Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
As the World Cup heads for the Quarter-Final stage and the big sides continue to tumble, the case for this competition concluding with Brazilian hands on the trophy gets ever stronger. Tite’s side appear to be playing smart tournament football and ominously for their rivals, their level of performance is increasing while all around them seem to be either self-destructing or failing to convince.
A few eyebrows might have been raised when Brazil headed into the 2018 World Cup as favourites to win the trophy given how the last tournament ended for them. However they have largely lived up to their tag and have proved that this is very much a new team and the bitter disappointments of humiliating World Cup and Copa America exits in recent years are now a thing of the past.
Read more: Brazil’s Transformation since 2014
The most consistent performers?
When you analyse the squads and starting lineups of the teams at the 2018 World Cup, Brazil probably don’t boast the most individual quality. Even with a host of surprising exits, you could argue that France and perhaps even their next opponents Belgium have a bit more talent to call upon. However in terms of a functioning team unit and an ability to maintain a consistent level, no side can match Brazil.
They’ve now won three matches in a row, all by 2-0 margins to mark the first time since 2006 that they’ve picked up three straight victories inside 90 minutes at the World Cup. While fellow Quarter-Finalists France, Belgium and Croatia have produced passages of play where they’ve really fired, they’ve struggled to maintain anything like a consistent level. All three trailed at one point in their last 16 ties and don’t look totally convincing defensively.
Brazil though have had no major alarms and have simply carried their fine form in the build-up to this tournament into the World Cup proper. That’s not always an easy transition but a record of 7 wins and a draw from their last 8 games and only 1 goal conceded in that period is nothing short of outstanding. You have to go all the way back to a friendly against Argentina last June for the last time Brazil were even behind in a game and that can only bode well in a World Cup where the winners may not need to do more than be consistently good enough.
Brazil find another gear to see off Mexico
The best sides in club or international football seem capable of moving up a gear almost at will and Brazil did that on Monday in the Second Half against Mexico. It was their best 45 minutes of the tournament so far, as they scored with two simple tap-ins to round off very well-worked moves.
It was Neymar’s best performance so far and unquestionably he remains key for Brazil and the player most likely to provide that spark if times get tough. However again it was the efficiency of the team rather than individual brilliance that stood out. They largely nullified a Mexican attack that had impressed in the group stage and gradually won the midfield battle to ensure the likes of Coutinho, Willian and Neymar saw enough of the ball in good areas to create openings in the final third and ultimately win the game with a bit of breathing space.
Read more: Who is Brazilian boss Tite?
Neymar’s play-acting takes shine off win
Mexico’s manager wants Neymar to act like a man, not a clown. pic.twitter.com/Gh6e59GZjB
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 2, 2018
Not for the first time in this World Cup, some embarrassing play-acting from Neymar took the shine off Brazil’s win. While Miguel Layun’s sneaky stamp was foolish in the age of VAR, Neymar’s hysterical reaction was a cynical and shameful attempt to dupe the referee into getting the Mexican player sent off. By the letter of the law, Layun could easily have seen red but Neymar could also have been booked for play-acting, which would have had grave repercussions for both him and Brazil given it would have ruled him out of the Quarter-Final with Belgium.
To be fair, Neymar has been far from the only player at this World Cup to roll around in apparent agony in an attempt to at least get referees to check challenges with the video officials but he is the most high profile player left in Russia and his theatrics have been one of the few negatives from what has been a wonderful tournament. Sooner or later FIFA needs to clamp down on this behaviour and while they might be in Russia to win a trophy rather than new friends, the actions of their star player means Brazil for once are anything but the neutral’s choice.
Read more: World Cup’s dirtiest matches
An effective but Un-Brazilian style
Casemiro vs Mexico
90% passing accuracy
45 passes completed
6 tackles completed
3 key passes
One of Brazil’s most consistent performers. pic.twitter.com/lattvsStEn
— Brazil Football 🇧🇷 (@BrazilEdition) July 2, 2018
The style of their football has also had an impact on a decrease in their popularity levels. This may be the least Brazilian side we’ve ever seen at the World Cup and while the need for a more professional and sensible strategy was painfully clear for all to see four years ago, this current crop isn’t anywhere near as easy on the eye as the great Brazilian teams of yesteryear.
Even if you compare it to the 2002 team, the last Brazilian side to win the World Cup, the differences are huge. That side boasted three dazzling attacking talents in the shape of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho as well two exciting wing-backs in Cafu and Roberto Carlos. Their football was crowd-pleasing and the sense that their defence could be a little bit vulnerable only added to their appeal.
16 years on and while there are still clearly some very talented attacking players in this Brazilian squad, there is not quite that same lovable Brazilian identity present. It doesn’t help that Dani Alves got injured before the tournament while Marcelo has also picked up a knock, starving this side of two of their biggest characters and the two players who perhaps embody that bold, Brazilian sense of attacking from the back.
Their replacements are much less flamboyant full-backs while the spine of the team consists of Thiago Silva, Miranda, Casemiro and Paulinho, players who again fall far more into the category of effective rather than exciting. While the potential to entertain certainly exists, this is a Brazilian squad that seems totally focused on restoring national pride and bringing back the trophy by any means necessary with winning popularity contests not even on their agenda this summer in Russia.
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