Brazil vs. Chile 2014: Lingering Questions Ahead of Massive World Cup Clash

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Brazil vs. Chile 2014: Lingering Questions Ahead of Massive World Cup Clash
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Brazil vs. Chile—good luck finding a better fixture in the 2014 World Cup round of 16.

Many picked the hosts as the favorites to win the whole thing, while their South American counterparts were the trendy choice to make a deep run and knock out one of the established European sides in Group B.

On one hand, it's a bit unfortunate that Brazil and Chile have to meet this early. On the other, who's going to complain about a match that will have an incredible atmosphere and compelling tactical battle?

Heading into Saturday's huge match, these are three of the biggest questions.


How Does Luiz Felipe Scolari Solve the Fred Problem?

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One of the weak links in the Brazil side is up top. Fred played really well at the Confederations Cup, but there's no getting around the fact that his level of performance has dipped during the World Cup.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power was decidedly harsh with its criticism of the Fluminense striker:

Alan Shearer said similar things to ESPN FC:

I just don't understand why Brazil are still picking him. He doesn't move, he doesn't shoot and he's dragging the team down. I don't know if Brazil should change the system or play Neymar as a false nine, but the fact is that Fred is not the answer for what they are doing now.

Fred did finally find the back of the net with the third goal against a Cameroon side that was already mentally gone in Brazil's final group game. However, most of the criticism about his performances against Mexico and Croatia remains.

What Luiz Felipe Scolari should and will likely do is return to the 4-2-3-1 formation he used against Cameroon and for much of the Confederations Cup.

Neymar is much better playing down the left with Oscar through the center. Fred also links up much better with the Barcelona forward when he's cutting inside rather than running up the middle.

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The problem there is that Chile has a lot of speed down the wings. With Neymar and Marcelo down the left, Scolari will have two players who aren't all that interested in tracking back.

In addition, if the Chilean defense doesn't consider Fred a threat, it can focus more of its attention on shutting down the supply lines between Neymar and Oscar.

Fred's pretty much undroppable at this point because Scolari didn't take another replacement to the World Cup. He's gotta make the most of what he's got, but that might not be good enough to take out Chile.


How Healthy is Arturo Vidal?

Bruno Magalhaes/Associated Press

No player is more important to Chile than Arturo Vidal. Since his knee surgery in May, he hasn't been the same all-conquering player he was earlier in the year with Juventus.

Vidal was left off the pitch for Chile's 2-0 loss to Netherlands, but he confirmed that he'll be there to take on Brazil.

"I'll play the round of 16 match on Saturday," he said, per FIFA.com. "I wouldn't miss it for the world. Brazil has often been Chile's nemesis but football changes, new generations come and new players appear."

Having the extra few days off should be a help to Vidal. He's had a little more time to rest and get ready for the hosts.

If he is somewhere close to his best, Chile will have an equalizer in midfield who can negate the impact of Oscar and Paulinho. Vidal is also the kind of dynamic playmaker who can spark the counter-attack.


Can Alexis Sanchez Exploit Marcelo's Forward Runs?

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One of the areas in which Brazil can be exploited is down the flanks. Dani Alves and Marcelo love going forward, which can sometimes leave space in behind the defense.

Between the two, Marcelo might be more of a worry, if only because he'll have to watch out for Alexis Sanchez.

Luiz Gustavo is a very good holding midfielder, and by virtue of being a left-footer, he can seamlessly transition over to the left to cover for Marcelo.

Scolari commented on how valuable the Wolfsburg midfielder can be, per Brazilian football journalist Jack Lang:

As good as Gustavo is, he can sometimes be stretched to thin since he's the only true holding midfielder on the pitch. If he's focusing all of his attention on corralling Sanchez, that may open up space for Eduardo Vargas down the left, who would get in behind an overlapping Alves.

Chile will need to be at their best on the counter, and to make that happen they'll need to have Sanchez threaten down the right.

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