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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-1 Brazil | Argentina improve but to no avail

Matches between the two biggest South American rivals are always very keenly contested. This game had a bit more of an edge to it because of the fact that both teams have struggled so far in their qualifying campaigns. Nicolas Pernigotti writes an analysis of the tactics used.

Last Friday, the South American derby between Argentina and Brazil was played. The game should have been played on Thursday but had to be suspended due to heavy rain that fell on Buenos Aires. The match found an Argentine team without two of their stars, with Messi and Agüero both out injured and this only added to the absence of Carlos Tevez. Martino’s team started with a 4-3-3 system, while Dunga used a 4-2-3-1 system, trying to stop the Argentine midfield, and cut the creative circuit.

Line Ups:

Argentina Brazil

Argentina (4-3-3): 1. S. Romero; 3. F. Roncaglia, 17. N. Otamendi, 13. R. Funes Mori, 16. M. Rojo; 6. L. Biglia, 14. J. Mascherano, 19. E. Banega (E. Lamela); 22. E. Lavezzi (N. Gaitán), 10. A. Di María; 9. G. Higuian (P. Dybala).

Brazil (4-2-3-1): 23. Alisson; 15. D. Alves, 3. Miranda, 4. D. Luiz, 16. Filipe Luis; 8. Elias, 17. Luiz Gustavo; 19. Willian (Gil), 20. Lima Lucas (R. Augusto), 10. Neymar; 9. R. Oliveira.


Argentina and their attempted combinations

From the start of the match the home team tried to take control of the ball, prioritizing fast transitions. Taking command of the attack were PSG´s duo Di Maria and Lavezzi, with fast transitions mainly on the wings with Rojo on the left side joining the attack, and Banega assuming the role of playmaker.

Argentina defended with 4 players, except when one of the full backs joined the attack, mainly Marco Rojo. In such situations, they morphed into a 3 man defence, because on the right side Roncaglia ventured forward far less than his partner. They formed a defensive line of Funes Mori, Otamendi and Roncaglia. In some cases, both full backs went forward, and Mascherano dropped into the defence. One way or the other, at least 3 men always stayed in the defensive line.


Brazil for its part defended in a very neat way, putting together solid structures containing the fast attacks of the Argentine team. In the first half, Dunga’s team prioritized the defense and fast recovery. Dani Alves was allowed freedom to get forward, alternating with Luis Filipe, Neymar and William they took command of the offensive action. They tried to infuse speed and overload the Argentine defenders. Oliveira fought a lone battle against the central defenders, especially Otamendi.


Here we see the Brazilian defense, with two defensive midfielders controlling any gaps. Rojo is attacking (yellow circle) to surprise the defense, and we also see the formation of the line of 3 Argentine defenders.


The Brazilian defense stuck with the corresponding assignments to avoid any surprises, with Higuain (Red Square) followed closely by the Brazilian center-back David Luiz. Without Messi, Aguero and Tevez the home team showed some offensive deficiencies even though Di Maria put in a good performance. He assumed leadership of the offensive side, being incisive, and quick especially in the first half.

The quick feet of Di Maria brought good results. He caused a quick counterattack that got the goal. A very good sequence of passes found the visitors’ defence badly organized. Argentina took full advantage of the spaces, with Higuian first attacking the free space behind Luis F. and D. Luiz to then find Lavezzi who attacked the center of the area where there was a space between the center backs. There was a perfect combination of passes to ensure that Argentina ended up scoring an excellent goal to take the lead.


Douglas Costa changed the face of the game

In the second half Dunga took the important decision of swapping Oliveira for Douglas Costa, maintaining the same formation but pushing the lines forward in search of an equalizer. Costa played in midfield but rotating with Willian and getting ahead of  Lima Lucas. Argentina for its part kept a compact defense, and pressured ¾ of the field to interrupt the short passing game of the rival.


Argentina pressing all the options of Dunga´s team with good marking, forcing opponent to divide the ball in midfield.


Argentina played with four defenders in line, with Mascherano (yellow square) controlling Costa and/or Lucas. We can see that the team is looking to stay compact, with not a great amount of distance between their players. This would help their defensive organization, and help them to counter attack quickly.

Brazil stepped forward, and the entrance of Costa changed the speed and force of the attack. They managed to effect fast transitions especially with Costa moving from the center to the right of the attack, and surprising the opposition defence on many occasions. His skills often demanded special efforts from both Otamendi and Romero.


The equalizer came after a great combination and rebound that Lucas took advantage of to score the 1-1. In the picture we see the space created to pass  behind to the Argentine center backs and Costa taking advantage of the bad positioning of Funes Mori.


Neither Lamela, or Gaitan accomplished what Douglas Costa for Brazil. The match ended up being a tight tactical battle. Brazil based their game on fast counterattacking schemes, which were looking for Argentina mistakes, and trying to engage their good individual players. Argentina meanwhile improved their ball circulation, control, passing, and the changes of pace. They failed to really convert the chances they had, but improved on their previous performances, especially considering the absence of their star players.

Written by Nicolas Pernigotti

Nicolas Pernigotti


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