Key Selection Dilemmas Facing Brazil in World Cup Clash with Mexico
Brazil play their second fixture of the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Mexico in Fortaleza on Tuesday and Luiz Felipe Scolari has decisions to make.
While the selecao were ultimately comfortable 3-1 winners against Croatia last week, they rode their luck en route to success against a side whose prowess on the counter-attack worried them for much of the first half.
Scolari will now expect better second time out, having lessened the initial pressure to perform with three points to their name, but he must now decide if tactical alterations are needed.
Where, then, will the former Chelsea and Palmeiras boss be looking at changing things?
How to Deal with Hulk's Absence
Having suffered a muscle strain in recent days, Zenit forward Hulk is set to miss Brazil's clash with Mexico this Tuesday handing Scolari a selection decision to make.
The Brazil coach appears to have opted in favour of Ramires as his replacement which, initially, would appear to be a somewhat cautious switch by the selecao.
However, Ramires' presence could allow a tactical switch that allows Brazil to exploit weaknesses in the Mexican side at wing-back. In that case, it may not be as pragmatic a choice as many believe.
4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1?
With Ramires set to come into the side in place of Hulk, Scolari will likely be forced to move away from the 4-4-2 system that served Brazil well against Croatia on Thursday. Almost certainly, that will mean reverting to the 4-2-3-1 setup that has been the side's default for the past 18 months.
If that is the case, Ramires will occupy a central berth and will be tasked with leading Brazil in their high pressing game. Oscar will continue from the right while Neymar will move back to the left flank.
With Mexico set to employ a 3-5-2 setup, Brazil could find that they are able to exploit space behind the two wing-backs who impressed so much as an attacking force against Cameroon.
Ramires' presence should, in theory, allow both Neymar and Oscar to seek to exploit any such gaps without concern as to defensive responsibilities.
Marking Giovani Dos Santos
So often over recent years, Giovani has been the key to Mexican hopes of success and against Cameroon, he showed that his importance remains undiminished.
Had it not been for terrible officiating, he would have ended the clash with two goals to his name that were wrongly disallowed for offside, while later on he set up Oribe Peralta for the only strike of the clash.
If Brazil can stop Giovani, they greatly limit Mexico as an attacking threat.
Preventing him from influencing a game, though, is difficult as he drops between midfield and forward lines into pockets of space. Brazil must establish whether it will be the central defenders' or Luiz Gustavo's responsibility to pick him up in those areas.
It will be something Brazil will have worked on over the past few days.
How and When to Utilise Willian
With Hulk set to be absent against Mexico, it is somewhat of a surprise that Scolari appears to have opted against using Willian as a direct replacement on the right flank.
On recent outings with the national side, the Chelsea man has continually impressed and is the closest thing the Brazil squad possesses to a natural winger in their ranks.
Willian therefore offers Scolari an interesting alternative, especially with Mexico potentially susceptible to overloads on the flank and will be in his coach's mind for a possible second-half introduction.
On recent evidence, he can play a major role for Brazil as they push for World Cup glory this summer.
Should Rotation Be a Concern?
If Brazil are to achieve their aim of winning the World Cup, they will need to navigate their way through seven matches in the space of around four weeks. It will be tiring for the squad and, as other countries have already discovered, injuries are a distinct possibility.
Having got their group-stage campaign off to a bright start, then, squad rotation will now be beginning to creep into Scolari's mind ahead of the side's next two games. While earning success against Mexico is the top priority, it will be no surprise to see early second-half changes if victory appears to be forthcoming.
Scolari is fortunately not short of options and the likes of Fernandinho, Maicon and Maxwell are among those who he may consider worthy of game time on the night.
While he cannot predict the outcome of the game, there can be no doubt that he will already be thinking through possible substitutions should he have the chance to rest players late in the game.
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