Life has a nasty habit of becoming very busy at key moments in the Brazilian football calendar, but cometh the hour, cometh the blog.
The fans have been getting restless with the lack of action on the blog recently, but with Brazil booking their place in the final of South America’s premier national football competition, against none other than their biggest rivals Argentina, in a very inconsiderately-timed game which kicked off at 1.30am UK time, brazilfooty.com found a way to analyse the game and write about it, which may or may not have involved the setting of an alarm clock in the middle of the night and a slightly later-than-usual start to work today.
I did manage to watch some of Brazil’s Copa America matches – notably the games against Peru and Paraguay – on my recent travels so have been keeping tabs on the action and the performances.
Brazil well and truly demolished Peru. Everton had an inspired game and Brazil played very well, but the result also had a lot to do with the rubbish performance of their opponents, particularly the goalkeeper.
By contrast, they rode their luck against Paraguay and had to rely on their good fortune in the penalty shootout to qualify for the semi final. They played okay in that match, but they experienced something that is not too unfamiliar for sides managed by the defensively-minded Tite: struggling to create clear chances against unadventurous, weaker opposition. It’s not all Tite’s fault of course – the quality of attackers in this Brazil team, especially without Neymar, does not compare with previous Brazil teams and the likes of Robinho, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Kaka and co.
The SeleÃ§Ã£o are now strong favourites to win Sunday’s final, which will be played against the winner of tonight’s semi final between Peru and Chile. But given their toil in some matches of this tournament, even a victory for Brazil on Sunday wouldn’t convince everyone that Tite is the main to lead them into the World Cup in three years’ time, this blog included. I’m not saying that he’s not the man (given lack of strong alternatives): I’m just not saying that I’m fully convinced.
Last night, we saw another face to this Brazil team: not playing very well, but grinding out a result and in the end recording a comfortable win. I’m not too critical of the way they won the game – its the games against the likes of Paraguay that are the problem. Yes, Brazil did ride their luck – Argentina hit the post, Messi mis-controlled a pass when clean through on goal and may have had a penalty had the VAR team done its just properly – but Brazil always had some control of this game.
Argentina could have equalised, but even if they did, I feel that Brazil would have been able to step it up a gear if needed. And some of Argentina’s chances came when it was 2-0 to Brazil so I don’t think they would have changed the end result. Argentina were unhappy with the ref, but not all of the things they were unhappy about were incorrect decisions. At the end of the day, Argentina are not a very good team. Messi was a danger last night. But Messi for Argentina is not Messi for Barcelona.
Among the positives were Dani Alves’ excellent performance again last night; he continues to be one of Brazil’s most potent attacking outlets, even though he is a fullback, and he is 36 years old. He is worthy of the armband for his performances and attitude, but Thiago Silva is a fantastic leader too, and deserves a shoutout for his performance. Calming down Firmino when he was being provoked by his idiotic rival, was class and showed his experience. Meanwhile, Gabriel Jesus turned in a performance that justified Tite keeping faith with him. So although Argentina had 14 shots to Brazil’s 4, there were still positives for Brazil.
To win the competition, Brazil still need to turn in a performance on Sunday, and they should not take a win for granted. Assuming they do, it will be a big boost to the coach and the players. But the impression I get is that Brazil are playing still playing within their limits.
Admittedly, this side doesn’t have the same quality as Brazil teams in years gone by, which might support sticking with a defensively-minded coach like Tite. But equally, I think that Brazil need to improve their attack if they want to go all the way in Qatar in three years’ time. After all, Brazil is Brazil.
Tite’s conservatism in team selection doesn’t bode particularly well for that, and he doesn’t seem particularly focused on developing a side for that competition just yet. The only new blood in this current Brazil XI compared to their World Cup team last year is Arthur: Everton, Richarlison and Militao have shown a lot of promise, but have been relegated to the bench; other talents such as Lucas Paqueta haven’t had a look in.
But I will end this post on a positive note. In fact, I’ll end it on three positives: 1/ Brazil’s defensive record continues to be excellent, even if the average age of their backline is well into its 30s (Dani Alves is 36, Thiago Silva 34, Miranda 34 and Alex Sandro 28); 2/ Gabriel Jesus had a very good game, and is rewarding the faith that Tite has placed in him; it was his brilliant run that created a goal out of nothing; 3/ a win against Argentina is a win against Argentina, no matter how it is achieved.
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