Despite the morale-boosting scoreline against the World Cup’s hosts, Brazil’s performance showed up some worrying problems for Tite to fix
Brazil’s recent 3-0 win against Russia highlighted several weaknesses of the team, despite the positive scoreline. Tite’s men committed several mistakes that would have been costly against a heavyweight opponent, like Germany for example, as the two sides who have nine World Cups in between them, prepare to collide on Tuesday in Berlin.
Brazil struggled against Russia in Moscow, especially in the first half raising several question marks about the readiness of Dani Alves as well as Paulinho’s role in midfield. The Paris Saint Germain right-back was behind two crucial mistakes which gifted the Russians their most dangerous chances in the game. He just cannot run anymore, and it is getting clearer with every game that he is not capable of defending against top wingers. The friendly victory confirmed what we had seen from the 34-year-old in UEFA Champions League defeats against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, Paulinho was completely ineffective during the possession phase and after missing two sitters, he had to rely on the easiest of tap-ins to get himself a goal, as well as winning the cheapest of penalties. The essential problem is that the Barcelona-man played too high because this is the way to get the best out of him, whereas Philippe Coutinho had to consequently ply his trade in a deeper role with more defensive duties that, he is clearly not suited for.
Has this strategy been effective so far? Yes. But is it the optimal way to how Brazil’s approach should be in the World Cup? This is the biggest question. Logically, adding Fernandinho instead of Paulinho would offer Brazil more control in midfield, and would improve the ability to construct play because you automatically have an extra man in deep areas, rather than a false midfielder who is actually more of a second striker than a midfielder.
If Paulinho merely plays because of the threat he offers in the final third, then why not just start Roberto Firmino instead as he is a better goal-scorer with the evidence of having found the net on 23 different occasions for Liverpool, this season?
There were of course a few positives to take from the match, such as successfully adapting to the snowy weather in Moscow, managing to pull off a victory despite struggling in the first half, the emergence of a solid center-back partnership between Thiago Silva and João Miranda, as well as Philippe Coutinho, Willian and Douglas Costa’s very convincing displays in the second half.
Germany have already released Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil from their squad to face Brazil on Tuesday, something that probably would not have happened 10-years-ago. Today, the Germans know that they have nothing to prove in a friendly match, less than three months away from the World Cup. It is still, however, a very strong test for the five-time World Champions in Berlin.