Reckless Brazil: 3-0 Victory Over Fatigued Japan Masks Consistent Issues

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Reckless Brazil: 3-0 Victory Over Fatigued Japan Masks Consistent Issues
Clive Rose/Getty Images

You could cut the tension with a knife inside the Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, on the opening night of the Confederations Cup.

Brazil kicked off the tournament on Saturday against Japan, and the game held paramount importance given their shocking form leading up to the tournament.

With the FIFA World Cup less than one year away on home soil, Luiz Felipe Scolari's charges are under pressure: This tournament represents the perfect chance to hone the craft and become competitive, as anything less than a win next year will be seen as a failure.

After the disastrous Mano Menezes reign, Felipao had been afforded a little slack from the public in his opening contests. Results, though, have been consistently bad and have done very little to win the confidence of the public.

Small amounts of tactical progress have been made, but Felipao is far from shedding his critics. Here, we take a look at some glaring issues that still haunt the side following their win against Japan.

 

Aggressive Full-Backs

Many sounded out their concerns about Brazil's set of full-backs leading up the tournament.

Dani Alves and Marcelo, the starting duo, are so offensively minded it's ridiculous, and that leads to gaping holes as the side goes forward.

The general rule is that when one goes forward, the other stays. It brings a little balance to the side, as you retain three at the back and a holding midfielder can drop in to make it a four.

What formation do you call that?

But both Alves and Marcelo go forward with regularity, and while that does allow them to create turnovers higher up the pitch, it leaves them rather susceptible to swift counterattacks.

A side better acclimated than Japan, or one whose key players were in the correct positions, could have seriously hurt the Selecao here.

Even with Luiz Gustavo dropping in, they were left three versus three or even three versus four—that's not a ratio you want to carry forward into a game against the likes of Italy or Spain.

 

Useless Holding Pivot

Who plays in central midfield for Brazil has been a hot topic of discussion over the past six months.

Menezes was hounded out by the fans, and one of the chief reasons for their discontent was his ignoring of Hernanes, Lazio's stellar, explosive box-to-box threat.

Scolari has continued that unfortunate trend, and the combination of Paulinho and Gustavo does not look good. Individually, and in the correct systems, they're excellent; but together, in this system, they don't fit.

Paulinho is a surger, and at Corinthians he plays a more expansive role. Gustavo is happy to sit, and because of his full-back's rash tendencies, he sits deeper than ever.

With Marcelo and Alves miles forward, Paulinho running around behind Fred and—at times—two dedicated forwards, this is a creaky, poorly constructed formation for long periods.

What's more, in possession, the holding pivot does very little.

Brazil's buildup was stagnant and slow throughout Saturday's match, and that was largely due to the lack of options in the centre. Full-backs were playing long diagonals to Fred because there was no other choice.

 

Being Harsh?

Brazil won 3-0. Read this analysis without knowing the score, and you'd think Japan caused the mightiest of upsets.

The problem for Scolari—and it's something he knows he has to get used to—is the immensely high expectations the Selecao carry. The win was clear-cut, but the performance was lacklustre.

Had Japan not been fatigued or conceded to the early rhythm of the game in which Brazil dominated tempo and possession, this could have been a frighteningly different match.

The selection of Hulk will baffle, the resulting absence of Lucas Moura will infuriate.

Can Scolari continue with both Alves and Marcelo against top-tier sides?

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