Like Argentina, Brazil has a squad that makes most fans salivate. But perhaps it is a case of our hearts over ruling our heads as we all know that the great teams are a sum of greater than their parts rather than just the very talented individual players.
Brazil coach Mano Menezes sent out an experienced back four with a youthful attack against Venezuela. The centre back combination of Lucio and Thiago Silva was no surprise. At right back Dani Alves was given the nod over Maicon while on the opposite flank Andres Santos was back in favour.
Santos played at the 2009 Confederations Cup and stood out. Unfortunately he stood out as one of the few weak spots in the Brazil side.
By the time the World Cup Finals rolled around it was no surprise that the defensively suspect left back with a proclivity to check inside when going forward was overlooked in favour of Bastos.
Against Venezuela Lucas Leiva and Ramires screened the defense but the most interesting part of the Brazil formation was in attack. The front four will be interpreted as a bank of three (Robinho, Ganso and Neymar) playing just behind Pato. But in effect it often worked as an attacking diamond with Ganso at the base, Pato at the tip and Robinho and Neymar in between.
Not surprisingly Venezuela set out to frustrate Brazil by squeezing space and staying compact. It was something they did very successfully. Rondon and Fedor (Miku) started as nominal attackers but their main job was to make sure that the Brazil centre backs Thiago Silva and especially Lucio did not jump up into midfield and overload it.
The entire game plan for Venezuela was to contain and hope for a break. The break never came but contain they did and very successfully as well.
In the first 45 minutes Brazil had difficulty building their attacks although Pato did finish off an eight pass move that went from box to box with a cracking shot that rebounded off the crossbar.
The other chances that came Brazil’s way in the first half came from opportunities to counter. Ramires found Pato behind the Venezuela defence with a glorious struck cross-field pass but he failed to score.
Later on Robinho should have scored but a sliding Oswaldo Vizcarrondo cleared the ball just short of the goal-line. The first impression was that Vizcarrondo had handled but replays showed a shoulder was used.
Brazil’s problems looked very similar to those of Argentina on Friday evening against Bolivia. A tendency to play in straight lines, ineffective angled runs from the attack and a general lack of cohesiveness.
The second half started with Dani Alves pushing further forward and seemingly granted a license to roam. He surfaced in the centre of midfield on a few occasions which was strange given that the Brazil attack craved width.
There was nothing coming from the left side through Andres Santos who lacked the pace to hit the by-line and instead opted to play the ball inside into more congested areas.
Brazil coached substituted Fred for Robinho and went with two up top after 60 minutes and then threw in Elano and 18 year-old Lucas with 17 minutes remaining.
It made no difference to a Brazil side that looked to have run out of ideas against an extremely well-disciplined Venezuela side.
After the opening games for the pre-tournament favourites Argentina and Brazil there is no indication of a cake-walk to the final. However, history perhaps rightfully withholds judgment on tournament success until the last game rather than the first.
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