13 June, 2006

How to beat Brazil

There are two factors in selecting your tactics. Play to your own strengths and exploit your opponent's weaknesses. And Brazil do have a weakness.

Brazil play a 4-4-2 formation (that some people call a 4-2-2-2). A back-four, two defensive midfielders, two attacking midfielders and two strikers. The attacking midfielders are not there to provide any width, instead the full-backs push forwards, allowing the attackers to interchange their positions and bamboozle the defenders.

Some teams try to counter Brazil by packing the defence (Croatia are doing this as I write and have just conceded). But this doesn't really work. Brazil are skillful enough to pass through your defenders. Four attackers in the centre with support from the wings. Play eight or nine men back and you have no outlet. Play less than eight back and they will walk the ball into the net.

So what's the answer? Attack! In particular, play high up the field and attack down the wings. Cafu and Roberto Carlos are getting on a bit. They're not bad defenders but they prefer attacking. So push them back. Force them level to the other defenders. Every time you win the ball in your half have your wingers (and you do need real wingers) sprint into the space behind Cafu or Carlos and play the ball into the channel. Make the old men run. Make them think twice before they bomb forwards. Defend from the front. Take more of the attackers out of the game by pressing high up the field, so they have to drop deep to receive the ball. Not only are you forcing the play into their half, you are keeping their attackers out of your own half.

If you defend deep you may keep them out for 60 minutes but you will concede.

If you play press and attack you may keep them out for 60 minutes and concede, but equally, you may just frustrate them enough to give you the advantage.

It's a spoiler's tactic. High balls into the channels. Vinnie Jones and Wimbledon, Robbie Savage and Leicester. It's certainly not pretty and won't win you any friends. But it could win you a trophy.

Postscript for England:
Of course you need to play at an extremely high tempo for 95 minutes. So hard luck Sven.

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