Brazil’s World Cup campaign got off to a strong start with a thumping 3-0 win against Jamaica. The first Caribbean side to play in a World Cup put in a respectable performance in an entertaining game at the Stade des Alpes. Brazil, who have never won the competition, put an end to their dismal form, which stretched to nine straight defeats. In one of the competition’s toughest groups, this is a crucial three points for the South Americans.
In this tactical analysis, the key points of Brazil’s tactical domination are considered as they created a constant threat by breaking through the Jamaican back line.
Hue Menzies, who is enjoying success as Jamaica’s manager, threw something of a curveball with his starting shape. An unfamiliar 4-3-3 system was chosen over a usual 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 as expected. The additional central midfielder was instructed to push further forward to make it a fluid 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system. Plummer and Swaby started as the centre-back pairing and were pushed high up the pitch to press the slow Brazillian build-up play. This, however, left them vulnerable as Brazil exploited the space in behind. Shaw started upfront alongside Williams and Carter who provided the width.
Vadão, on the other hand, stuck with a familiar 4-4-2 system. This balanced shape allowed Brazil to build attacks through all the phases using their short, accurate passing. Tamires and Santos were the first choice full-backs who played a key role in linking with the strikers who dropped deeper to join in the build-up or spun in behind the high Jamaican line. Record goal-scorer Marta found herself on the bench after picking up an unexpected thigh injury earlier in the week. This left the goal-scoring responsibility to Cristiane, who duly obliged scoring all three goals, including a sumptuous free-kick.
Brazilian magic: Beating the press
The game started frantically with both teams displaying a lot of nervous energy in the opening exchanges. Once the game did fall into a pattern, it was the Brazilians with the better possession and attacking rhythm.
Brazil played short passes out from the back and used a low tempo to dominate possession (62%). Thaisa and Formiga acted as a double pivot in midfield, dropping deeper when in possession to collect the ball. Jamaica attempted to stop the Brazilian technical midfielders by altering their 4-3-3 shape whilst out of possession. Instead, they pushed into a 4-2-3-1, as seen above.
The narrowness of Jamaica’s front five forced Brazil to play passes into space given to their full-backs. Once this pass was played wide, it triggered a man-to-man press from Jamaica, who looked to recover possession in dangerous areas and transition quickly.
Once with the Brazilian full-backs, Jamaica attempted to condense the pitch and engage a press in the middle third. Their defensive line is pushed high up the field, leaving plenty of space for Brazil to play in behind if they bypassed the press.
Punishing the space
Although commendable for deploying an aggressive, positive tactic against this talented Brazil side. The aggression worked against the Jamaican’s as their press often failed due to Brazil’s greater individual skill and technical ability. Being comfortable on the ball, Santos and Tamires used their superior dribbling ability to take on their opposition pressor. This opened passing lanes into the midfield. Once the Jamaican press failed, Brazil took full advantage of the high defensive line by switching the play quickly and distributing angled passes in behind their opposition.
Above you can see Santos has skipped passed her marker, which now opens up multiple opportunities to play into the midfield or strikers. The Jamaican back line were unable to cope with the vulnerability of their positioning. They became ragged and distorted as a result of the failed press in front of them. This resulted in Brazil easily passing through their defence, which led to 19 shots and three goals.
Jamaican worries: High line
Jamaica’s high line was picked apart from their lack of organisation in keeping the line compact and straight. Their system became vulnerable once Brazil had played around their initial press.
Angled penetrative passes were a common theme in the match, as Jamaica continually struggled to cope with their aggressive formation. Playing a low block and countering from deep as opposed to pressing high, may have been a safer option. This would have played into the Jamaican centre-back’s strengths and provided more defensive stability to fend off Brazilian attacks.
Another area Jamaica will need to improve if they want to pick up their first World Cup points is their defensive shape when transitioning into the second phase. Often through numbers alone, Jamaica could intercept, block or tackle their way out of trouble. However, once the clearance was made and the second phase began, their defensive shape was completely lost leaving them open and vulnerable.
As you can see, in the first defensive phase, Jamaica take up a good defensive shape. They have numbers in the box and two players have moved out to the wing to prevent an overload. Their defensive line is perhaps too deep here, but it is well stocked with players each marking their opponent tightly.
The initial cross is blocked and so play moved into the second phase. Now notice how Jamaica’s defensive shape has been completely lost. Firstly, their backline has not moved out as a unit, and therefore, it is uneven, leaving three Brazillian players unmarked and onside. Secondly, multiple players have been attracted to the ball and moved too far out of the defensive shape, leaving unmarked players who if found are through on goal. Also, the Jamaican defenders have followed the ball, moving too narrow and leaving angled passes into the wide areas as an easy option for Brazil to penetrate their defensive shape.
Not only was their poor defensive awareness in the second phase causing Jamaica problems, it was also costing them chances. The absence of a solid defensive platform inhibited their ability to transition into a counter attack if they regained possession. We look at this below.
Due to their defensive shape being so disjointed, Jamaica were unable to find easy passes in offensive transition. This meant they struggled to develop dangerous counter-attacks which often broke down in their infancy.
The ball is intercepted by the Jamaican centre-back. She now has players around her who are available to be used in setting up a counter attack. However, because of the panic caused by a lack of cohesion in the back-line, the defender opts for a direct clearance, missing out the supporting midfielders. With multiple Brazilians beyond the ball, a simple pass out to the wing would begin a counter-attack.
The ball has been cleared not giving the Jamaican front three a chance to get into a dangerous position. They are still too deep to challenge for the first or second ball against the Brazillian defenders. Furthermore, if the clearance did find them they are too far apart to put passing combinations together against the Brazil defensive shape which is much more organised. Instead, possession is sacrificed, allowing Brazil to stage another attack before the Jamaican defence can re-organise.
This lack of cohesion between defending and attacking transitioning handicapped Jamaica as they struggled to break free from the pressure of Brazil’s attacks. A calmer, more organised defensive unit would have provided a better platform from which dangerous counter-attacks could be formed.
Despite their troubles, Jamaica far from embarrassed themselves in their first World Cup appearance. Their passion, desire and athleticism is clear for all to see. With more experience on the big stage, this side has the potential to cause an upset in their remaining matches.
Brazil will be mightily content with a vital three points. They gave a strong attacking performance which has been missing in their previous nine defeats. With their top striker still to return and add to their already impressive firepower, there’s no reason the South American’s can’t go on to be serious contenders in this competition.
If you are following the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 then you will find our FREE tactical preview magazine the perfect compliment to the tournament. You can download it HERE – each nation is previewed and we also profile their key player and young player to watch. Enjoy!