Just like watching England! Brazil and Neymar winning more matches than admirers at Copa America

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Its origins might be disputed, although Barnsley fans probably have a better claim as its inventors than any of their peers, but it is one of English lower-league football's most iconic and self-deprecating chants.

“It's just like watching Brazil,” the cry rises up from the stands as a long-suffering League One or League Two side suddenly manage to string a series of passes together or slam a free-kick home from distance.

And in the euphoria which followed England's 4-0 Euro 2020 destruction of Ukraine on Saturday, striking legend Gary Lineker also took the opportunity to dust off the tongue-in-cheek comparison in reference to Gareth Southgate's title hopefuls.

This time, for once, such parallels are not far off the mark. The Three Lions are not exactly showing off flowing football reminiscent of the likes of Pele, Garrincha, Socrates and Ronaldinho but the current Brazil team under Tite has plenty in common, whether they like it or not, with the dogged Euro contenders.

On Friday the Selecao booked their place in the 2021 Copa America semi-finals at the expense of Chile. The game itself, a 1-0 victory in the hosts' favour, was typical of the ex-Corinthians boss' time at the helm.

Aside from the slick passing move (aided by a misplaced Chile boot) which allowed Lucas Paqueta to open the scoring and a few brilliant interventions from Neymar, there were few frills in Brazil's latest victory, the 12th in their last 13 competitive outings.

Indeed, for large parts of the game they simply ceded control to their rivals, who did precious little to fight their way back into contention.

Brazil enjoyed just 41 per cent of possession in the quarter-finals and as little as 31% during the second half, after Gabriel Jesus' red card pushed Tite to close ranks even further.

It was an extreme example of what we have nevertheless seen throughout the competition: a team built from the back up, which takes no more risks than necessary, which plays as a single, coherent, compact unit even when down to 10 men and which is happy to do just enough to take down each opponent, even if it leaves the romantics at home less than content.

Even Tite's game plans seem to have come straight out of the Southgate manual. A four-man defence built for comfort rather than thrills; two mobile yet primarily defensive midfielders, Casemiro and Fred or Fabinho, screening that block; and when holding the ball in their own half, rapid transitions up the field to catch opponents off-guard.

The coach also has no compunction over leaving his most exciting players clicking their heels on the bench, with the likes of Paqueta, Gabigol and Vinicius Junior all starting as substitutes in the quarter-finals, eager for their chance to impress.

Only Neymar and to a lesser extent Richarlison have the liberty to roam; the rest must comply to a rigid structure which at all times prioritises team unity over individual brilliance, but which is equally designed to allow each player to operate as naturally as possible.

Let us clear up any possible confusion, though: this is not a dour, negative Selecao in the mould of Dunga's time on the bench, probably the lowest ebb for the nation in the last 30 years right before Tite took over and turned around their fortunes. Instead, this is simply a team which knows exactly what its coach wants and does not dare stray from that most pragmatic of scripts. Nor should it. 

It is hard to argue with the results this plan has yielded. Having qualified unbeaten for the 2018 World Cup and taken the Copa America title for the first time in 12 years, Tite's men have won all of their six 2022 qualifiers to date and, at this Copa, finished top of Group B with three wins and a draw, scoring 10 times and conceding just twice.

Along the way this past month they have also had to deal with the appalling state of the host pitches, more suited for a lower-league slog than international competition.

Tite had fierce criticisms of the turf at Rio de Janeiro's Estadio Nilton Santos following victory over Chile, as did Richarlison, who fired: “The pitch made it difficult, we are used to playing on carpets.

"But you have to keep the ball on the ground, it's bad for us and it's bad for [the opponent].”

Inevitably, too, their rivals have subjected them to no little rough treatment on the field, conceding 74 fouls against the Selecao in their five Copa outings, an average just shy of 15 infractions per 90 minutes.

Fred Marquinhos Brazil GFX

Despite those difficulties, Brazil do possess one trump card beyond England's capabilities. Neymar has been in sparkling form throughout the Copa, rivalling Argentina wizard Lionel Messi – his potential blockbuster adversary in Saturday's final should the Albiceleste survive their semi-final clash with Colombia - as the player of the tournament so far and contributing two goals and two assists to the team cause.

Having missed out on the 2019 Copa win due to injury, the Paris Saint-Germain star is just as desperate as his old Barcelona team-mate to finally get his hands on the trophy, and he was unlucky to see a virtuoso individual break against Chile denied by Claudio Bravo's fine save to avoid a second goal.

So often accused of being out for himself, moreover, here Neymar is happy to subordinate his own wishes to those of the team – even if that means playing a more defensive game than is custom.

“It's a game of football, you cannot have a smile on your face all the time,” he admitted to reporters on Friday. “Anyone who's played a game knows that, you even argue with your friends, argue over plays.

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“Chile are a great team, it was a great test, but the most important thing is to have taken victory and advanced to the semi-finals... we overcame adversity.”

Despite returning to the cabbage patch of the Nilton Santos on Monday Brazil might expect to play a somewhat more open game against Peru, who have conceded 16 goals in their last four competitive matches against Tite's men and squeezed past Paraguay on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 last-eight tie.

But even if the opponents are there for the taking, do not expect Neymar and Co. to throw everything forward in search of the net. There is still plenty to get excited about, particularly their magical No.10; but just like England, efficiency rather than exhilaration is the key for this ruthless, methodical team.