The Brazil we see today and we have seen over the better part of the last decade is not the same team that history remembers so fondly. European giants have dethroned the Samba kings of late with Spain in particular dominating and Germany not too far behind. However, having won the bid to host the 2014 World Cup, things are looking up for the Brazilians in their period of transition as they look to claw their way up to the top once more.
A silver medal in the Olympics last summer was ultimately a disappointment but it's a failure that could be rectified in the Confederations Cup. Having been prematurely knocked out of the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America, the Selecao have a lot to prove in this tournament. Last year, Brazil dropped out of the top 10 in FIFA rankings for the first time in their history and have currently slid down to 20th spot. The regenerative process begins here for the South Americans and they will be desperate to win.
Coach and System
Since his first spell as Brazil head coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari managed Portugal for 5 years and had stints in England, Uzbekistan and Brazil domestically. His current spell with Brazil has got off to a relatively rocky start. Just 2 wins in his first 7 games signifies the transitional period the national side has had to endure. However, there are signs that they're finally settling down and at just the right time.
|Coaching record with Brazil –|
Brazil set up in a compact 4-4-2 formation which morphs into a 4-2-2-2 in attack. Scolari has preferred this system over the 4-2-3-1 approach Mano Menezes utilized at the Olympics last summer. In that system, Oscar was the playmaker in the final third as he occupied the attacking midfielder role with Neymar and Hulk flanking him on either side and Leandro Damiao leading the line.
The current formation however, sees Oscar played down the right flank and Hulk down the left. Scolari employs a double midfield pivot which acts as a buffer to protect their rather porous back four. Luis Gustavo and Paulinho are likely to be the central midfielders employed although Lazio's Hernanes is also an option.
Fred spearheads the attack while Hulk and Oscar support the strikers but tuck in to ensure the midfield's shape is intact when they don't have possession. The system attempts to nullify the opposition's attack but demands a high level of intense pressing.
With organization being the priority, Brazil have lost a bit of their attacking verve. They rely on Neymar to engineer an opening a lot more with the newly recruited Barcelona man operating in a free role as the second striker.
Oscar and Hulk take advantage of Neymar's movement on occasion by exploiting any space that opens up centrally. However, given the attacking talent available, the system does not make the most of the players' abilities.
Dani Alves, as is his nature, sets off on marauding runs down the right hand side, more so than Felipe Luis on the opposite flank. To guard against the space left in behind Alves, one of the holding midfielders shuffles across to protect the area.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Despite winning just 1 out of 6 games this year, they also lost only 1 in the process, proving that the Brazilians have been hard to beat. The compact system does make them formidable without sacrificing too much going forward. Neymar remains their most lethal weapon and this system gives him the freedom to express himself. Oscar in particular still makes an impact in the final third while Fred and Neymar work well in tandem. All in all, the Brazilians still have enough flair and pace about them to run defenses ragged.
Weaknesses: The defense remains a problem despite the new system. Fans long to see Bayern Munich's Dante partner Thiago Silva in defense but there's little chance of Scolari deviating from his current pair of Thiago and David Luiz. The Chelsea defender is a liability at times while Alves' attack-mindedness compounds their problems. Oscar is perhaps not best used on the right flank while there's a strong case for Lucas Moura to replace Hulk in the starting line-up given their respective performances at club level this season.
Star man: Neymar
Neymar just can't be kept out of the limelight at the moment. After years of courting him, Barcelona finally signed the Brazilian prodigy this summer. The 21 year old has had the national team built around him and he goes into this competition as Brazil's star.
His skill and trickery are unparalleled and he's a reminder of the flair that's been the trademark of so many Brazilian sides in the past. The pacy attacker is deadly as a winger, second striker or even a frontman and often divides opinion regarding his best position. Nevertheless, in the current system, he has been afforded plenty of freedom to work his magic and will be at the heart of the Brazilian attack.
Neymar has often been accused of underperforming for the national side but with 20 goals and 13 assists in 34 games, he has proved indispensable. Even so, this competition is the perfect stage for him to silence his critics and leave no doubt in the minds of all Brazilian supporters when they host the World Cup next summer.
|What do you make of Brazil's chances? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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