Monday, July 7, 2014

Can Brazil Win Without Neymar and Silva?

As 200 million Brazilians and the rest of the futboling world mourn the loss of Neymar from the 2014 World Cup, it’s another missing Brazilian whose absence may well decide tomorrow’s semifinal in Belo Horizonte. Captain and all-world center back Thiago Silva picked up a senseless yellow card in the second half of Friday’s quarterfinal v. Colombia. Brazil has appealed Silva’s booking and subsequent suspension, but it’s highly unlikely that the ruling will be overturned. That leaves A Selecao without their best player and talisman, as well as their captain and defensive rock. So, how exactly will Brazil go about defeating a German side that suffocated a full-force France squad?

Simply put, it will be difficult. It hasn’t exactly come easy for the Brazilians in this tournament as it is. They’ve been overly reliant on Neymar for any attacking thrust, and don’t look like the free-flowing side that we’ve come to know over the years. One answer could be to jam up that midfield with bodies. German captain Phillip Lahm moved back to right-back against France, allowing Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, and Toni Kroos to find rhythm and flow in the middle of the park. In a move that would be un-Brazilian, but pragmatic in futbol terms, Luiz Felipe Scolari could make a big change by employing three defensive midfielders tomorrow. 

In a likely swap, Fernandinho, Paulinho, and Luiz Gustavo will all start, and are all midfield enforcers. Fortunately, like almost every Brazilian player, they can all spring forward after possession is won and join the attack. A plausible tactical play for Scolari would be to employ a 4-3-3, with the midfield trio listed above. Then, his attacking ‘3’ could include the likes of Oscar, Hulk, Willian, Bernard, or Jo, all of whom could strike quickly on the counterattack. Don't be shocked if all 5 of those forwards see the pitch against Germany, especially if the home nation find themselves trailing.

Although Brazilian purists may detest such "defensive" strategies, two victories separate these sides from a World Cup title. Winning ugly is still winning.

The semifinal showdown between these two giants of the sport kicks off on SnapCall at 3:55pm tomorrow. Don't be late for this feast of futbol!

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