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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Misery Enjoys Company – Brazil Keeps Step With Argentina

Written by on July 3, 2011 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Brazil, Copa America

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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9 responses to “Misery Enjoys Company – Brazil Keeps Step With Argentina”

  1. rahul says:

    Geez, that was one terrible game. Typical opening game I guess, but Brasil did not look impressive…

  2. Soccerlogical says:

    Dare I say, both Argentina and Brazil require a Western European coach for this post modern football world? 🙂

  3. Roberto Manita says:

    I’d say the problem with both Argentina and Brasil is a lack of quality creative midfielders. Both are currently going through a surprisingly lean period of such players at the moment. Both teams, as have most top teams around the world, have opted to play with two holding midfielders in an ever more defensive and conservative cycle of the game.

    Argentina, playing a 4-3-3 with two holding midfielders (or a 4-2-1-3 if like), are essentially playing with three players (Mascherano, Cambiasso, and Banega) who all play as holding midfielders with their club teams and generally haven’t a creative bone in their bodies. I’d say two holding MFs is more than enough. Asking a natural holding MF, Banega (or Cambiasso), to be your creative attacking MF generally is not going to work. It’s a shame Riquelme turned down the invite as his vision, technical ability, and defense splitting passes is just what this Argie team sorely lacks. Considering what Batista does have available for this tourny he would probably be better served by removing either Cambiasso or Banega and having Pastore as your attacking MF.

    Brasil also play with two holding MFs (Lucas and Ramires). Both do their jobs dutifully but neither inspires. Their attacking MF, Ganso, was so awful today that he stank worse than some of my old boxer short left unwashed for a few months. It’s a shame Kaka isn’t playing in that spot. I’m sure he could do a much better job in the spot despite his lack of minutes this year with Real Madrid. Asking Ganso to play the spot, as opposed to Kaka, probably has as much to do with relative minutes this year as it does to looking forward three years in time to the next WC and getting Ganso’s feet wet. But based only on today, Ganso will need more than just getting his feet wet … he will need a full body immersion. I can’t remember anyone asked to play the #10 position for such a high profile team ever giving the ball away so often and contributing so little. Hopefully, Brasil has someone else on the roster who can play that position better. The young Lucas could be the ideal candidate and in three years time he will be 21. So why not? I cannot see Ganso being the answer.

    Both Brasil and Argentina remind me of rather well endowed women who are top heavy (with lots of attractive forwards up top) and somewhat lacking in the middle. I cannot remember a time when either of these NTs had such a dearth of quality creative attacking MFs … let alone both.

  4. Ashraf says:

    Very poor game by Brazil, I was very excited to watch the young Brazilian emerging talents (Neymar, Ganso, Pato and Lucas) but I am kind of disappointed. Defensively, Brazil was OK, the midfield was average, defensively, was fine, but they failed to keep the ball and create chances. Ramires lacks ideas going forward and lost the ball too many times. As for Ganso, he had a terrible game, why he stayed in the field for 90mins is beyond me. Robinho and Neymar tried to dribble too often and slow down the play in many occasions. I hope for a better showing next time from the Samba boys.

  5. rory mcilroy says:

    argentina made an offer for aragonese but he declined because of his health and family reasons.

  6. I agree with your last point Mr. McMahahon, let the tournament marinate. It is just game 1. Though I do think teams without a domestic club core, like Spain’s men and France’s women require more gelling time, and that could be a problem for the world cup.

  7. Rafael says:

    I have to disagree with the comment that Brazil lacks quality depth since there are plenty of great players to choose from out of the thousands of Brazilians playing worldwide. However you have to remember that minus the experience they have at goaltender and defense their starting midfielders and forwards consist of 5 players 24 or younger and 3 of them aren’t even 22 yet. Considering that at the last 2 Copas Brazil has arguably sent a B-team and beaten a full strength Argentina side, it’s not time to panic…yet.

  8. Rafael – I may have missed it somewhere but can you direct me to the comment about “Brazil lacks quality depth”?

  9. Rafael says:

    Wasn’t referring to your story but to one of the commenters on the page saying Brazil is lacking quality midfielders and going through a lean period. Of course they don’t lack quality or options, they lack experience up front.
    Thanks for responding to my comment though, you’re the man I tune in to when it comes to soccer analysis.

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