FIFA World Cup Qualifier 2022: How Brazil dominated Chile – tactical analysis
Brazil hosted Chile in the second-to-last matchday of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier 2022. Tite’s Seleção is still undefeated with an impressive 13 wins from 16 matches. With their spot in the 2022 World Cup already guaranteed, Tite is looking to make the final adjustments to his squad. On the other hand, Chile are virtually out of the 2022 World Cup after Thursday’s loss to Brazil as the golden generation of Vidal, Sanchez, and others come to an end.
Brazil dominated Chile with an impressive performance all around. Tite made a couple of interesting tactical tweaks for this match as he looks to define his squad for the 2022 World Cup. For the first time in a few years, both Gabriel Jesus and Firmino were not called up to the national team. The lack of centre-forwards in form forced Tite to adopt slightly different tactics. Additionally, the recent performances of Vini Jr. and Antony earned them spots in the starting line-up. These and other factors slightly changed Brazil’s organisational structure.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine Brazil’s tactics in their impressive 4-0 win over Chile. More specifically, we will look at Tite’s latest tactical tweaks as well as how the Seleção look ahead of the World Cup.
Tite’s Brazil lined up in a 4-2-3-1, which constantly changed according to the phases and situations of the game. Alisson started in goal behind Danilo, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, and Guilherme Arana. Fred sat alongside Casemiro while Paquetá played slightly higher. Antony and Vini Jr. were on the wings while Neymar played upfront.
On the other hand, Chile lined up in a 3-5-2. The experienced Bravo played in goal behind Díaz, Medel, and Roco. Flamengo’s Isla was the right wing-back while Suazo played on the left. Baeza was the single pivot behind Vidal and Aránguiz. The front two consisted of Sánchez and Vargas.
One of the reasons Brazil is coming very strong into the 2022 World Cup is their defensive record. In 2021, they only conceded 0.31 goals per 90. That is two clean sheets every three matches. Tite has been able to transform Brazil’s defensive structure into one of the best in the world. Rather than a purely attacking team as they have been historically, they now enter matches with a bit more pragmatism. This is not to say, however, that they have lost their entertaining attacking nature.
Tite’s solid defensive structure was once again on display against Chile. In this analysis, we will break it down into two parts. First, their defensive behaviour in the opposition half – both out of possession and in transition. Secondly, their defensive behaviour in their own half.
Chile’s xG of 0.41 in this match highlights how effective Brazil’s defence was. More specifically, though, Chile’s average shot distance was 25.39 meters. This demonstrates how safe Brazil’s defence was, rarely allowing Chile to get close to Alisson’s net. Additionally, Brazil had 62% possession in the first half. This was significantly due to Brazil’s high pressure.
In the first half, Chile were unable to maintain possession of the ball and construct any real chances. From the very start, Brazil looked to press very high up the pitch. This was done through a diamond shaped system. Neymar and Paquetá would rotate between themselves while Vini Jr. and Antony were on each side. After Chile played to either side, Brazil would advance the pressure collectively in this shape.
Even in a mid-block. This shape was still maintained. In addition to the four players, Casemiro and Fred sat behind them guarding Chile’s midfield of Vidal and Aránguiz. Brazil’s fullbacks would push up on Chile’s wingbacks. Credit must be given to Neymar as he did a fine job in leading the press and closing players down. Recently, there has been a lot of criticism regarding Neymar’s lack of defensive work, but he proved the opposite against Chile.
In this diamond shape, Paquetá and Neymar would often rotate between themselves. While one led the press, the other sat in behind. This allowed them to take turns doing the hard work and essentially be able to press for longer.
Brazil’s high press in the defensive phase kept Chile from being able to create anything, but their work in transition was also impressive. The squad’s work rate and discipline to constantly counter-press after losing the ball were notable. It kept Chile in their own half and allowed Brazil to dominate the first half. In the image below, five players immediately sprint towards the ball after it is lost. This ball-oriented pressure creates instant chaos which often allows them to win it back.
Below is another example of Tite’s men counter-pressing. After Fred loses the ball, Danilo, Antony, and Fred himself all sprint towards Chile’s player. Paquetá provides an outlet and keeps Chile from going to the middle. Finally, Casemiro joins in from behind to provide cover.
Marquinhos’ behaviour in the instance below is very interesting. After a failed set-piece, centre-backs would normally sprint back to their position. However, Marquinhos immediately sprints wide to apply pressure and keep them from countering. Paquetá and Vini Jr. also join the press.
In summary, Brazil’s work rate and intensity were very consistent in this match. It highlights a new version of the Seleção, no longer relying solely on its attacking talent.
In the second half, Chile were able to have a bit more possession. While they had only 38% in the first half, they were able to have 48% in the second. Brazil still had the majority of possession, but this increase in Chile’s allowed us to see Brazil defend in its own half. The image below illustrates Brazil’s possession throughout the match. There is a notable difference in the second half.
While Chile had more possession in the second half, they were still unable to create any real danger. In a low block, Brazil reverted to a compact 4-4-2. The defensive work rate of Antony and Vini Jr. to maintain this structure was critical.
The key in keeping Chile from creating any threat was Brazil’s compact midfield. The line of four consisted of Antony, Fred, Casemiro, and Vini Jr. They moved in a very compact manner, allowing minimal space in between them. This kept Chile’s players from being able to break the midfield line and progress the ball. Eventually, all of Chile’s midfield dropped in front of Brazil’s midfield to be able to get on the ball. This meant Chile only had two players behind Brazil’s midfield. In summary, Chile were unable to break down Brazil’s defensive structure.
