Cameroon vs. Brazil: Scolari Restores Midfield Balance to Help Neymar Prosper

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Cameroon vs. Brazil: Scolari Restores Midfield Balance to Help Neymar Prosper
AP Images

Brazil secured top spot in the FIFA World Cup 2014 Group A on Monday evening with a 4-1 win over Cameroon.

Neymar opened the scoring with a sumptuous side-foot finish, but Joel Matip leveled in the second phase of a set piece. The Barcelona man then fired home again before half-time, and Fred added to the score before the hour mark.

Fernandinho iced the cake by finishing a nice team move late on.

 

Formations and XI

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Brazil lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation by restoring Hulk to the lineup at the expense of Ramires.

Cameroon drafted Allan Nyom, Henri Bedimo and Landry N'Guemo into their 4-3-3 formation but continued with Vincent Aboubakar up front.

 

Brazil's Balance

Straight from kick-off, Brazil looked like the balanced, threatening outfit we've been yearning for all tournament long.

It comes as no coincidence that the moment the Selecao appeared to "arrive" was in the game Luiz Felipe Scolari stopped unnecessarily tampering with his team, employing the exact midfield setup he used to win the Confederations Cup in 2013.

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Brazil's balanced attack.

Neymar on the left, drifting into space and dropping in to receive balls and run; Oscar central, providing drive, occupying markers and linking play; Hulk on the right, stretching play and providing an outlet for the ball.

Balance.

Within a minute, Hulk had drawn a foul on the right after a diagonal pass found him, and Allan Nyom had pushed Neymar into the photographers in frustration.

 

High, Incompetent Line

Cameroon's defensive line has been a bit of a laughing stock throughout the tournament, and it was no better in this game. At times it felt like four strangers had been told to stand next to each other and work it out from there.

Brazil began manipulating the line immediately, testing their confidence with a number of early balls over the top and into the air. More times than not, the Selecao came away with possession high up the pitch.

Cameroon also matched all of Neymar, Oscar, Hulk and Fred with the four players on their defensive line and chose to either drop into space (the midfield pressed high and left gaps) or draw the line forward and then spin in behind.

 

Working the Left

Cameroon's approach was to win as many set-pieces as possible and then use their size/physique advantage in the penalty box.

They focused most of their attacks down the left side, slipping into the space behind Dani Alves and using a combination of Aboubakar and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to work openings and pick out runs.

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Cameroon passing down the left.

Against Croatia, Aboubakar teamed up with Benjamin Moukandjo on the right to put pressure on Danijel Pranjic, and it's clear Volker Finke believed he could have the same joy using a similar method.

They also pressed well in all thirds, forcing mistakes in possession by Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Neymar and more to create snap-shot chances.

 

Conclusion

If there was one damp spot in Brazil's performance, it was Paulinho.

The Tottenham Hotspur man completed yet another awful 45 minutes in which he seemed to make all the wrong choices on the ball despite engineering great positions with purposeful dribbles.

Bar one low cross to Fred in the first half, he was a complete liability. At the break, Scolari brought Fernandinho on for him, with the air of expectation surrounding the change finally coming to fruition.

Aside from that, the major talking point has to be why Felipao decided to mess with the advanced midfield line in the first two games.

After playing Neymar on the left for years and watching him clamped by Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the first game when he moved him central, why did he persevere with it against Mexico?

 


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