Brazil vs. Russia: Hernanes, Hulk and Oscar on Form for Disappointing Selecao
Brazil may have earned themselves a 1-1 draw with Russia at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, but they would not have felt like celebrating.
Fred's last-minute equaliser aside, there was a lot of effort expended for very little in the way of demonstrable success for Luiz Felipe Scolari's side at Stamford Bridge.
They were not totally outplayed by Russia, that would be misleading. They were, though, second-best when it came to looking threatening when in possession of the ball. For all the talent on show, it was a very disjointed effort.
Russia are a very good side and, coming into the game, a 1-1 draw would have been viewed as a decent result by pragmatic observers. Brazil, though, are looking for long-term strategy and planning, rather than immediate results, and there was little to garner in that respect.
Scolari and his side opted to continue with the 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 system that had been trialled against Italy to some success last Thursday evening.
Thiago Silva and Marcelo returned to the defence as expected, while Kaka was employed on the left of the midfield in place of the disappointing Hulk as Scolari sought to shuffle his pack.
The fixture with Italy had been the clichéd tale of two halves. A wonderful opening 45 minutes of counter-attacking football had the Selecao 2-0 up at half-time, before conceding their advantage following the interval. Monday's matchup failed to meet those standards.
Having spent much of the build up to the clash focusing on the cold weather that London is currently experiencing, Brazil were understandably slow out the blocks. While they would redress their slow start soon enough, they would do so without ever really threatening the Russian goal.
There were positives for Scolari. Once more, the midfield duo of Fernando and Hernanes proved that they can be trusted if needed in coming competitive challenges.
Lazio's Hernanes was arguably Brazil's best player at Stamford Bridge, rendering his lengthy absence from the national team setup ever more incomprehensible. Fernando alongside him, just 21, surely has a long-term future with the national side also, following two composed displays against excellent opposition.
Playing with a 4-4-2-style system, though, requires the use of wide players and it was Kaka and Oscar who filled those roles on this occasion.
While the Chelsea man continued his fine international form on the right, it was a very different story from his elder colleague on the other side. Question marks remain over the suitability of the former World Player of the Year's inclusion whilst he does not regularly make his own club side.
Kaka's lethargy will be a worry for Scolari and the immediate impact of substitute Hulk provided a sharp contrast to his lacklustre display. The Zenit man was heavily criticised after his showing against Italy but, in just half an hour, has played himself back into the national team plans.
We are just three games into Brazil's brave new era, but there are already as many questions being posed as answers being presented.
With fixtures against Bolivia and Chile upcoming in April, we must now wait until June and the eve of the Confederations Cup before we will see any further developments.
Scolari has a tough task on his hands, he will have known that when he took the job and recent fixtures will not have altered those thoughts. Defensively, Brazil were a mess at times and the Confederations Cup will be a wake-up call should they continue in the same manner.
There have been positives, as mentioned, while the return of Paris Saint-Germain's Lucas Moura will provide more options on the flanks and in attack. If a system can be found to maximise the talents of Hernanes, Oscar and Neymar, then Brazil can achieve more in 2014 than most currently consider likely.
That will be the key for the Brazil hierarchy. There is plenty of talent in the Brazilian game, that is clear, but there is a lack of balance and consistency in the national team setup.
It is an unenviable task for Felipão in the coming months, but one that he will no doubt relish in what is likely to be his final managerial role.
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