Copa America 2021: How Brazil won the midfield battle to beat Peru – tactical analysis
Comparatively, Brazil faced more difficulties as Peru gave them more pressure than Chile. This tactical analysis will give the key details of Tite’s tactics, such as his change of positional structure to solve the problems in the first half.
Brazil made two changes in this game, the backline was the same from the quarter-final. However, Lucas Paquetá and Éverton came into the team as Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino was replaced while Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus was suspended.
Peru started with a 5-4-1 formation in the first half. They added Alexander Callens at the defence as André Carillo was suspended as well. The rest were the same with the lineup against Paraguay with former AC Milan striker – Gianluca Lapadula leading the line.
Neymar and Paquetá dictated the attack
Against Chile, Brazil opted for a conservative 4-2 shape in the build-up with both full-backs inverting into the half-spaces. This helped Tite’s troops to control the game at the midfield with enough numbers to suffocate all transition threats. However, they also lacked the width provision when the wingers were too narrow at the final third, hindering the final passes to create the opportunities.
In this game, we saw Tite and his coaching staff make adjustments to keep evolving his team.
Instead of a 4-2, Brazil were more like a 2-3-2-3 against Peru. Full-backs now operating asymmetrically with Renan Lodi pushing high and wide to attack the flank, while Danilo continued the half-spaces role and staying deeper in the build-up. However, the idea of numerically overloading the opponents in the second phase was the same for Tite.
Against a Peru defending with a 5-4-1, they had five players in the midblock high to lock spaces at the centre. When Brazil dropped Paquetá or Neymar behind the midfield, a 6v5 numerical superiority was created unless Peru centre-backs stepped up. But to use the numerical advantage, they also dropped Fred to the first line to create a temporary back three. When Peru’s shape was stretched, they could find spaces to attack.
The above image shows Fred moving to the left centre-back position, while Paquetá dropped to the midfield. Then, Peru’s right-winger: Christian Cueva was in a decisional dilemma. He chose to get closer to the Lyon midfielder and let Danilo being the free man to progress the attack.
The main task of Casemiro and Fred was to drag the Peru midfielders out of position in this game, then leaving those spaces for Neymar and Paquetá to exploit. The second image shows the Real Madrid midfielder’s deep positioning has moved Yoshima Yotún out of the centre, Peru were out of defensive shape in that instant.
Then, Brazil’s key player – Neymar showing up behind the midfield. Even Peru could commit the centre-back to stick mark the dropping players, they were usually late to stop Neymar and Paquetá as the spacing was too big. Apart from using the deep midfielders and centre-backs to draw the opposition out, they also had Richarlison staying high to stretch the opposition vertically.
Although the previous examples show the Brazilian exploited the defence and setting Paquetá/Neymar as the free player, the same situation did not happen when Peru defended in a deeper block. On those occasions, the defensive lines were tighter vertically, when the centre-backs stepped up, the likes of Paquetá could not escape from the challenge of the centre-backs.
For example, you could see similar positional distribution in the above image: 2-3 shape of Brazil and a “+1 advantage”provided by Paquetá, so it was a 6v5 against the front five of Peru initially. However, the centre-back (Callens) was already at the back to press, usually the player between the lines struggled to turn in these situations.
As the above analysis has mentioned, Richarlison rarely dropped into spaces between the liens as his job was to stay at front, kept the centre-backs engaged. With the Everton man staying high, Brazil could possess a quick player to exploit spaces behind the oppositions when Peru pushed a high line.
The screenshot above was the situation in which Richarlison could use his pace. After Neymar dropped to the midfield and drew the Peruvians out of position, the centre-backs were exposed and stretched, so Richarlison could use his pace to run into the channels and search for 1v1 opportunities against the goalkeeper.
Final third improvements
Against Chile, Brazil struggled to create a lot of high-quality opportunities because of lacking the width provision in the final third. In this game, they were better as Tite played Éverton high and wide on the right side.
After changing a few details, Brazil the general structure looked like the above situation. Éverton satyed wide on the right side, Lodi high on the left to stretch the defence horizontally. However, the issue was the deep positioning of Neymar, if the PSG star received outside of the block, Brazil did not have adequate players between the lines.
In the above image, Brazil had Richarlison pushing the defence deeper, but the four players staying out of the block were too many. When Neymar dropped, Casemiro or Fred did not go higher to establish a more staggered structure, Brazil had too many players in the same horizontal zone.
Apart from Neymar, Brazil’s key player in this game must be Paquetá for sure. The Lyon midfielder was very sharp when given the freedom to roam between the lines, offering the creativity that Firmino failed to provide in the Chile game.
The above image shows an example that Brazil successfully created a chance because of the setups. With Éverton staying wide, the Peru backline was stretched, the channels on Brazil’s right side were particularly larger. Then, Paquetá just simply offered himself as a short option for Éverton, fixing the attention of Callens and release Richarlison behind the defence.
Another example of Brazil’s attack with Paquetá’s involvement here, the Lyon midfielder was really fresh in the final third in this game. Again, Brazil had Danilo and Éverton stretching the block and opening the half-spaces channel on the right side. Then, Paquetá very smartly got into that channel to receive the ball in the box, Brazil nearly scored from the cut-back.
Casemiro and Fred’s domination
In the second half, with Brazil had a goal in their hands, the game went the other way as the Peruvians had more chances to attack. However, Tite’s men were also very committed defensively and Ederson did not have much work to do. Once again, Brazil’s solid defending gave their opponents a very difficult game and Peru could not get into dangerous areas. Throughout the night, Casemiro and Fred were outstanding in terms of stopping the oppositions’ attack.
The main issue of Peru was the isolation of Lapadula. Gareca’s men had clear intentions to play long passes, using the former AC Milan striker as a target to receive the ball. However, when the ball went up, the players were not showing up at the right moment to offer support to continue the attack. Then, Lapadula would be facing multiple defenders alone and the attacks were suffocated.
For example, Lapadula already controlled the ball in the above image, but there were far more yellow shirts around. Although it was a 2v2 out wide initially, Fred and Silva quickly moved closer to the wide zones and made it a 4v2.
Here, Brazil were really committed to defending as everyone played a part in the defensive organization. Apart from Neymar, who carried the biggest threat and stayed a bit higher as the rest offence, all yellow shirts were defending on the ball side together. Éverton and Richarlison were low and close to the centre, so the block was horizontally compact. While Fred, Paquetá, and Casemiro were defending spaces all around, with Silva and Marquinhos covering them.
Fred was another player that gave Brazil a lot of coverage at the defence. He was very disciplined to cover his teammates. In this image, Lodi was dribbled past but Fred chased back to win the ball back before the opposition entered the penalty box.
Very similar with the previous game, Brazil only scored one only without dominating all 90 minutes. It might not be matching the expectations of fans who wanted to see the attackers to score a bunch of goals, but this was the way Tite believed the tournament should be played. Instead of going all out recklessly, he wished to obtain more control and keeping clean sheets was also an achievement.
Now, Brazil only had one more game to play – the final against Argentina. We will know whether the same conservative mindset would help the team to lift the trophy again on Saturday. If you are a punter interested in wagering some money on this, it would be a good idea to check out some of the analysis from professionals like Doc’s before you do.
Analyst from Hong Kong, now in Madrid, Spain
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