The U-20 World Cup in New Zealand has brought a great deal of surprises with Mali and Senegal edging past Germany and Uzbekistan to reach the semi-finals, respectively. While the former beat arguably the best team on paper in a penalty shoot-out after holding them for 120 minutes, Senegal had to make do with another surprise team in Uzbekistan. A good piece of skill allowed Dijon striker Mamadou Thiam to easily finish into the Uzbekistan goal, and right then the Senegalese had belief that they could fight their way past an extremely talented and diverse Brazilian team.
Brazil, lumbering their way through two tough, familiar opponents had to rely on the lottery after their quarter-final encounter saw Portugal completely miss three golden chances to send the Selecao back home. It wasn’t to be for the Portuguese and with Jean providing a reliable performance in goal, Brazil nonchalantly yet successfully asserted themselves amid the final four.
On came the challenge from Africa in Senegal. Within a quarter of an hour though, the challenge dissipated and Brazil were on their way to the final. 4-0 down in the first half with a man sent off; there seemed to be no way out for the West African outfit. I will be looking at five players who affected the game tactically, and I apologize to any Senegal fan, but this game was all Brazil hence my article featuring 5 Brazilian players rather than a mix of both teams.
A classic 4-2-3-1 with a double pivot sitting and covering the back two with prototypical Brazilian full backs who love to do something very specific: attack. The attacking midfield three is nothing short of mesmeric, while striker Jean Carlos had an interesting role in the build-up.
Coming off a brilliant U-17 tournament in the U.A.E two years ago, scoring 6 in 5, the gifted technician is definitely one to watch for the future. Since I set my eyes on him in this tournament he has been nothing short of captivating with his performances in the hole simply a thrill for anyone watching the Selecao. In this game, what Boschilia did best came in many different forms.
Boschilia excelled at playing in tight spaces, easily getting past any set of players that seek to hound him in possession. Crucially, while his back was to goal he easily danced his way out of challenges to find space – ironically as in the early years of Brazilian football, a key feature of ball-playing defender Domingos de Souza back in the 1930’s was to dance his way out of challenges.
Not only that, but as I mentioned before Boschilia is no stranger to putting the ball in the net and despite a quartet of players in front of him he powerfully blasted Brazil’s 3rd to give them complete initiative in a pivotal game. His awareness of space coupled with his nimble movement enabled him to enter the box unmarked and ready to pounce on the rebound or any incoming cutback passes to him.
Boschilia was simply a menace, thwarting any chance of Senegalese build-up play by either positioning himself on the opposition ball playing midfielder or using his body to push players off the ball. That’s right, Boschilia is not weak despite being 1.72m (5ft 7 1/2 inches). In the game against Portugal we saw similarly effective actions. His constant switching of positions along with Guillherme wreaked havoc on the poor Senegalese defence, one that was broken with channelled passes and direct dribbling.
Finally, his knack of playing the final pass or creating a chance is arguably his best trait. We could see this in the 5th goal Brazil scored where his one-touch play was visible in a wall pass before squaring the ball to Guillherme to end the game.
Joao Pedro has numerous arrows pointing at his movement in the line-up diagram, and rightfully so. Joao plies his trade at Palmeiras in Brazil however his style of attacking is not exactly similar to a prototypical Brazilian full back.
Joao seeks to link up play and combine with the attacking midfielders who are versatile themselves, moving in and out of zones based on the movements of Joao in the build up play. Very early on we could see the different options that Joao could offer to a team like Brazil, providing a creative outlet on the right side similar to Dani Alves.
He showed his capabilities to play down the touchline, a congested area, by getting past a defender despite having his back away from the touchline. He feinted and created space behind him – dangerous space moving towards the goal – before cutting inside and playing the ball across goal to be met with an own goal by Correa.
Furthermore, Joao promoted himself as bait towards wingers with his exposed positioning in the half spaces however the lad showed more than a few glimpses of being pressure-resistant and able to shield the ball should he not be shackled by a triumvirate of players.
In defence, Joao positioned himself excellently to win headers and avoid losing ground against some of the tricky wingers Senegal propose.
Gabriel Jesus was a focal point in the opening part of the decimation of the Senegalese team, and without his energy and guile the team may have not kick started as well. His runs from deep were a constant threat towards Senegal and it was visible in the second goal Brazil scored, one where Gabriel’s tendency to harry the man on the ball was an effective ploy in creating a chance.
Apart of the fluid front four, Gabriel was an asset on both sides of the game. This, along with Jean Carlos, Boschilia and Guilherme created a shape akin to a semi-hexagon. The front two composed of Boschilia pushing up alongside Jean Carlos while Guilherme and Gabriel flanked with the double pivot operating in a line – protecting and circulating the play consistently.
Additionally, Gabriel contains a fine skill set using it at the expense of the Senegal defence’s torrid all-round game, with flicks and one-touch back heel passes aiding him in finding team mates while confusing the opposition with movement in the opposite direction. This coupled up with his propensity to drop deep to speed up the play were key features of his breathtaking performance.
Jean Carlos, a striker who has good capabilities on the ball was the best tactical player in this game, in my opinion. The way he created space for starters was a small part of his selfless display in where he exchanged positions and passes to provide a platform for the attacking midfield trio to thrive in.
Seamlessly providing options, opening up channels and dropping into holes were amongst the various jobs Jean Carlos fulfilled in his quest to keep his place over the similarly talented Judivan. What Judivan and Jean Carlos differ in is that the latter uses his movement and selflessness as in favour of the goalscoring midfield that can be unleashed through his Karim Benzema-esque style of play. Judivan, a fairy honest, all-round striker wasn’t capable of doing so. Although deviating from this game, it is key to mention that in the game against North Korea – as Judivan was taken off – Brazil went on to score three goals with the extra space created from his departure.
Jean Carlos, interestingly, did not just possess class in his movement schemes though, as his technique and skill on the ball is an invaluable trait to possess as a modern day striker. Features such as this can wreak havoc against the Serbian defense in the final.
Jorge showed exactly why he deserves a place over Caju with the performance that he put in. A menace down the left flank, he helped to cause the sending off of Senegalese defender Eli Cisse. Also bagging a goal for himself, Jorge showcased his versatility and capability of moving into different zones without looking out of his place.
A proactive defender in this game, looking to assert himself on the opposition helped him send a message of intimidation where he totally bossed his side of the game. Jorge also proved he could operate in different pathways as he combined with Jean Carlos a couple of times (actually leading to his goal) to cause havoc in the centre for the hapless Senegal.
Jorge’s dribbling skills were his strongest point, and there is no doubt that his distinctive movement can create a problem for Serbia in the Final. However it will be interesting to see how Jorge operates as he usually – as in this game – is left 1v1 or 1v2 due to the adventures of Guilherme, almost never finding him on the left flank. With a battle against Andrija Zivkovic coming up soon, Jorge’s defensive capabilities will certainly be tested.
For more reading on the U20 World Cup, head this way.
Written by Hamoudi Al Fayad
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