Tag Archives: Brazil

Brazil: Where did it all go wrong? -A breakdown of their defensive errors.

There were many factors that contributed to Germany’s drubbing of Brazil on 8th July 2014, a date that will live long in the memory of any Brazilian, German and many football fans Worldwide. There is never one sole reason for any defeat or victory in football and this was the case in this particular match that shocked football. Many people will see Neymar’s absence due to a back injury as key. This is true to an extent as he is such an important player for Brazil scoring four of the ten goals Brazil had scored before a high knee in the back by Colombian Juan Zuniga ruled him out of the tournament. Neymar Jr. is a key player for Brazil however I don’t think he would have done much about the seven goals that Brazil conceded even if he was on the pitch. I would argue that the absence of Thiago Silva was much more significant. As well as the fantastic defender that he is, probably the World’s best, he is their captain, the embodiment of Scolari on the field of play, the only man in that back line with any defensive capacity or discipline. Silva is the one that tells Luiz to pull tighter in or tells the full-backs how far to push up. Without him it was clear to see that Brazil were a defensive headless chickens ready to be devoured by the quick, strong, ruthless German foxes. As this match was Alan Hansen’s penultimate in his career as a football pundit on the BBC I will do a Hansen-like breakdown of each of the seven German goals to emphasise just how disorganised Brazil were at the back and how individual mistakes compounded to create a collective mess.


Goal One of Seven

A corner. Corners are a great leveler in football. No matter whether it’s at a Sunday League match at a local park or in a World Cup Semi-Final in front of nearly sixty-thousand people at the Estadio Mineirao and umpteen million watching Worldwide. You could maybe excuse Brazil if it was a header from a 6’6″Per Mertesacker (who wasn’t on the field at the time) however at no level is it acceptable for a man to be in about 5 yards of space in the middle of the box with the ball falling at his feet.1...

(Highlights: http://www.tsmplug.com/football/brazil-vs-germany-live-stream/)

Above is the perfect example of the negatives of man-to-man marking at set pieces. Luiz is clearly supposed to be marking Muller and firstly, isn’t tight enough to him. The whole of the German contingent inside the area run to the near post while Muller makes a diagonal run far-post which causes Luiz to be confused and blocked off. The ball is perfectly floated onto Muller’s feet where he puts it past Cesar to put Germany one up.

Goal Two of Seven

If you thought the last goal was amateur to concede, you’ll be appalled by this one. Firstly, as shown below, the ball is played back to Muller and the Brazil line pushes up. Apart from Marcelo, circled in red.


Below, out of picture, Klose pushes Dante and Luiz back onto the line of Marcelo. This is the point where Silva would be shouting at his defenders to push up but this deep defence, means Fernandinho in midfield is forced to sit deep which leaves a totally unmarked Kroos (red circle). Fernandinho tries to intercept Muller’s pass (black line) to Kroos but fails which leaves Kroos a massive amount of space to run into.


More errors to come as the Brazil line finally steps up, apart from guess who? Marcelo (circled red). This is a classic example of the ‘ballwatching’ which most defenders learn to stamp out of their game by the age of eleven or twelve. Next, in blue we can see Gustavo (blue circle) making a dog’s dinner(I apologise if any of my British Clichés are lost in translation) of tracking Muller, who Kroos slides a ball to in between Brazil’s centre-backs. This should simply never happen. This is made possible by Dante finding himself in no-man’s land as he starts to close down Kroos, but decides against this so all he really does is basically vacate his man, Ozil. (Can I also apologise for not using Umlauts and accents where I should as I don’t have a keyboard to facilitate this). This causes Luiz to vacate Klose to mark Ozil which means Luiz doesn’t know where Klose is. It is now effectively Maicon’s job to mark Klose which he doesn’t do which means he is free for Muller to pass to and score to become the World Cup’s all-time leading goalscorer.


Goal Three of Seven

The danger of conceding two early goals in such an important game is that it’s probably just the start. There first twenty-five minutes of Liverpool-Arsenal at Anfield in the 2013/14 season comes to mind. The more you go down, the higher your full-backs push up, the more midfielders you commit higher up the field, and the lower the tendency for the forwards to track back. The correct thing to do in these circumstances is probably to slow down the game, stifle the opposition, and try to launch a comeback in the second half after a passionate half-time team talk before it is too late. Brazil didn’t do this. This caused them to concede a staggering four goals from the twenty-third to the twenty-ninth minute.

