Brazil beat Russia 3-0 in a friendly in Moscow yesterday. Here’s three things I learned from the game.
Philippe Coutinho bosses central midfield
During his career, Philippe Coutinho has often been used as an attacking midfielder or winger. Such a role in Brazil’s 4-3-3 system, would mean him playing as one of the wide players of the attacking three. Indeed, that’s exactly where he played against England in November; him on the right, Neymar on the left and Gabriel Jesus up front. He didn’t have a great game for Brazil that day, although admittedly he had only recently recovered from an injury. Yesterday though, against Russia, he started as one of the three central midfielders in the 4-3-3 and he bossed the game. He scored a penalty and should have had an assist after a brilliant run and cross, which Paulinho somehow managed to miss (Paulinho would have had a hat trick if he was wearing his shooting boots yesterday). Philippe Coutinho was excellent. For me, he is definitely more effective in the middle than out wide. I hope Tite keeps him in that position, even against a strong team like Germany.
Willian the conqueror
Willian and Douglas Costa came into Brazil’s team yesterday, taking up the two wide attacking positions in Tite’s 4-3-3 formation. Neymar was obviously not playing due to injury and Philippe Coutinho dropped back into midfield. I thought Willian was excellent, epitomised by his dribble and cross which set up Paulinho’s goal. Willian has been in great form for Chelsea and he continued to show that good form yesterday for Brazil. Douglas Costa was good on the left flank, although I thought at times he could have been more ambitious and instead of going for the kill he slowed play down by cutting inside even though Marcelo was bursting down the line. Out of Willian and Douglas Costa, I was more impressed with Willian.
Brazil know how to win in Russia
Russia are not the toughest opposition, even at home. However, I think Brazil’s trip to Russia will provide them with great experience in the country before the big event in June and July. The player will have a little taste of what to expect in the country – the food, the people, the language, the culture, etc – and that experience will be helpful psychologically. Also, they now have experience playing in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which is the venue of the final. The fact that they have won there so easily, albeit against a pretty poor Russian team, will also help psychologically if they do make it to the final, or play at this ground in other rounds.
Overall, I thought it was a pretty decent performance from Brazil. They weren’t great in the first half; Brazil did create a few chances and Russia had a couple of opportunities themselves. But in the second half, especially the first half of the second half, they did show their class and with their excellent quick passing, movement and close control. From that, they managed to create several clear chances out of nothing. Miranda and Thiago Silva look like a good partnership. Alisson is solid and Marcelo is still probably the best left back in world football.
Brazil will get a much tougher test in Germany on Tuesday. And it remains to be seen whether Tite goes with a full strength team for that match (which would mean very few changes to yesterday’s line up). I suspect he will: not only will revenge be in Brazil’s mind (for that 7-1 embarrassment), but Tite isn’t much of a tinker man.
Yesterday’s line up and my ratings:
Alisson 7, Daniel Alves 6 (Fagner 6), Thiago Silva 7, Miranda 7 (Pedro Geromel), Marcelo 8, Casemiro 7, Paulinho 6 (Renato Augusto 6), Philippe Coutinho 8 (Fred 6), Willian 8 (Taison 6), Douglas Costa 7, Gabriel Jesus 6 (Roberto Firmino 6)
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