Brazil’s defensive work rate was highlighted in their high and mid blocks. However, they still maintained this intensity in a low block. Brazil averaged a PPDA of 7.41 throughout the full 90. More specifically, they kept a PPDA of 6.7 in this period that Chile had more possession. This essentially means Brazil’s defence were very quick in closing players down and did not allow Chile any time on the ball. In the instance below, Chile’s player receives the ball behind the first line of pressure. He is immediately pressured by Antony and Paquetá while Casemiro and Fred provide cover.
As previously stated, Antony’s work rate was exceptional in this match. In the instance below, Vargas receives the ball in the middle. Antony sprints inside to close him down and challenge for the ball.
Finally, the image below provides another example of Brazil’s tight defence. After Chile’s player beats Casemiro, Coutinho and Fred immediately close him down and force him to settle for a poor long shot.
In summary, Brazil maintained a very compact and tight defensive structure. They were very effective in keeping Chile from creating anything, especially through their high-intensity system.
Fullbacks have always played a significant role in Tite’s Seleção. Their versatility and varying characteristics allowed for various attacking variations to develop. Tite must be given a lot of credit for constantly being able to organise and play so many world-class players together. Most recently, the introduction of Vini Jr. and Antony have changed Brazil’s attack. Both are talented inverted wingers, with their strong foot being opposite of the side they play on. They are not, however, inside forwards like Coutinho or Paquetá. Their best positioning is on the wide channel with space to attack.
Their positioning consequently does not allow for an attacking fullback to push high and wide. In order to still allow the fullbacks to play a significant role in the attack, Tite deployed them inside. In possession, they would frequently drift inside and operate in the half-spaces. In more attacking situations, they would even act like attacking midfielders. In the image below, they are both extremely centred.
At Juventus, Pirlo often played Danilo as a defensive midfielder. Against Chile, he often performed this role, allowing Fred to push up higher.
Additionally, Danilo played a key role in the attack. In the instance below, Neymar is able to find him behind Chile’s midfield line.
After receiving, Danilo attacks the defensive line and plays a fine through ball as Vini Jr. makes a run. While Chile’s defender is able to make a crucial tackle, this was still a very good example of Danilo’s role in the attack.
Guilherme Arana also had a significant performance against Chile. At Atlético Mineiro, Arana plays a key role in their attacking creation. Knowing this, Tite wanted to maximise his attacking contribution. Arana consequently operated almost as an attacking midfielder. Below, he receives the ball on the left half-space and drives into space.
A more significant example of this came around the 15th minute. Arana positions himself in a gap just behind the midfield line. His positioning allows him to receive a pass that breaks two defensive lines and advances their attack.
Finally, Arana’s heatmap further illustrates this. In the opposition half, his heatmap bleeds significantly inwards to the left half-space.
Neymar as a false nine
Brazil have been struggling to find a consistent centre-forward. Flamengo’s Gabigol has failed to convince in the national team. Matheus Cunha has performed well but is currently injured. Gabriel Jesus and Firmino are not in their best form and were not even called up. Richarlison has been inconsistent and was deployed on the right wing on Thursday. Out of options, Tite turned to Neymar as a false nine.
Thursday was Neymar’s first significant match in this role, and he performed very well. As always, he was a key player in Brazil’s creation. Furthermore, his positioning allowed for a chain of reactions which Brazil explored. Firstly, it is important to look at his heatmap. Notice how it looks very far from a traditional centre-forward.
His pass map also illustrates how important he was to Brazil’s attack. He had significant passing combinations with numerous teammates. He was key in moving the ball around and creating in the opposition half.
We can already see his behaviour as a false nine only two minutes into the match. As Brazil construct out of the back, he drops deep into his own half despite being the sole centre-forward.
Another instance of this false nine behaviour happens two minutes later. He drops to receive the ball just before the final third. He often looked to get on the ball and either combine with his teammates or take players on.
As he dropped deep to get on the ball, he left a lot of depth to be attacked. Wide, Vini Jr. and Antony were often attacking the depth. Inside, Fred and Paquetá would often attack the defensive line and push high. Neymar looked to either combine with them or play them through.
As we’ve seen, Neymar constantly combined with his teammates. A good example of this happened five minutes in, with Fred. Neymar once again drops into the midfield to receive the ball.
After turning, he attacks the space and plays Fred behind the midfield line. After passing it, he moves again to receive it back from Fred and then attack the last defensive line. These sorts of combinations were very effective in progressing through the zones and advancing the attack. Notice how Arana has moved inside, almost like a centre-forward.
In conclusion, Neymar as a false nine was very successful. It allowed Brazil to create space and chances very effectively. Neymar’s creativity is maximised in this role and allows other players to combine with him or attack the depth left by him.
Brazil’s performance against Chile was very impressive all around and gave fans a lot to hope for. Their defensive structure, both out of possession and in transition, was very disciplined and effective. Tite’s tactical tweaks maximised his players’ abilities and allowed them to create with ease. In all phases of the game, Brazil are looking very solid. As the 2022 World Cup nears, Brazil are looking like a serious contender. With only a handful of matches left, it will be interesting to see Tite’s final preparations.