Below, we see Hulk (red circle) completely avoiding his defensive responsibilities by failing to track Lahm and instead just holding his position and waving a half-hearted finger at Marcelo to tell him to mark Lahm. We also see Muller in the vast space between Brazil’s midfield and defence. 3a

Below, Fernandinho (red) finally realises that it might be a good idea to pick up Muller and makes a measly effort of doing so. This causes Kroos to be unmarked at the back post where he fires home after Muller fails to make contact with Lahm’s cross. In the image, notice how ever Brazilian player is looking at the ball and has no awareness whatsoever for Toni Kroos( blue run).


Goal Four of Seven

At this point the game was pretty much lost so it’s pointless analysing anything. But I will anyway as there is a bucket load of mistakes to get through.

Below, Dante plays a slow, lazy ball to Fernandinho who has his back to goal. This makes it easy to apply pressure and win the ball, which is what Toni Kroos, having put the ball in the net about forty-five seconds previously did. Notice how, with the ball and they did this throughout the whole match, Brazil opted a 3-4-3 shape with the full backs pushing on to be wide midfielders and Gustavo dropping back. Normally, the holding midfielder drops back between the centre-backs however here, Gustavo is to the left of the three which is strange. When building out from the back in a 3-4-3, the CCB, Dante has to be deep like a sweeper to make a diamond to increase passing options, here isn’t deep enough here. Also, they need to use a goalkeeper who can pass it comfortably, I wouldn’t put Cesar into this category. It is also vital that you use aggressive pressing when using a 3-4-3 because of the three men on the front line, so one short pass can take these three men out of the game. It is fair to say that this particular building from the back system didn’t work. After Fernandinho loses the ball, Dante’s efforts are comical as he doesn’t know where to run or who to close down. *Cue images of small Brazilian children in tears*


Goal Five of Seven

When Mats Hummels picks the ball up where he does in the image below, what do you think he does? Makes a short pass wide? A long, hopeful ball up top? Get’s put under pressure and plays it back to Neuer? No. He is somehow allowed to dribble with the ball thirty or thirty five yards without even being tackled.The second image shows a heavy touch that causes two Brazilians to attempt to win the ball (one of which is Luiz who leaves his position to leave the space for Khedira, Klose and Ozil to overload Dante and Maicon 3v2) but he manages to scramble it to Khedira.  This means Mats Hummels effectively beat five players and made an important pass to Khedira who played a one-two with Ozil to make it five. In the second image below just look at Marcelo (circled red), again.




Goal Six of Seven

The biggest mystery of this match is probably how on earth Brazil managed to go forty minutes without conceding a goal in the period between the fifth and sixth goals. Brazil actually had some positive spells at the start of the second half when the game was already lost and somehow had more shots, and shots on target than Germany. Seven goals from fourteen shots and twelve on target from Germany shows their ruthlessness and quality in finishing compared to Brazil who scored only one goals from eighteen shots, with thirteen on target. Despite this short period of dominance, the Germans soon put them well in their place with Andre Schurrle adding the sixth in the sixty-ninth minute.  Here, Brazil lose a challenge on their left-hand side, which causes a two vs one, Khedira and Lahm vs Oscar. Khedira slides it to Lahm, who finds a totally unmarked Schurrle who shows the sort of clever movement that you would never see from Fred as he pulls back to give him space to receive the pass and shoot. Just look at the space in the middle of the penalty area.



Goal Seven of Seven

This is the only German goal where you could actually put it down to great individual skill over a defensive error. It was almost fitting that such a fantastic finish topped off probably the most remarkable football match in history. Was there still amateur defending in the lead up to the goal? Of course there was. Was it Luiz losing focus in the later stages of a match? You guessed it. Below we see Luiz slowly jogging towards Schurrle who is obviously in a dangerous position and Luiz (red) only starts sprinting when the ball reaches Schurrle’s feet. At this point, it was too late.




Seven-one. This result was an accumulation of a team who have underperformed since their win over Portugal in their first match finally reaching the heights, and more of that first performance. A team at the very top of it’s game who have worked with this generation for years with Ozil winning man of the match in the final and Khedira captaining the German U21 side that won the 2009 European Championship. And a team that showed how far behind Brazil (and most certainly Scolari) is behind Europe in terms of tactical knowledge, defensive discipline and how this generation wouldn’t really be worthy of going down in the record books with the Brazilian sides of ’58, ’62, ’70, ’94 ’02 and go one further than the great 1982 team. As well as a victory for Germany it was a victory for football as we can truly say, if Germany win the tournament, that the winners of the 2014 World Cup deserved it.




