Defence First for Brazil
Wed, Nov 30, 2022
Five-time World Cup winners Brazil headed to Qatar as favourites, in their bid to bring back the trophy for the first time since winning in Japan and South Korea back in 2002.
Five tournament wins is more than any other nation has managed, but twenty years is still a long time between drinks for supporters who are famously amongst the most demanding on the planet. The pressure on head coach Tite is at fever pitch as he strives to put those iconic yellow shirts in the sports news headlines for all the right reasons. As one of the most heavily backed sides in the tournament, many punters assessing the latest list of betting offers will be hoping that the popular 61-year-old gets it right.
Two games into the tournament, it is a case of so far, so good. Back-to-back wins over Serbia and Switzerland have seen Brazil solidify there position at the head of the betting market, although possibly not in quite the manner that many fans expected.
Built on Solid Foundations
Harking back to the great teams of the 60’s and 70’s, flair and attacking brilliance have been the watchwords when considering the Brazilian national side – a style which has earnt “A Seleção” legions of fans not only in Brazil, but all around the world. When Brazil turns up to play, we expect entertainment and excitement.
There is however an old saying in the sporting world that, “attack wins you games, but it is defence which wins your championships”. Judging from Brazil’s displays to date, it seems that coach Tite may well be a follower of this mantra.
Serbia and Switzerland Snuffed Out
Landing in Group G alongside Cameroon, Serbia, and Switzerland, Brazil were red hot favourites to top the section, with many fans anticipating that the South Americans would simply blow the opposition away.
Given the wealth of attacking talent at their disposal, that wasn’t an unreasonable prediction. With the likes of Neymar, Vinicius Jnr, Richarlison, Raphinha, Antony, Gabriel Jesus and Rodrygo in the squad, Brazil put almost every other nation in the shade when it comes to attacking might. France comes close, but even Les Bleus don’t boast quite the depth of this Brazil squad.
Anyone anticipating a glut of goals from Brazil has thus far been disappointed. A total of three across their opening two games certainly doesn’t represent anything resembling an attacking blitz. Spain (8), France (6) and England (6), have all bulged the net with far greater regularity.
Unlike, the above three sides, what Brazil has not yet done in the tournament is concede a goal. Nor have they even looked like having their defences breached. Across 180 minutes of football, not only are Brazil yet to concede a goal, but they haven’t even allowed the opposition a single shot on target. Serbia adopted the approach of harassing Brazil relentlessly, Switzerland were more pragmatic - neither could record an expected goals (xG) figure of greater than 0.49.
The Signs Were There During Qualification
The general consensus seems to be that this Brazilian side is adopting a far more defensive approach than expected. However, one look at their South American qualifying campaign suggests that it perhaps shouldn’t come as such a big surprise.
Across 17 games in qualifying, Brazil conceded a grand total of just 5 goals. That is a simply stellar defensive record in a section containing talented attacking nations such as Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Colombia. If the likes of Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Darwin Nunez all struggled to significantly trouble the Brazilian backline, should it come as a shock to see that trend continue at the finals itself?
More to Come?
Goal crazy or not, Brazil have qualified for the knockout stages with a game to spare, only needing to avoid defeat in their final game with Cameroon to ensure they top their section. Following that, a likely clash with either Uruguay or Ghana will await in the Last 16.
Future opponents may draw encouragement from the fact that Brazil haven’t been lighting up the goalscoring charts thus far. However, it may prove unwise to lean too heavily on this perception. Two games is, after all, a very small sample size, and the fact is that Brazil can, and do, score goals. Returning to that tough South American qualifying section, the side scored a total of 40 across those 17 games, fully 13 more than joint second top scorers Argentina and Ecuador.
Brazil’s defensive form and inbuilt attacking prowess would look to be a pretty ominous combination for the opposition in Qatar, and one which may prove tough to deny.