Match Recap & Analysis
Brazil manager Tite put an extremely strong eleven on the field for his side’s away match against Bolivia.
Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, and Coutinho led the attack, ahead of a solid midfield and a star-studded back-line. Bolivia responded with a loose 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 formation.
The game started off extremely uneventfully, as Brazil looked happy to possess the ball and merely walk around the pitch. One could’ve pinned this down to lethargy, if it wasn’t for the high-altitude conditions that the away team had to deal with.
The players using oxygen masks after the match. pic.twitter.com/cshBPvywSZ— Brazil Football (@BrazilEdition) October 5, 2017
It looked like Brazil were trying to feel their opponents out before they physically committed to a strategy. To add to the weird pace of the game, the pitch looked as if it was fashioned out of hard concrete. The suspiciously small looking football bounced around like crazy, as players on both sides struggled to adequately control, pass, and shoot the ball (any decent contact had the ball fly off like it was a Sergio Ramos penalty destined for the moon).
Around the 10 minute mark, Bolivia began pressing, eager to force the Canarinho’s into higher intensity football. Brazil initially responded by rotating the ball out wide to Dani Alves, who tried to loft passes into the narrowly positioned trio of Neymar-Jesus-Coutinho. It wasn’t a horrible strategy, but Alves’ accuracy was abysmal and the physical challenges his deliveries instigated played into Bolivia’s hands. But as the game wore on, Brazil began to get smarter and looked to pick their way through Los Altiplanicos’ press by pinging vertical passes into the feet of Neymar and co. This was far less difficult than it sounds, as Bolivia left huge swathes of space in-between their midfield and defensive lines. Thus, Brazil began to regularly find their way into the final third, allowing both Neymar and Jesus to blow brilliant 1v1 opportunities.
In the second half, Bolivia curiously looked to get even more aggressive, as their wing-backs pushed up even higher and their pressers moved even farther forward. This allowed Neymar acres of space to run into, before he went 1v1 or 1v2 against defenders who often didn’t stand a chance. Like in the first half, an extraordinary run of poor finishing let Tite’s side down.
On defense, things were less simple, as Brazil often struggled to hold back Bolivia’s swift counters down the wings throughout the game. Lack of defensive support from Neymar and Coutinho meant that the Morales/Fierro and Bejarano/Moreno duos often overloaded the fullbacks and played good crosses into the box. It hardly mattered that Brazil’s CM’s shifted over to the flanks to offer support, as they were simply left in the dust by the speedy and more environmentally acclimated Bolivian players.
This constant counter-attacking threat, coupled with the altitude difficulties, pitch conditions, and ball dynamics, ensured that Brazil never really controlled the game. Nevertheless, they had more than enough quality chances to kill the game and it was only a truly inspired performance from goalkeeper Carlos Lampe (who made a stunning 11 saves) that kept Bolivia in the game.
Carlos Henrique José Francisco Venâncio Casimiro captained the national side for the first time in his career and put in a decent, but hardly noteworthy performance, under tough conditions. He was neat in possession and helped his side work their way around Bolivia’s press as much as any of the midfielders, but he wasn’t provided the opportunity to dominate the game. Most of Bolivia’s attacks dodged Casemiro and went out wide, and even when the Real Madrid DM shuttled out to the flanks, he had little effect. He was nut-megged once and burned for pace more than a couple times, though he did comprehensively shut-down the few attacks that came through the middle. His undoubted highlight of the match came in the second half, when he dispossession an attacker and played Neymar onto goal with a wonderful long ball. Unfortunately for Brazil and Casemiro, the PSG star could only smack the pass straight at the keeper.