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World Cup 2014: Who’ll win the Golden Boot/Shoe?

The Golden Boot (or Golden Shoe as it is officially known, presumably to cater for U.S. audiences) in the World Cup is probably the second most prestigious individual award in football, second to the Ballon D’or. It’s the award for the top scorer  and this year I expect it to be as highly contested as ever with the obvious contenders of Messi, Neymar etc. but also maybe some surprises. Here, I will take you through what it takes to win the Golden Boot and who has the best chance of doing so. I apologise for this not being thoroughly tactical however I hope it is still interesting.



How to pick the winner of the award.

Who will get far?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the more games a player plays, the higher the chance of scoring more overall goals. Therefore, you need to look out for players that play for teams that will get far in the competition. For me, Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany will be the semi-finalists so a player from one of those countries to claim the golden boot award is likely. Bosnia & Herzogovina have a proven goal poacher in Edin Dzeko but the best they can hope for is 2nd place behind Argentina in group F which would lead them to a probably exit against France in the last 16. Therefore, it is imperative that your choice for Golden Boot winner plays in a decent side as (at least one in event of a tie) every Golden Boot winner apart from one has been from a team that finished in the top four(the only one where this wasn’t the case was, you guessed it, English… Gary Lineker in 1986).


What sides score lots of goals?

If a team scores lots of goals, the law of averages suggests that one player in that team will end up with a significant amount himself. From Europe, the nations that scored most goals in qualifying were Germany (36) the Netherlands (34) . In South America, Argentina finished with the most goals (35 but from 16 games a opposed to 10 in Europe). From North+Central America, Costa Rica topped the charts with 27 from 16 games, from Asia, Japan averaged 2 per match at 16 goals from 8 and Algeria matched this from Africa with the same record. Therefore, Islam Slimani , Joel Campbell and the like, might be better bets than you may have first thought.

The least prolific sides in Europe were Greece and Croatia, both with 12 goals from 10 games. This isn’t a surprise from Greece who are famous for their dogged, defensive style most famously winning Euro 2004 with a re-birth of a Catenaccio-type system with a Libero (Sweeper). It is more of a surprise that Croatia with their superb creative midfield trio of Modric, Rakitic and Kranjcar, Bayern Munich forward Mandzukic and attacking full-back Srna scored so little goals. This could be because weaker teams feel threatened by them so sit back but i’m not 100% sure on this and would like anyone with any suggestions as to why this could be to comment. Ecuador scored the least of the South American sides with 20 from 16 games but this is fairly good compared to Mexico, who had the worst goalscoring record in the final qualifying phase with only 7 from 10 matches in a very poor Concacaf qualifying zone. I don’t think Javier Hernandez will repeat his performance from for years ago with two goals and top performances that earned him a move to Manchester United.


How will goals be spread out over a team?

Many people are backing Lionel Messi to stake his claim on being the best player ever with a fantastic performance in this world cup, probably picking up the golden boot along the way. I would be a fool to argue against this happening however it is important to recognise Argentina are a lot more than just a one man team. Say Argentina go all the way to the final (therefore playing 7 matches) and match their qualifying average of around 2.2 goals per game. This will mean they score 16 goals in the tournament. With other talented forwards such as Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain starting alongside Messi as well as other attacking talents such as Angel Di Maria, Ezequeil Lavezzi and Pablo Zabaleta bombing forward from right back, it is unlikely Messi will even get a third of these 16 goals. If Messi achieves a third, around 5 goals, this would only be enough to achieve the Golden Boot outright in 1 of the 19 World Cups to date, 5 has been enough for the golden boot on three occasions. Despite this, two of the three world cups where the Golden Boot winner has scored 5 goals have been the most recent two World Cups. This idea could also be argued with Neymar and the other goalscoring influences in the Brazil team such as Fred, Hulk and Oscar. I would say this is less relevant with Neymar and Brazil however as Neymar has scored 30 Brazil goals since the last World Cup , second on the list is Fred with only twelve. Also, it is unlikely a Spanish player will win the Golden Boot. Since the last World Cup, David Villa is Spain’s top scorer with 14 but he is closely followed by Pedro with 13 (who scores so many by taking advantage of space created by a false 9, normally Fabregas), David Silva with 13 and Fernando Torres with 12. The best place to put your money on this front is probably Cristiano Ronaldo who carries Portugal to a greater extent than any other player with any other team at this World Cup.  Their only other goalscoring option is Helder Postiga but he has suffered a very poor season with only 3 goals in 20 games (3 in 15 for Valencia before going on loan to Lazio where he scored 0 from 5).



