Brazil are once again one of the favorites for this World Cup, and the record five-time winners of the tournament are confident about repeating their success. The new look Brazil under Dunga, the 1994 winning captain, is unlike the customary Seleção as it is devoid of the flair that has made fans swoon over them.
In Inter Milan’s Lucio, Maicon, and Julio Cesar they have the best defensive unit in South Africa and they will prove incredibly hard to beat. Yet, even the Bismarck had its weaknesses and the Samba Kings can be troubled in a few areas of the pitch. So here’s a low down of usurping them from their thrones.
5. Target the left-back
In Michel Bastos, Brazil have one of the fastest left-backs at the tournament. The man being coveted by many top teams around Europe presents a genuine threat for opposing defences but his tendency to go forward leaves the team exposed on the left. Bastos’ replacement is 34-year-old Gilberto, who is also likely to struggle to keep up with younger, faster players.
This represents a serious opportunity for teams to stick a fast player on the right flank and exploit the space that is likely to open up. Ivory Coast’s Salomon Kalou could cause problems for the Canaries.
4. Win the midfield battle
This is another possible problem area for the Samba stars. Dunga’s midfield is likely to consist of Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo, Kaka, and Elano. With the exception of Gilberto Silva, who is already 33, the rest are players who haven’t really had a good season at club level.
Felipe Melo in particular had a horrid time at Juventus while both Kaka and Elano failed to impress their new employers at Real Madrid and Galatasaray respectively. If opposing teams can put pressure on Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo, both not known for their passing ability, they may find a few loose balls and quick breaks go their way.
3. Keep Maicon out of the game
It is tough to imagine any full back which contributes so much to the attacking prowess of one team as Maicon does for Inter Milan and Brazil. The right-back’s powerful forays forward are often the starting point of every dangerous move for the Seleção. This season he chipped in with seven goals and 12 assists for the Nerazzurri, figures that even midfielders would be proud of.
The only way to keep Maicon out of the game is to have a fast wide left player to restrict his attacking runs. With Nani out, Maicon should have relative freedom in the group stages but as the competition goes on, it might prove harder for him.
2. Stifle the forwards
The lack of creativity in the Brazilian squad has been talked about a lot this year and a look at the team sheet explains why this is the case. With the exception of Kaka and Robinho, who are both coming off the back of mediocre seasons at club level, there is very little creativity in the team.
Luis Fabiano also spent a long time on the sidelines at Sevilla, and that may play on the minds of opposing managers. If their rivals setup defensively with a mind to contain the Brazilians, the tactic might very well work. In the CONMEBOL qualifying the team struggled to break down well organised defences and the first game against North Korea could be the toughest game in that regard.
The USA-Brazil game in last year’s Confederations Cup final will be remembered for the Canaries fantastic comeback but USA showed in the first half how the beat the Samba Kings. Brazil’s center halves, Lucio and Juan, have excellent positional sense but are not the fastest on their feet.
USA exploited the Brazilians’ weakness superbly and any team that wants to beat them will have to do the same. Quick passes and flowing possession of the ball is probably what teams will look to do against them. Watch out for a Netherlands–Brazil quarterfinal, it might prove this point particularly well.