Date: June 14th, 2019
Home Team: Brazil
Away Team: Bolivia
Competition: 2019 Copa America
Brazil is always the center of attention really no matter what the time period or competition and this time around it is just the same. Lets start off with Neymar. Maybe the most polarizing player in the world will miss out on this tournament after sustaining an ankle injury in a friendly just before the tournament. This also happened after he was stripped of his captaincy. Now to go along with that this is the first time Brazil has hosted a tournament since the World Cup in 2014 and we all remember that 7-1 defeat to Germany like it was yesterday. Overall Brazil hasn’t had much success recently and that has gotten the fans all riled up. It is suspected that any result other than lifting the trophy will lead to manager Tite’s departure and leaving the state of Brazilian football back to square one. As for Bolivia they automatically get into this tournament because their country resides on the Continent of South America. Lucky them! They are obviously not the most talented team compared to the other power houses of the tournament. But the whole reason this tournament is awesome to watch is that every game is super intense. Bolivia certainly is not better than a team like Brazil but they aren’t going to roll over and get humiliated. They are going to scratch and claw through every minute and make any result earned against them worth it.
Now I am going to mainly talk about Brazil and their plans since they will be the ones dictating the game and quite honestly I am more familiar with all of the players. So without Neymar, Tite is going with a front 4 of Neres, Coutinho, Richarlson, and Bobby Firmino (Yes we are on a nickname basis). There are a few things that stick out to me. One is that Coutinho will be playing as a number 10 and doesn’t have to be worry about supplying Neymar or Messi. He can take the game by the scruff of the neck like he did in his days at Liverpool. How will he react after having a horrific debut season at Barcelona? I would suspect him to kind of start a new in this tournament. With a clean slate he can kind of focus and get back to what he was doing at Liverpool. The next thing is with Bobby. It shouldnt be a secret that he is probably the best defensive center forward in game today and that works perfectly in Liverpool system. However for Brazil that may not work as effectively. His instincts are to drop deep to win the ball back and that will be ok as long as someone fills the space he vacates, either Neres or Richarlson. Or he will adapt and lead the line like a traditional striker. The former is better than the latter I think because it is putting him in the best situation to succeed. Lastly I am interested to see how Neres reacts to playing his first major competition for Brazil. He has been brilliant for Ajax this year but simillar to what happened to Joao Felix for Portugal, the national team shirt tends to weigh a little heavier and it may take some time for him to feel comfortable. As for the rest of the lineup there two things that stick out. A partnership of Fernandinho and Casemiro is lethal and can stop any attack before it happens but is it necessary against a team like Bolivia? The flip side with this is that there is a lacking of creativity which could be necessary when breaking down a dug in defense that Bolivia will probably deploy. Lastly choosing Felipe Luis over Alex Sandro in 2019 is madness. I will make it clear that I stan Alex Sandro, and he is physically a better player than Luis and just as experienced now with his time at Juventus. It probably will not make difference in this game but eventually it will. As for Bolivia this is pretty much what to expect. A 4-4-1-1 is a great formation to sit in, defend and break on the counter. I don’t mean to type cast them as this type of team but I am assuming that’s what they’ll do.
In the first half things went pretty much as expected with a few things of note. First off the crowd was begging to explode after a goal but Brazil just could not give it to them. You could feel with every passing moment the pressure was building and we all know hos this current Brazilian team reacts to pressure. I will start with Bolivia because they were pretty solid. They did pretty much defend in a low block like what was expected. One thing that did do that was interesting was they really pressed high when the ball was given away around the penalty area. They would press and if Brazil broke the press that would try to break up play with a foul which was refreshing to see. Making the opponent execute always has a chance to work and if they break your press you regroup and organize your defense. However one thing they were not good at was the set pieces. I feel like that is a huge part in trying to grind out a game and they were very poor when defending set pieces giving away free headers and chances. As for Brazil they kept probing and had some success. The lack of threat on the counter allowed Luis and Alves particularly to bomb up field to create. It also looks like the plan was for Firmino to do his thing and usually Richarlson would fill the space up top which worked pretty well. Their best chances were from the aforementioned set pieces but it certainly felt like if the kept playing their game they would find a goal and release all the tension from the pressure building in the arena.
It didn’t take long for Brazil to figure it out because they earned a penalty one minute after the start of the half. With some help from good old VAR, Richarlson earned the penalty after Jusino clearly handled the ball to block his cross/shot. Coutinho slots it home to the keepers right after a stutter step. All of Brazil can regain their normal breathing patterns. Usually teams are vulnerable after they concede a goal but Brazil was able to keep their foot on the pedal and Coutinho was able to score again. The main thing was the fluidity of positioning among the front four. Mainly Richarlson and Firmino switching in and out of position. It really keeps the opponent on their toes. After these two quick goals it was still all Brazil in terms of still dictating the game. Bolivia did have to open up more and they were able to string along some good pass sequences but also every time they tried to press Brazil would break it with ease. Substitute Everton would end up tacking on one more goal late and Brazil was able to cruise to a 3-0 after some nerves early on.
Man of the Match – Coutinho
Coutinho definitely looked like his old self tonight and you got to think when he is the “main man” he is really able to succeed. His work rate were phenomenal. Up and down the pitch he was popping up every where. This also allowed him to pull the strings from deep if he wanted to which led to the first penalty. On his second goal he makes a great run from deep. Overall an amazing game and evidence to what his ceiling is when he is playing in the right situation. (And against a subpar team)
Coutinho 50’- Obviously this was a penalty but it came from some pretty great build up play. After the ball was recovered by Brazil at the center circle, Coutinho who was playing a little deep played a piercing pass to Firmino who laid it off with a beautiful first touch to Richarlson at the top of the box who proceeded to square up his defender and earn the penalty.
Coutinho 53’- After retaining possession Felipe Luis was able to find Richarlson who finds Firmino out wide. Position flexibility can be so effective because it changes the mindset of the defenders and does not let them get comfortable. Firmino is able to dribble to the end line and instead of smashing the ball across the box, he lofts it to around the penalty spot where Coutinho is making a darting run and he finishes. Overall a really awesome Brazilian goal.
Everton 85’- This must have been a 20 plus pass sequence that led to this goal. After possessing the ball for a while Fernandinho was able to find Everton open on the left flank with a lot of space. Everton then proceeded to take said space in more. After separating from his defender, Everton was being pushed further right until he just decided to score from the top of the box. A sweet curler to the keepers left that tucked sweetly into the side netting. The keeper never stood a chance.