After the clashes between two South America giants, Brazil and Argentina in the Copa América 2019, they faced each other again in an International Friendly. This was an event named Brazil Global Tour 2019, which these two teams played against each other at the King Saud University Stadium, Saudi Arabia.
On paper, Tite instructed his team to play in a 4-3-3 formation. It was like the final games in the Copa América 2019, while some players got their chances to perform themselves. Since no home-based players were called in the squad, Danilo played on the right of the defence. Meanwhile, partner of Thiago Silva was Éder Militão instead of Marquinhos. Lucas Paquetá also started given Philippe Coutinho was on the bench. Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus, once again, started as a right-winger in the international team.
All ten outfield players chosen by Lionel Scaloni were playing in major European Leagues. It was a rare occasion given the domestic players liked Cristian Pavón and Renzo Saravia played a huge part in the team in previous years. It was still the 4-4-2 formation, with Lionel Messi started with Lautaro Martínez on the front line. Two players were new and got two caps before this game, they were Lucas Ocampos and the Boca Juniors goalkeeper Esteban Andrada.
Plan of defence of Argentina
In this analysis, we begin with the defence of Argentina. They set a block in a 4-4-2 shape, and a relatively high defensive line to cooperate the press of front players. Since Messi was 32 already, he usually defended less to preserve energy in attacking phases. Therefore, it was of the essence for the rest of the team to run more for Messi. This could also explain the weak intensity of the Argentina press in the central areas.
In other words, Argentina tried to compress space and win the ball back at flanks. They did this better when compared to the performance in Copa América 2019. They closed off oppositions earlier and higher to prevent their centre backs from joining the press too frequently. Scaloni did not was his centre backs lost positions too often.
The below example reflected. Rodrigo de Paul produced energetic displays this match. The pivots should shut the passing lanes towards the free player at the centre while closing off the ball to press. Meanwhile, wingers also pressed with the full-backs, as Juan Foyth and Ocampos did below. They caught Casemiro and Willian in a tight area, won the ball back.
The positioning of Rodrigo was vital. Since he was running away from his partner Leandro Paredes, which the Paris Saint Germain midfielder did not move towards the ball side. He must make Paquetá unavailable for a pass. Paquetá was behind of Rodrigo and if he got the ball, he faced the centre backs directly, with spaces around him.
However, the defence of Argentina was imperfect, especially when the ball was at the centre of the pitch. In this area, the team of Scaloni did not produce press intense enough to win the ball back. And, a bigger problem was the spacing between the strikers and the pivots.
In various occasions, Brazil midfielders could receive the ball without pressure, turned and faced the goal at the centre. If we do not blame Messi in this part, then this problem was on the pivots, or tactics of Scaloni. When the two strikers positioned themselves high at the pitch, they left the pivots and midfield area overloaded by Brazil.
This example explained the situation. Messi and Martínez stayed high, but not pressing Brazil centre backs. They also left the passing channel towards Casemiro opened. Meanwhile, Argentina double pivots were stretched by Paquetá and Arthur. Even though as a free player., Casemiro could not receive the pass, Roberto Firmino still got it.
If Scaloni intended to play in in a 4-4-2, this is a problem they must solve.
How Brazil played out from the back
The defence setups of Argentina allowed Brazil to build-up without much pressure. As mentioned, Argentina strikers did not contribute enough defensively. Casemiro could involve in the build-up without much pressure. Brazil full-backs pinned Argentina wingers, while Paquetá and Arthur pinned the double pivots. Casemiro was usually the free midfielder.
In this scene, the defensive shape of Argentina was unoptimized. Their midfield line was liked a ‘U-shape’ since Paredes and Rodrigo were marking Paquetá and Arthur. Messi did not defend enough to close off Casemiro, the 27-year-old Real Madrid man was free. He received the pass from Danilo, then played a diagonal pass towards Willian, which eliminated all players in this scene. Brazil progressed their attack to the final third easily.
After the first 15 minutes, Tite found out his players could dominate the midfield easily, he adjusted his tactics. Brazil played more like a 4-2-4, with Paquetá stayed high up between the lines, they did not need three in the midfield.
This image illustrated. Back four of Brazil and the double pivots were good enough to keep the ball in the first phase. They maintained numerical equality, but given Messi did not defend much, they could move the ball smoothly. Paredes and Rodrigo could not leave their position and close off oppositions often, as they had to aware of spaces behind them.
