Brazil vs. Netherlands: Masterful Dutch Defence Keep Toothless Selecao at Bay

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 12, 2014

Netherlands' Ron Vlaar, left and Stefan de Vrij celebrate after Georginio Wijnaldum scored their side's third goal during the World Cup third-place soccer match between Brazil and the Netherlands at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Saturday, July 12, 2014. The Netherlands defeated Brazil 3-0. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Andre Penner/Associated Press

Brazil's humiliation was completed on Saturday evening as the Netherlands battered them 3-0 in the third-placed play-off match in Brasilia.

Robin van Persie opened the scoring in just the second minute from the penalty spot, Daley Blind added an easy second before half-time and Georginio Wijnaldum iced the cake in the closing moments.


Formations and XIs


Brazil played their usual 4-2-3-1 formation but made six changes to the starting XI. Jo, Willian, Ramires, Paulinho, Maxwell and Thiago Silva came in.

The Netherlands lined up in a 3-5-2 and started Jordy Clasie in midfield. Wesley Sneijder ducked out in the warm-up and Jonathan De Guzman replaced him.


Brazil's Awful Pressing

Brazil set up to attack and press the Netherlands high up the pitch, with the intention, clearly, to up the tempo of the match, force mistakes and get ahead.

The problem was the pressing was awful, disjointed and not a cohesive effort. The forwards didn't fill the areas around the Dutch defenders equally, and the midfield failed to push up and form an effective second wave.

Ron Vlaar and Co. found it easy to pass out from the back and into space despite being harried, with Oscar and Paulinho looking entirely separate from Willian and Jo, failing to remove Jordy Clasie and Georginio Wijnaldum as options.


Jasper Cillessen Key

Oranje goalkeeper Cillessen quickly became central to avoiding Brazil's press, and while he may not be any good at saving penalties, his great feet came in handy here.

In the same fashion that Bayern Munich used Manuel Neuer to avoid Barcelona's pressing in the 7-0 aggregate destruction of them in 2012-13, Cillessen's comfort on the ball allowed the Dutch defenders—usually so skittish when pushed for time—to lay it off to the keeper and restart play.

Cillessen was used to avoid pressing frequently.
Cillessen was used to avoid pressing

As Jo and Willian moved to press Cillessen, Vlaar and Co. would slip free, so a simple ball back out and into Clasie (where Paulinho and Co. should have been pressing but weren't) became an easy way to recycle possession.

If not, a long pass into Van Persie usually worked.


Dutch High Line

Vlaar, Stefan De Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi led a spectacularly high line at times, closing the space in midfield and making it difficult for Brazil to pass through them.

It led to David Luiz playing multiple long balls—sometimes diagonals, sometimes punts—seeking to release a runner over the top, but none of the passes bent enough or allowed the wingers to latch on.

De Guzman and Clasie worked very hard in the centre to nullify Oscar and Co., while Wijnaldum played a very rangy No. 10 role and would always sit on the deepest Brazilian midfielder, removing him as a first-option pass.


RVP and Arjen Robben

Van Persie's performance levels dropped like a stone following the Netherlands' second match, but his partnership with Robben here was fantastic.

Brazil pushed up and played a fairly high line too, but it appears Luiz Felipe Scolari didn't watch the last game a team tried to do that.

Spain got smashed by RVP and Robben when they matched up two vs. two and conceded space in behind. This was no different, with Van Persie taking in long passes and initiating good combo work despite being marked and pressed by Thiago Silva.

They drew the Selecao's defence to them, then either spun into space or released the midfield runner (usually Wijnaldum) into space down the channels or on the right flank.

Brazil had absolutely no answers to it.



Brazil tried to up the ante by upping the midfield pressure and energy. Fernandinho and Hernanes both came on before the 60-minute mark and began harassing the Oranje's ballplayers.

They managed six tackles between them but also five fouls, with Fernandinho picking up a booking just nine minutes after entering the fray.

Hulk was the third substitute, and he provided a ball-carrying threat, but it was Willian, dropping into space and working hard to pick the ball up and generate passing moves, who was the most effective in turning the tide.

In the end, the Dutch were relentless yet professional, with even third-string goalkeeper Michel Vorm coming on in the dying minutes to ensure all 23 members of the squad pocketed at least a few seconds of World Cup playing time.

For the Selecao, the inquisition starts with the removal of Luiz Felipe Scolari from his title of manager.



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