A Brazilian Shambles

Luis Felipe Scolari is a coach that I do not like. In my opinion, he is too overconfident. He seems to have a sense of entitlement that is underserved at times. He is too confrontational on the touchline. He is very picky and largely benefits from the exploits of that 2002 squad. I love Schadenfreude. As I watch, Schurrle just tapped in the sixth goal. Right after the second goal and before the third (You are welcome to go through the history of my chat), I had texted a friend of mine that it would be 6-0 to Germany. As you can imagine, I am very smug. And love the fact that Scolari was made to look like a fool. The following is how.

This German team has scored over 60 goals in their last 23 odd games. In that time they have evolved their style of play. What was once a team that loved to play organized football and counter with pace and precision has been turned into a possession heavy team with lots of incisiveness. Joachim Loew can set his team up to play like Bayern Munich or he can set them up to mirror Real Madrid’s destruction of the same opponent in this year’s Champions League with pace and power on the counter. Against Brazil, he needed to do nothing because Scolari showed the tactical nous of an abject idiot that would have people thinking along the lines of – “That Moyes chap can organize a team to stay tight against opposition that are better technically”.

Scolari presumably told both his full backs to bomb forward at every opportunity and to add extra bodies in attack at every possible opportunity. This tactic works if your opponent plays like Costa Rica did against the Dutch with no intent to attack. By the way, Schurrle just scored the 7th German goal. Against well organized teams that are looking to attack or counter and have the ability to do so, you need your defensive midfielders to make sure they can cover these open spaces if the opposition does counter. Applying this basic tenet of tactics, this is how the match differed. Calling a team that starts Klose, Muller, Ozil, Kroos, Schweinsteiger and Khedira as the attack and midfield as one that “has the ability to counter” is a bit like saying “That Messi fellow has the ability to dribble” or “That Hitler chap was against equality”. In all three cases, you’re technically not lying but that is the best compliment one can pay you.

The other thing was that Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo failed to track back at all. This was compounded further by the fact that even half a minute or so after Brazil had conceded possession, Marcelo was nowhere near his defensive zone. It further doesn’t help that your captain picked up a stupid booking in the previous game by impeding the goalkeeper. It also doesn’t help that Neymar was nearly crippled by Zuniga. But the buck stops with Luis Felipe Scolari. Scolari failed to instill a basic positional discipline let alone tactical discipline in his team. Oscar just scored a consolation for Brazil about 30 seconds after Ozil missed a one on one to put Germany up by eight.

Brazil conceded the first goal as a result of some terrible marking from a corner. They held it together for about 10 mins before conceding 4 goals in 6 minutes. It was brutal. Brazil’s defensive work cannot be described as anything given that it did not exist in this universe. German offense on the other hand was clinical. Their 11th shot on Julio Cesar’s goal was the first one off target. Brazil started the game like they were in a rodeo. They were cavalier. They played to please the crowd. They wanted to simply attack. Some times it is better to bide your time and actually gauge your opponent. Or simply, it is better to not go all in blind before the Flop. No. Wait. I meant its fucking mental to go All In before the Flop. Brazil did exactly that

The Germans seemed disinterested in attacking at the beginning of the second half expecting Brazil to have given up and deservedly took their foot off the gas. Brazil showed some verve in the second half before Germany sliced through them again. To their credit, Brazil woke up to create some very good chances but Oscar and Paulinho fluffed their lines by shooting straight at Neuer. As mentioned above, Germany then proceeded to just point to Brazil that such impudence was not welcome. They could have had 10 the number of times they countered outnumbering the Brazilians only for Julio Cesar to come to the rescue or for poor touches from the German players to bail them out.

Scolari set his team up to attack when he lacked the invention in his team against the consummate Germans. It was naive and corroborates the belief that he is myopic to his team’s strengths and weaknesses. He said before the Quarter Final against Colombia that they had one hand on the trophy. If that were the case, it was just cut off with the most vicious of strikes and then presumably the owner of the arm was shot in the face.

Scolari’s team only looked incisive in the group stages against Cameroon who were terrible. Chile gave them a hard time. Colombia weren’t as difficult as Chile but the fact that the Brazilians scored from two set pieces clearly points to a lack of cutting edge. Yet, Scolari ignored calls to alter his tactics even slightly. The result can be summed up by a very interesting stat that Oscar actually has more tackles than any Brazilian player in the tournament. In fact, his key passes to create could be counted on the fingers whereas his defensive work was more prominent. Brazil relied too much on Neymar to be the saviour and he fulfilled expectations before being cruelly ruled out. However, the lack of any semblance of a decent plan B is galling. This isn’t to ask Brazil to play with flair or play Joga Bonito style football. It is merely to point to the fact that Brazil lacked any plan in attack apart from get it wide and try and see what happens. We all know how wonderfully that worked for United last season.

Scolari has refused to drop Fred who is the worst Brazilian striker to possibly ever wear the Selecao No. 9 shirt. He is a decent footballer but the following list demonstrates the problem with Fred being the focal point of attack – Ademir, Romario, Ronaldo, Fred. He has also played Hulk who offers little defensive work rate and has been rotten this entire World Cup. He has a terrible touch and dribbles at the wrong moments. With Bernard and Willian rotting on the bench, one has to question the extent of his loyalty and whether tactical decisions should be made giving loyalty such a high value.

The worst part is that for a country reeling with mass corruption, scandals and an anti-Government wave so strong that an entire nation had placed their hopes in the World Cup Basket, this was a bitter pill for the people to swallow. It bordered on the unprofessional and was frankly ridiculous. The Brazilian supporters have been used to better but they seemingly made their peace with pragmatic football realizing what Scolari did not – This is a slightly above average team at best. Winning was all that mattered. They now have to confront desolation and despair without the short term pain killer of glory. John Nicholson at Football365 wrote a stunning piece a few days ago on how this kind of support is very wrong and potentially problematic. These words have never been truer. This is a clusterfuck and that is putting it politely. But now it is a clusterfuck where there is no shot at any action. One can only hope that their politicians and govt. get their act together. Whosoever is hoping for that should also hope that ISIS will give up arms tomorrow and that global warming is a myth.

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