Brazil drew 1-1 against Ecuador in a CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying game that featured more refereeing interruptions and controversy than actual football.
Brazil has already qualified for the 2022 World Cup, but that didn't prevent manager Tite from calling up key players like Militão, Casemiro, and Vinicius, who might not be available on time for Real Madrid's Copa del Rey game against Athletic Club. All three players started the game against Ecuador.
Brazil got ahead early thanks to a goal from Casemiro from a corner, picking up the rebound that followed a header from Cunha. Both teams exchanged attacks through long balls in a chaotic fashion, which led to some interesting shenanigans.
In the 15th minute, Ecuadorian goalie Domínguez was sent off. His attempt to clear a ball saw him land his boot right on the chest of Cunha. After a long stop, the game resumed, and soon after (20th minute), Emerson Royal earned a second yellow and a red after his attempt to clear a long ball saw him deliver a kick right between the legs of Ecuador's Michael Estrada. As if the game weren't ridiculous enough already, Allison almost got red-carded after yet ANOTHER overly aggressive attempt at clearing a long ball. However, this red card was overturned via VAR.
After these 15 minutes of almost no actual football, the game finally resumed for good with both teams having just ten men, with Dani Alves substituting Coutinho so Brazil could have a proper right back. Ecuador kept attacking Brazil, but Casemiro, Tiago Silva, and Militao kept clearing the incoming danger and breaking up play. Meanwhile, Brazil tried some attacks of their own but with little organization.
Vinicius had a lackluster game in which he barely participated, with only 6 completed passes out of 9 attempted, only 1 dribble completed out of 4, five ground duels won out of 15, and no shots taken. He often lost his duels against Ecuador's right back Angelo Preciado. It didn’t help him that Brazil mostly had the ball on the right side of the pitch, with Militão and Alves often bringing the ball from the back. Ultimately, Vinicius was subbed for Gabriel Jesus in the 63rd minute.
The second half was not much better than the first, with both teams trading attacks chaotically and with very open spaces in midfield areas. The defensive lines of both teams were forced into constant last-ditch tackles and clearances to prevent shots. Ecuador eventually got a well-deserved reward from a 75th-minute corner, with defender Félix Torres beating Thiago Silva in the air and heading the ball into the net. Ecuador also had two penalty calls in their favor overturned through VAR during the second half: one in the 57th minute, and one during injury time in the 95th minute.
Militão and Casemiro had a normal day in the office, with Militão being particularly important when Brazil played out from the back. It's surprising that he had more impact in this phase of the game than veteran defender Thiago Silva, who is pretty clean with the ball himself. With midfield essentially not existing in this game, both Militão and Casemiro were forced to put out fires constantly throughout the 90 minutes of play.
Brazil's next WC qualifier game will be against Paraguay on Wednesday, February 2nd.