The South America dispute to qualify for the 2022 World Cup has begun. Brazil started their campaign receiving Bolivia in São Paulo and the match was a pro training for the “Canarinhos”. The winning came quickly and Brazil was able to present possession and control of the match at full time.
In this tactical analysis, we’ll see how Brazil scored their goals easily using the sides of the pitch. We’ll take a look at the tactics of the match that shows Bolivia very compact in the defence but not strong enough to prevent the formidable movements of Brazil.
Lineups and formations
The manager Tite started his team with a usual 4-2-3-1 formation but with a strong variation in the attacking phase. Renan Lodi, Casemiro, Douglas Luiz and Danilo were responsible for the midfield movements that put the team into a 2-3-2-3 formation to attack. We’ll see more of that in the analysis later.
Bolivia came to try to lose with the fewer goals possible and it couldn’t resist too long. The manager Cesar Farias started the team with a 4-5-1 formation with a compact defence. Antonio Bustamante, Diego Wayar and Fernando Saldías were the players that pressure the Brazilian midfielders trying to intercept vertical passes. But the missing of his main players was determinant to fail.
Brazil’s attacking mix
Tite brought an untested variation in the attacking phase of his team, and it succeeded against the poor quality of Bolivia’s defence. Using Atletico Madrid’s player Renan Lodi as a winger, the manager inverted Everton “Cebolinha” to the right-wing and gave depth to the team’s attack on both sides.
The image below shows the early beginning of the match and Renan Lodi already receiving the long pass in the depth left of the pitch. The line of five Bolivian’s midfielders plus the striker pressuring Neymar, closing the inside space and preventing vertical short passes.
Neymar and Coutinho were particularly important in the offensive phase due to their fluctuations in the middle. None of them had a fixed position and they were constantly searching for spaces in the middle of Bolivia’s defence lines.
With the earlier pressure and the scoreboard in their favour, Brazil was able to control the ball possession and create many triangulations. In the image below we can see Neymar and Coutinho’s heatmaps showing their fluctuations and intensity in the middle. Neymar, especially on the left side, where Brazil played most of its attacks.
The statistics of the match shows Brazil attacking 29 times with 2.58 xG over the left flank while only 12 times with 0.53 xG on the right side. It was 19 shots on goal being nine on target. Renan Lodi, Neymar and Coutinho were responsible for five of those shots and Lodi also gave one assistance to the goal.
One of the issues of playing with Everton inverted on the pitch is that he was constantly looking to centre the movements. Since Brazil’s was using most of the left side, Everton had to come to the centre to be an option and for a few times, Brazil didn’t have the right side available.
The image above shows Neymar bringing the ball from the left to middle and looking for a player in the huge free space on the right side. Everton had moved into the middle and Danilo’s instruction was to be inside the midfield and not open wide.
Firmino had a different role from his Liverpool movements. The image below shows him between Bolivia’s defenders. With Brazil playing most of the time in the offensive third, the striker was fixed in the front of the area and took the opportunity to score twice from inside the box. A typical centre-forward.
Loss and pressure
Brazil’s haven’t played with that alignment so far. Everton “Cebolinha” gain spotlight playing in the left-wing but Tite decided to use him in the right-wing for this match. For that option to happen, Tite needed to position players to cover the backsides.
Danilo, the former Manchester City player, was used to play in the inside of the midfield with Pep Guardiola and made a similar role in the match. Aligned with Casemiro and Douglas Luis they formed a three midfielders line as we can see in the image below.
The three players had important roles to support the ball possession being short passes options. Being a big part of the construction phase in the offence helping to cover the sides when the ball was lost. Advanced in the field when Brazil’s lost possession they quick engaged to retrieve the ball.
Casemiro and Danilo were the players with most interceptions and aerial duels won respectively. Casemiro was always anticipating the opponent’s offensive transition and Danilo using his speed and strength to block the long aerial pass of Bolivia.
The image below shows Casemiro closing the space when the ball was lost and Danilo following Bolivia’s winger to prevent short passes.
Bolivia’s defence and intensity
As expected Bolivia didn’t try to control the match or have ball possession but the first minutes were embarrassing. Until the minute 15 of the first half, Bolivia had only four passes completed in the match with 9% of ball possession.
But defensively the team was having good moments despite the goals suffered. The tactics adopted by the manager was to compact the defence lines, so to not give space between them. In the image below we can see how Bolivia players were committed to close the gaps.
Eventually, after conceding several goals, Bolivia lost intensity and struggled to get out of defence. The first half was entire of Brazil’s attacking but the second half Bolivia did try to play more.
With two shots on goal, 202 passes and with less aerial passes, Bolivia put the ball on the ground and showed some interesting movements. Without the ball possession, they advanced their lines and start closing the midfield. The image below shows the players more committed to high intensity.
Retrieving the ball and developing the offensive transition, the manager opted by using the flanks and explore the backside of Brazil’s defence.
With Brazil’s players rarely out of place, Bolivia quickly built the offensive transition and the image below shows the centre-forward Cespedes. His advancing and passing the ball to the left side. The players were close to each other providing triangulation options and using the space behind Brazil’s right-back.
The manager Tite knew the match was going to be straightforward. He used to try attacking movements to create spaces on the sides. This analysis showed that Neymar and Coutinho can play together floating in the middle giving support to the wingers. Or in this particular match, to the left-back that played as a winger. Perhaps Tite will have to reconsider the use of Everton on the right side since it didn’t work very well. Rodrygo, the Real Madrid player, could be a better choice.
Bolivia had great difficulties to sustain the defence and it was easily broken. The manager Cesar Farias needs to work the ball possession and the coordination of attacking movements. Keeping only defending won’t work against the giant nationals of South America.