Brazil's Tactical Changes Under Luiz Felipe Scolari in World Cup Preparation

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportNovember 21, 2013

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 19:  Head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari of Brazil looks on before the match against Chile during a friendly match at Rogers Centre on November 19, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Brazil have undoubtedly taken an upturn in fortunes under Luiz Felipe Scolari. When he arrived back in the post, his brief was very simple: Win the 2014 World Cup.

But it is not only the results that have changed. It is the setup of the team. When Mano Menezes was appointed head coach of the national team back in August 2010, he was charged with a complete overhaul of the side.

There was a general feeling that the team were going backwards under Dunga. Despite winning the 2007 Copa America, the 2009 Confederations Cup and breezing through World Cup qualification, the side was primarily based on strapping powerful players.

It was a far cry from arguably the world's most famous team, Brazil's 1970 World Cup-winning XI, and a blueprint for every coach ever since.

Menezes adopted a freer, less rigid style of play based around a floating four in attack. He was beginning to see his hard work pay off before being dismissed in November last year, despite leading Brazil to the final of the 2012 Olympic Games.

In stepped Scolari, and the side's shape changed again. Felipao initially opted for the in-trend 4-2-3-1. Whilst his teams still begin games in that shape, the flexibility installed by Menezes allows the players to switch to a 4-3-3 if and when the occasion calls.

There was a feeling the national team was going backwards under Dunga
There was a feeling the national team was going backwards under DungaTullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Since their Confederations Cup success in June, the team's dynamic has added a newfound confidence to their play—a belief that they will score when they go out onto the pitch.

Their last two friendlies against Honduras and Chile were a testament to the fact that under Scolari, a coach typically looked upon as defensively minded, Brazil are looking to score from the off.

Confidence was flowing through the team as they dismantled Honduras. Bernard opened the scoring midway through the first half, and they never looked back.

Mano Menezes took over as Brazil coach in August 2010 charged with overhauling the team and style of play
Mano Menezes took over as Brazil coach in August 2010 charged with overhauling the team and style of playJeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Against Chile, the approach had to be different. The Chileans are one of the most entertaining sides in world football, and Brazil needed to be alert to the threat they pose on the counter. Staring fear in the face, they continued to play a high defensive line, buoyed by the capabilities of Thiago Silva and David Luiz.

But the key to Scolari and Brazil's excellent recent form of 12 wins in 13 games lies in the midfield. Whilst Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho begin in holding midfield berths, the former is happy to sit and mop up in defence, allowing his partner to make lung-bursting runs forward to aid the attack.

Hulk and Neymar, deployed out wide on the flanks, can subsequently drop back or surge forward, meaning Brazil can change to either a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 at the drop of a hat.

Hulk and Neymar can push forward or drop back as the game dictates
Hulk and Neymar can push forward or drop back as the game dictatesLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When Brazil need to threaten, Oscar, now being used as a traditional No. 10, can join the attack as a second striker.

Provided he can develop an understanding with Fred and Jo, the two battling to spearhead the Selecao at the World Cup next year, Brazil can have their most potent attack since the three R's of 2002: Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.

Menezes instigated the change in the the way Brazil played. Admittedly, if the Brazilian Football Confederation, the CBF, didn't have itchy fingers, he may have managed a complete turnaround.

But there remains a nationwide belief in Big Phil, the man who was the last to lead Brazil to the World Cup title in 2002.

Now Scolari, assisted by Carlos Alberto Parreira, has continued the good work commenced by Menezes. What Felipao's principal achievement has been is to advance the thinking of his predecessor.

Should Brazil lift the Cup on July 13, history books will show Scolari's exceptional record of two World Cup wins as coach. But Mano Menezes' contribution to the side's newfound freedom should not go unnoticed.