Tighe's 2014 World Cup Tactics Board: Analysing Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil

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Tighe's 2014 World Cup Tactics Board: Analysing Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Welcome to the latest in a new series where we will take a tactical dive and explore each and every one of the 32 qualified World Cup teams.

Next up is Brazil, who qualified for the tournament automatically by virtue of hosting the 2014 edition. They've had to make do with large amounts of exhibition friendlies, one sub-tournament of note and even a late change of manager.

 

Qualifying/Preparation

The pressure is always on for a host name to win the FIFA World Cup, but when you're the most successful nation in the history of the tournament, that expectation can become crippling.

It's not helped by the fact that the Selecao have had very few competitive games in order to prepare themselves, and that "fear" of failure led to the decision to remove Mano Menezes from his post after an abject 2012 London Olympic Games.

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The tournament was supposed to be a nailed-on victory, with many of the current first-team starts enjoying competitive run-outs in the famous yellow jerseys.

Thiago Silva, Hulk and Marcelo joined a young group containing Lucas Moura, Oscar, Neymar and Rafael; these seven were supposed to provide the spine of a victorious side who would then march onward to Rio in 2014, Instead they were beaten soundly by Mexico in the final at Wembley.

The 2013 Confederations Cup saw Luiz Felipe Scolari installed as manager and, against all odds, he led them to victory by beating Spain 3-0 in the final. It was some performance and the Brazilian public's optimism for glory at the World Cup was finally restored.

It's changed how most are looking at Brazil's chances this summer.

 

Formation and Style

Brazil have essentially shifted away from the 4-3-3 formation favoured by Menezes and adopted Scolari's favourite, flexible 4-2-3-1.

Silva, the world's best central defender, leads a defensive line packed with both defensive and attacking quality, as Marcelo and Dani Alves provide the ammunition from full-back and David Luiz lets fly from the centre.

On paper it's a disastrous line, but in reality Scolari has coached Alves into a far better defensive outlet and his forays forward are limited. Luiz, too, is a different player when donning the Selecao shirt.

Ahead is a physically dominant holding midfield duo that is yet to be determined, though during the Confederations Cup, Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho did a fine job in protection.

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Scolari's favoured No. 10 is Oscar and although the position is usually the fulcrum of the attacking play in a 4-2-3-1, the Chelsea man's hard work, dogged marking and box-to-box nature is the real reason he's picked.

The playmaking instead falls to the nation's golden boy Neymar, operating from the left-hand side as a left-forward opposite Hulk or Lucas Moura. His link-up play with Marcelo is what makes the side tick and his 27 goals in a Selecao shirt have him on course to smash Pele's record of 77.

Up front there are still question marks, though Fred looks very likely to resume his role as the centre-forward. He's not flashy, but he's strong and occupies attention, freeing space for Neymar.

This XI is all about Neymar and Fred is the selfless sort of player who can unlock the Barcelona man's best.

 

Reasons for Hope

Home-field advantage is very real during the FIFA World Cup. South Africa, in 2010, were the first host nation in decades not to qualify for the latter stages; 2002 hosts South Korea topped their group ahead of Portugal, beat Italy and Spain next before being knocked out by Germany in the semifinals.

They were a minnow on the footballing scene back then.

Never has a European team won the World Cup on South American soil, and with Germany looking more ominous than ever before, a climate advantage could be key.

Scolari led Brazil to victory in that same 2002 World Cup, so he's been there and done it before. Amid the fervour and expectation surrounding the team this summer, his calming influence could well be a godsend.

His tactics, too, are perfectly crafted for the modern game; he's selected a formation many of his players play at club level, and the system he employs enhances all of his players' strengths, playing on their star quality.

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The Selecao look set to be one of, if not the most tactically flexible sides entering the competition, and Felipao's willingness to chop and change gameplans whilst retaining the same shape becomes a big plus.

Much of Brazil's gameplan has been derived from Bayern Munich's dominance under Jupp Heynckes.

For example, Scolari used Luiz's comfort on the ball to avoid Spain's pressing during the 2013 Confederations Cup final, sliding him left to confuse Pedro in pursuit. This mimicked Bayern's use of Manuel Neuer for the same reason.

He also used Oscar as a "suffoco," pinning Sergio Busquets back and hounding him out of possession, both creating dangerous turnovers and preventing most central attacks. Shades of Thomas Mueller.

But in spite of all this, it is often one man who rises to the occasion in events such as these and carries his side toward glory.

If Brazil hope to beat off the challenge of Lionel Messi's Argentina, Neymar must step forward and grasp the chance to become a global icon with both hands.

 

Reasons for Concern

In reality, there are few issues for Scolari to fix.

The Confederations Cup was a perfect sounding board for how well-prepared his team are and the fact that they won the tournament so convincingly is very encouraging.

Creativity from deep in midfield was a serious issue up until the final, though, with almost every attack coming down the left, via Marcelo and Neymar, or straight from David Luiz up to Fred's head.

Gustavo is a pure anchor and in no way creative, while Paulinho is more comfortable breaking forward with the ball at his feet or arriving late in the box for a shot. The alternatives Scolari has been assessing, namely Lucas Leiva of Liverpool, do not address the problem.

The full-back balance is better than many believe, the depth in every area is great and they have, in their possession, a world-class game winner. What's not to love?

Prediction: winners of the 2014 FIFA World Cup

 

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