Does it even have to be a Striker?

You could argue that a lot of the contenders for the golden boot aren’t even out-and-out strikers. Probably the three biggest contenders; Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar, will all be playing on either the left (Neymar and Ronaldo) or the right (Messi) of a front three. Here, they are expected to score many goals cutting in and shooting from distance, finding the halfspace between the centre-back and the full back, and arriving at the back post to slot in. At the last world cup, Thomas Muller won the award with 5 goals predominantly playing at right wing in a 4-2-3-1. Wesley Sneijder  matched his 5 goals for Holland playing behind the Striker in a 4-2-3-1.  Yaya Toure scored an incredible amount of goals this season for Manchester City however I find it unlikely that any midfield player will replicate this in the World Cup as international football is played at a slower pace than the Premier League and the heat(and humidity in equatorial regions) will compound to this to slow the game further. Also, with 4-2-3-1 very likely to be the most frequently used formation at the World Cup, the two holding midfielders in this system (if they are disciplined) make it difficult for central midfielders to shoot from the edge of the 18-yard area. It’s more than likely the Golden Boot winner will be a player from a front 1,2 or 3, not midfield.


I have already briefly mentioned that conditions could play a part in determining what type of player thrives in the tournament. Temperatures will reach up to 26 degrees celsius (79F) in Rio, and will be slightly higher the further north you go. My English readers will also know (as it has been drummed into our ears since the draw was announced in December) that in Manaus as well as other northerly regions such as Fortazela, Natal and Recife, humidity will be a big factor and quarterly drinks breaks will have to be taken. This means player’s energy is soaked up so the game loses it’s pace. In the Brazilian league in the 2013 season, the top three scorers were Ederson, Dinei and Gilberto who notched up 58 goals between them. None of these forwards are particularly pacy and don’t really rely on quick acceleration to get in behind the opposition defence to score goals. This means that players such as Fred, Lukaku and Giroud could benefit as crossing may become a big factor when defences drop off as it was in the first match between Brazil and Croatia where these types of strikers can use their physical presence to score headers, poach a goal from a loose ball, or drop into the midfield to try to play one-twos. There were 45 crosses in the opening match and 47 in the second match between Mexico and Cameroon. The conditions could also suit sides with a short passing game (you know who) as opposed to a dynamic, counter-attacking game like Germany used so effectively at the last world cup. Diego Costa plays for a side that suit the conditions and also has that physical presence which may prove vital in around the 6 yard area. The conditions certainly benefits Costa’s chances of winning the award. Despite this, in 4 South American World Cups, no European has been top scorer outright.


The ratings

Here, I took the bookies’ top 20 favourites for the Golden Boot and rated their chances on several categories, including the ones I have mentioned above. I based the ‘Form’ category on the whole of the 2013/14 season. ‘How Far Will Their Team Go?’  is scored according to the round they will finish in, with 5 being the Final, 4 being the Semis and so on. Here are the results:

golden boot


So, Neymar (already with two goals), and Cristiano Ronaldo topped the charts. This is due to Neymar being in a great side, in his home conditions as well as his natural goalscoring flair. Cristiano Ronaldo is up there because of his sensational form this season, probably his best yet, in which he won the Ballon D’or, Copa Del Rey and Champions League. Also, Portugal’s reliance on him means he will score maybe more than 2/3 of their goals. Diego Costa finished high, also because of his form this season. Sturridge and Dzeko scored highly which was surprising but Sturridge is certainly England’s most in-form play this season and Dzeko’s excellent last few months of the season for City along with his vital role in the Bosnia team meant he did so well.

Lower than expected is last tournament’s top scorer Thomas Muller, who is unlikely to repeat his exploits from four years ago. Also, Cavani isn’t very high despite being a top striker. This is largely due to it being unlikely that Uruguay will get far in the competition, they may not even qualify from the very tough group D where they will face Italy, England and Costa Rica.

The Verdict: Neymar for me. It’s his year. 33 Goals in 50 games is an incredible international record and I expect Brazil to win the tournament, so he is the obvious choice. The dark horse for the award could be Alexis Sanchez who scored 19 in 27 in the season just gone for Barcelona, has already scored one in the tournament, and Chile could actually finish above Spain to qualify for the knockout stages.


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