I will let the football experts make that judgment and instead analyze the Brazilian performances so far in the Confederations Cup 2013.
Two games so far, two victories, and two goals by the country wonder boy. Not a bad start for Luiz Felipe Scolari and the Brazilians. When I analyze football, I always imagine being the opposition head coach, who will face Brazil in the next game, so I have to prepare my team and my players in the best possible way.
4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. I’m not a big fan regarding systems, because who is counting, where and when, but we can conclude that Brazil only plays with one central striker – Fred and two holding central midfielders – Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho (sometimes Oscar when they rotate) and a classic back four defense.
The first pressure from the Brazilians - on short goal kicks, for example - is purely on an individual basis and reminds me of watching games from the Dutch Eresdividie, where 1:1 / man-to-man pressure is famous. The Brazilian team pressure on intuition and try to sense if they can win the ball or not. The challenge for the opponents is to keep calm and play through the first pressure, because there is a lot of space and room before the next pressure is coming.
Statistically 4 players – Fred, Neymar, Hulk and Oscar are the first pressure, and the rest stay back = stretching the organization a part. The back four does not push up, so with 2-3 solid fast passes on the ground in the direct direction, you have played away four (4) Brazilian players, which is a very good situation to start building up your own attack.
Brazil is, after the first phase, working in a very tight central focused organization. They allow opponents to play on the outside of their organization, which creates good opportunities for the opponent wingers and full backs. When Mexico for example found Giovanni Dos Santos on the outside of the Brazilian organization, he was often 1:1 against Marcelo, who is not picked for the starting 11 due to his defensive skills.
So opponents should look for the outside space and try to bring up their own full backs as well to create 2:1 situations as Neymar and Hulk not always are the best to run home. I would work on outside break through and crosses against Brazil and target the area between the central defender and the full back due to Marcelo and Dani Alves does not dream of defending in the air and therefore the crosses in this area can be won.
Furthermore if you stop your DVD just before a cross against Brazil – you will realize that David Luiz never looks behind him. His eyes are focusing only on the ball, so with a well-timed run, you can surprise Luiz behind him. A classic mistake by defenders to only look at the ball at a cross.
When is Brazil scoring their goals? Just after they won the ball back, is the short answer. Look at most of their goals and chances. They lose the ball and try hard with 3-5 players to win it back immediately and when they succeed they catch the opponents in unbalance and go for a goal. The try with a direct ball towards Fred or Neymar and then they go for goal.
I counted four (4) chances against Mexico with a Brazilian finish after between 7-9 seconds after winning the ball back. So the Brazilian team is extremely strong in the offense part of the counter attacks and transition play. Even the full backs Marcelo and Dani Alves joins this transition phase, so I stopped the DVD several times counting six (6) Brazilian players chasing the ball on the Mexico half. This means that if the opponents can play the ball away from the area, where they won the ball and play through the 3-4 second long aggressive Brazilian transition pressure, only four Brazilians are left to defend.
Long kicks from Julio Cesar goes for Hulk in almost 100 % of the times, while the short goals kicks either is build up by possession with David Luiz, who is looking for a pass through the opponent organization (playing the ball in the middle) – often looking for Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar or in some occations Hulk, who runs deep in a “Rommedahl-run” between the full back and the left central defender from his right starting position.
Gustavo, Oscar or Paulinho is often played in the right side of the pitch in this phase and then they look for a long switch pass towards Neymar/Marcelo. Brazil would obviously like to isolate Neymar 1:1 with the full back, which he probably would win 7-8 out of 10 times. So they drack attention playing the ball around in the right side and then try to switch it with 1-2 touches catching the opponents in unbalance.
When I analyze the Brazilian play on the last third, it’s very difficult to find a quantitative or qualitative pattern, and I saw somewhere online that Hulk said that head coach Scolari has given them a lot of freedom in the goal scoring phase, which is exactly what I can see. They play on intuition and experience movement after playing and training together, but I do not see a lot of pre-trained moves again and again. Basically there is no clear pattern and last third game plan.
In modern football a team like that should logically not have the best chances in a World Cup, because they will face teams with a clear and well-structured game plan in all aspects of the game. But maybe it’s a Brazilian strength as the individual skills in the team are so strong that you can let the players decide for themselves.
Neymar, Oscar, Hulk, Fred, the full backs, Paulinho, Luiz Gustavo and David Luiz are all world class players with the ball, in terms of flair, speed, creativity and football physics, so if a team in the World should be able to play without a clear offensive structure – it has to be Brazil.
Though I’m not convinced that a team playing only on offensive intuition can beat well-structured teams with top defenders and a solid defensive organization, but fascinating story if Neymar and Co. can do it next year. Time will tell.
FYI: I decided not to pay attention to Brazil regarding defensive transition, back four patterns, set pieces defensive and offensive, free kicks offense and defensive, start-up kick or the keeper’s skills and role.