Gilette Brasil Global Tour

Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour takes a look back at some of the major talking points after the Selecao marched to their seventh consecutive victory at Stade de France on Thursday

Brazil made the perfect start to 2015 with a 3-1 victory over les Bleus at Stade de France on Thursday. Particularly pleasing for coach Dunga was that they achieved the win thanks to their strongest weapons: the counter-attack and set pieces. Willian, Oscar and Neymar recovered from a stuttering start to enjoy an inspired evening as the Selecao achieved their seventh consecutive victory since last year’s World Cup.

Below, Chevrolet Brasil Global Tour takes a closer work at the talking points from last night’s success in the French capital.

Midfield Maestro

Chelsea’s Willian once again proved his worth to the side as he set about dictating the pace of the Brazil counter-attack. While he failed to break into Luiz Felipe Scolari’s starting line-up at the World Cup, he has been a stalwart under Dunga and continues to impress with every appearance for the Selecao.

He was on the fringes in the opening stages as Brazil made a slow start and concentrated their attacking play down the left, where his Chelsea team-mate Oscar pulled a little closer to the touchline than in previous matches. Willian showed the sort of discipline that has made him a Dunga favourite by refusing to stray from his position on the opposite flank, ensuring he left space inside for the wandering Neymar and Roberto Firmino. He then excelled in the second half, dictating the play from deep.

Guardian Angel

Jefferson came into 2015 uncertain of his role as Brazil’s no.1. He was forced to sit out November’s CBGT friendlies with Turkey and Austria, as the squad was limited to foreign-based players. Valencia’s Diego Alves deputised and impressed Dunga and goalkeeping coach Taffarel, intensifying the fight for a starting role between the posts.

Dunga kept faith in Jefferson, however, and he duly delivered. With Brazil having conceded just once in six games under Dunga before Thursday’s match, Jefferson endured an unexpectedly busy first 30 minutes against France. It proved to be a period in which he ended the debate over the no.1 jersey, making a stunning save from Karim Benzema and bringing calm to a back four that looked nervous. He commanded his box, controlled his back four, and later made a spectacular diving leap to deny Antoine Griezmann.

Luiz Gustavo - the redeemer

Following Brazil’s World Cup fiasco, few were expected to survive the cull that would inevitably follow the shock 7-1 defeat to Germany. Luiz Gustavo, however, was never in danger of feeling the sharp edge of Dunga’s axe. While he may not show up on the highlight reels and rarely finds the net, nobody performed better than the Wolfsburg man during last year’s tournament.

Dunga knew he would play a vital role in restoring the Selecao to the top of the international game. And while Fernandinho and Elias battle over the role alongside him at the base of the midfield, Luiz Gustavo has led the side with his intelligent positioning, pressing and energy. At Stade de France his efforts received a long overdue reward as he rose highest to head home a corner that Brazil had worked on in training the day before. It was his second goal in 33 appearances for his country. 

Captain Fantastic always delivers

The Barcelona striker scored yet again for his country as he continues to edge closer to becoming Brazil’s all-time top goalscorer. He now has 43 goals in 61 matches for his country, and has scored eight of Brazil’s 17 since Dunga’s arrival last year. Pele stands way out in front with 95 in 115 official matches, but with Neymar still just 22 years old, he could pass that total should he keep up his goals-per-game ratio of 0.7.

Not only did he find the net against France, he did so at a decisive moment. As Brazil upped the pace and began to take control of the match after the break, Neymar fired his side into the lead by applying the finishing touch to a move that will have delighted the coaching staff. With no fixed centre forward, the front four are asked to constantly interchange. The goal arrived after Willian wandered inside from his role on the right and shaped to pass to the onrushing Firmino, who charged through the middle to free up space wide left for Neymar to control and hammer a left-footed shot into the roof of the net.

Brazil get their groove back

Every match under Dunga has seen the side develop his philosophy of tight marking before winning the ball in midfield and unleashing rapid counter-attacks. The back four had conceded just once in six games before the match with France, but were on the rocks in the early stages as Benzema twice failed to convert clear chances at the back post. But Brazil remained resolute, with Elias and Luiz Gustavo leading the battle in midfield, and showed the sort of maturity and strength of character they were accused of lacking during last year’s World Cup.

They upped the pace after the break and began to enjoy more possession with their short passing through midfield to earn Brazil’s first victory at Stade de France. Next up is Chile on Sunday, where Dunga believes the side’s rediscovered self-belief will lead them to win number eight.