In a largely uneventful match; four Madridistas featured in today’s Brazil vs Croatia friendly which took place at Anfield. For Brazil, Marcelo and Casemiro started; while Luka Modric started for Croatia. Mateo Kovacic replaced Modric in the 58th minute.
Marcelo played 60 minutes, after which he was replaced by Filipe Luis, who made his much anticipated return from injury. Real Madrid’s left-back had the difficult task of creating for a Brazilian side that lacked a lot of creativity — rocking an unimaginative midfield trio of Casemiro (who did have a lovely assist to Firmino in the 94th minute), Paulinho, and Fernandinho. Both Casemiro and Fernandinho are elite at what they do in their traditional anchoring roles, but pair them next to each other alongside an anti-maestro in Paulinho, and you’re going to have a tough time. Croatia’s press to start the match was fantastic, and Brazil struggled to get out of their half early on.
GOOOOL FIRMINO!— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStat) June 3, 2018
Casemiro with an amazing diagonal, Firmino brilliant chest control. Croatian defender tries to pull Bobby down, but he ends up falling down instead as the Liverpool star out-muscles him before lobbing the goalkeeper with a great finish. pic.twitter.com/AN7EWdpGJQ
But Marcelo did well, and often was the difference-maker in creating chances for Brazil. This was a team that had Neymar on the bench to start, and Gabriel Jesus starting in-lieu of Firmino. There wasn’t really anyone to bind the attack apart from Willian’s dangerous runs with the ball. Jesus is a great player, but he doesn’t drop deep the way Firmino does. Coutinho’s long-range efforts were ineffective. Again, Marcelo did well to rectify some of these issues for the sheer reason of being one of the best attacking full-backs in the history of the game.
Croatia’s press was led by Luka Modric, who played an interesting role (very) high up the pitch. The official line-ups had him listed just behind the striker, Andrej Kramaric, and he was often as high as the striker when Brazil were building from the back. On one occasion, he even intercepted a Marcelo pass high up the pitch which led to a dangerous opportunity for Croatia.
Brazil eventually grew into the game, even if they couldn’t create much (neither side did, really, in the first half). At half-time, Brazil’s class started to show when Neymar came into the pitch for Fernandinho — enabling Brazil to play a 4-2-3-1 with Coutinho pushing a bit deeper. Neymar brought some obvious flair, and Firmino’s entrance also helped control the game.
Again, this match was largely uneventful (apart from some rash challenges from both sides that didn’t get carded by Michael Oliver, assumingly because it was a friendly, as well as anticipated returns from Neymar and Filipe Luis), but this Neymar goal, was, umm, really great:
If there is only one thing to take away and cherish from this match, it’s probably this moment:
This was the first of three matches Madridistas will feature in today. Keylor Navas should start for Costa Rica against Northern Ireland, and we’ll expect to see Asensio, Nacho, Vazquez, and maybe even Vallejo for Spain against Switzerland.