By this shape of Brazil, they utilized spaces between Argentina lines. The front players, Jesus, Firmino dropped to receive a pass. All they needed to do was to play the ball to the front four.
On some occasions, Casemiro was far from the ball. Brazil played out from the back through Paquetá. The Milan midfielder dropped deep to generate spaces. However, this approach did not work effectively. Rodrigo managed to track the dropping moves of Paquetá, forced him back to goal and return the ball to the centre backs. Also, seldom were their players to exploit the space created by the no.10.
This was an example. Despite Paquetá dropped deep and pulled Rodrigo out. The body orientation of the 22-year-old midfielder constraint the angle of this pass. Given the tight marking of Rodrigo, Paquetá tried to pass to Willian with a one-touch pass, and the ball went out of the pitch.
Afterwards, Brazil players switched their positions again. Jesus partnered with Firmino at the centre while Paquetá went to the right. We guessed Tite made this move as he believed Jesus was more threatening towards the goal. Brazil got better players in the attacking third on the bench, and due to tactical reasons, Phillipe Coutinho replaced Paquetá.
High press of Brazil and their transitions
In this part of the analysis, we want to show you how Brazil prepared well to press Argentina. Their press helped them to win the ball back high up on the pitch several times.
As a pivot, Paredes lacked movement and awareness to provide himself as a passing option in the build-up phase of Argentina. Also, the former Zenit man was slow at most of the times. Tite exposed these attributes of Paredes and he became a weakness.
When the pass was made to Paredes, it triggered the press of Brazil players, including the below case. Firmino anticipated the pass from goalkeeper Andrada to Paredes, and he accelerated to close off his target. Meanwhile, the rest of Brazil front players were alert to join the press, pushed forward. Under pressure, Paredes gave away the ball to Willian, Brazil won the ball high up on the pitch.
When Brazil tried to hit Argentina through transitions, their front players made diagonal runs behind the defenders. In this phase, Argentina defence usually lost shape, Brazil got chances and rooms to run. As the below example, Argentina left-back Nicolás Tagliafico was away from the defence, so Nicolás Otamendi moved away from his partner to close off the ball.
Argentina did enough to defend, their players ran back to defend. Germán Pezzella also tracked Brazil, they won the ball back with numbers back.
Changes in the second half
As mentioned, Brazil shifted their formation into a 4-2-4. In the second half, Coutinho came on. This allowed Brazil to attack with a slightly different way.
Given the stamina of Messi dropped, and the Argentine even contributed lesser than the first half. Brazil centre backs Militão and Silva could drift forward without pressure. Argentina defence condensed narrower vertically. Since Coutinho tended to position himself at the half-spaces, Brazil gained the following advantages.
First, they overloaded the centre with a numerical advantage. Second, it forced Argentina defensive line narrow horizontally. Since Argentina pivots aware of players behind them, they seldom stepped out recklessly to press Brazil midfielders. In this phase, Fabinho and Casemiro could spread the ball wide, when their full-backs or Willian stayed at the flanks.
In this scenario, Danilo moved into an advanced position to provide the width. Marcos Acuña read the pass from Fabinho early, but the Juventus right-back still got plenty of space to receive the ball. These changes of Tite helped Brazil reached the final third easier.
However, this also had its drawbacks when it came to defending. They somehow repeated the problem of Argentina in the first half. Merely defending the central areas with two pivots were not enough to cover all areas. The changes which Fabinho replaced Arthur, could be hints that Tite attempted to ease this problem. The Liverpool midfielder was better in terms of defending off the ball, pressing and physical strengths.
Despite the introduction of Fabinho, it was not enough in terms of number. We took this scene as an example. The huge space generated at the centre of the pitch, allowed Rodrigo to receive a pass without pressure. Brazil midfielders were far away from him. Argentina got rooms to attack.
To sum up, Brazil did not replicate their highest standard performance in summer. When they were a goal down after an hour, they seemed to lose their patience. They played long balls, instead of their own style, played out from the back. It was just a friendly match only, they could still improve. Maybe Jesus scored the penalty, things were different.
Argentina were improving. We saw the commitments of their players, to run more. Although they were not perfectly suitable to play out from the back, they still managed to create their chances through transitions. They played simple passes, and the partnership between Messi and Martínez was fine. Scaloni also allowed his players to shoot outside from the box, whenever had their chances. Considering they possessed players like Paredes, maybe this is also a method to score some goals in the future.
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