouled about 4 times in the first 30 minutes of the game. The Chileans pressed Brazil 3v3 at the back and thus not allowing them to play out easily. But instead of Gustavo, who is the primary holding midfielder for Brazil dropping deep to play the ball out, it was usually one of the fullbacks. The home side had a larger share of the ball for the majority of the first half. Neymar caused the back 3 some problems early on with his pace on the counters running from deeper positions.
While playing out of the back the back three split up and formed sort of an inverted triangle. But they usually favored the long ball approach, targeting Vidal to win the headers. The full backs didn’t push on as much in the first half than they did in the second.
The Chilean goal was largely down to a lack of concentration in the Brazilian defense. Hulk’s poor pass was intercepted by Vargas following a simple throw in who passed excellently for Sanchez to finish.
The Brazilian midfield was disappointing. Although Gustavo was promising early on and made a couple of good runs, his colleagues in Oscar and Fernandinho had a quiet game. Fernandinho just completed 12 passes in around the 70 minutes that he played as and Oscar wasn’t able to influence the game much from his right hand sided position.
Fred too was disappointing. Although he worked considerably well in deep positions while defending to compensate for Neymar, he didn’t offer enough threat. Costa, had he agreed to play for Brazil, would have offered much more hunger and quality in attack as well as defense. He would have been the perfect guy to partner Neymar
Chile didn’t have a center forward who would stay in the box and finish, like a poacher. Vidal, primarily a holding midfielder played through the center while the forwards essentially played like attacking wingers. There was one instance in the game where Sanchez was in a good position to release the ball but there was no one in the box. Vidal was deep and Vargas was wide.
Both teams favored a long ball approach with Luiz primarily the player hitting them for Brazil and the goalkeeper Bravo for Chile. This was usually targeted out wide due to the narrowness of the full backs which will be discussed later.
Chile improved significantly in the second half. This was mainly due to the fact that their pressing improved. They were much more positive and energetic. The center backs were forced into wayward passes and Brazil found it difficult to get out of their own half. The introduction of Gutierez improved their possession play as they had one more man in the middle.
It was mostly all Brazil in extra time. Chile had clearly surrendered and were ready to let fate decide the outcome of this game i.e. a penalty shootout. They sat deep, soaked up pressure with Brazil relentlessly knocking on their door. There were two great chances for either teams late in extra time but both failed to capitalize.
Narrow full backs
Both sides had full backs who sat quite narrow but mostly in different phases of play. The Chilean wing backs were very disciplined and moved about the pitch really well. Their approach generally was to push the full back on the side of the ball high up to press and his counterpart on the other side will come narrow to make up a back four. Sometimes even a center back would push up to the second line cover the full back who pressed high up. This almost resulted in a chance for Fred but he wasn’t able to connect following a ball from a deep position on the other flank.
Also a lot of long passes were played from deep positions to switch flanks to their advantage of their narrow positioning.
The Brazilian fullbacks as expected had a huge attacking influence on the game. Instead of trying to overlap around the outside, they took up narrow positions and influenced the game from the center. Marcelo was one of the players who saw the most of the ball on the pitch. Dani Alves on the other hand struck a great long shot from the center of the pitch which was saved excellently. They found a lot of space in the center where they were away from the attention of Sanchez amd Vargas and the midfielders were too deep to press them
If we look at the above picture , we can easily notice the different roles the full backs of each team were playing. The Chileans(red) are found narrow deep in their own box whereas the Brazillans (yellow) are found central in the midfield/attack zones.
Key Player of the Match
Hulk worked as hard as Marcelo on that side and was often found deeper than him when Marcelo followed Sanchez inside, to defend against Mena. He made great positive attacking runs and even after90 minutes, at the start of extra time had the energy to take on 3 players and earn a free kick. He utilized the space inside the wing backs really well when Aranguiz was found high up leaving Diaz alone in the middle on the counters. He swapped positions with Oscar after half time and did a fantastic job.
Where does this leave them?
It was a very tough encounter, and Brazil ran themselves into the ground 5 days before a big quarter final against the form team of this tournament, Colombia. While home support and penalties saw them through, Brazil have been far from convincing at best. They really haven’t kicked on in this tournament and their reliance on Neymar to produce the goods can backfire. Chile will be proud of their performance, and indeed disappointed about the fact that they didn’t make it through because they really could do a lot more in this tournament.