When Kevin De Bruyne smashed the second goal against Brazil into the bottom corner, a horrible sense of deja vu kicked in as a Brazil fan. I was thrown back to four years ago, when a hapless Brazil defense stood and watched as Germany hammered seven goals past them. While this match was far from that, it was similar in the way that every time Belgium launched forward, they looked destined to score.
A recurring problem for Brazil has been the similarity among their attacking players. Neymar, Coutinho and Willian are similar in the sense that they are all attacking midfielders who cut in from their respective flank and launch shots from the edge of the box.
Brazil lacked a real winger who could run into the box, attract defenders and leave spaces for Jesus Coutinho and Neymar to finish.
That man was Douglas Costa. In the limited time he played this tournament, he was the solitary spark in the Brazil attack and seemed like the only Brazil player who was keen on cutting past the player instead of shooting past them.
In my opinion, Tite missed a trick or two by not including him.
Lukaku: Brazil’s Death Knell
The man who was largely responsible for Belgium’s win in my opinion was Lukaku.
The red devil didn’t play his usual role through the middle for Belgium but instead played on the right and came very deep in Belgium’s build up play. His turns and strides into space largely set up Belgium’s attack along with De Bruyne.
Tite made a huge mistake by not asking anybody to mark him. When Miranda did so in the second half, the results definitely showed, but it was all too little, too late.
Marcelo was always caught out on Belgium’s counter and had Casemiro played instead of Fernandinho, somebody could’ve acted as a screen to the defenders and Brazil wouldn’t have given Belgium so much space.
How Belgium Outplayed Brazil?
While Brazil did make colossal mistakes that cost them the match, it would be unfair to not give Belgium credit where it is due.
Belgium played with a narrow defense, forcing Brazil to go wide knowing that their biggest threat was from the likes of Coutinho and Neymar shooting from the centre.
Also, the idea of playing Lukaku on the right was a masterpiece, when Hazard and De Bruyne bombed forward alongside him, the Brazil defense changed shape and were unsure who to follow into the box.
This also made full use of the fact that Marcelo was never back when Belgium attacked and Brazil were left a man short.
The elephant in Brazil’s World Cup campaign needs to be addressed.
At the start of the tournament, Neymar, was the star of the Brazilian side who was expected to lead them to World Cup glory but as the competition progressed he was reduced to nothing more than an annoyance.
True, he had some decent chances, and was kept out only by a brilliant Thibaut Courtois, but the net result of his antics at the World Cup did affect Brazil.
Every Brazil fan would grind their teeth every time Neymar rolled across the ground and rolled their eyes every time he threw his arms up in appeal. His frustration gave Belgium a sense of satisfaction, while his teammates were left helpless.
Miscommunication in Brazil’s Attack
A problem no one thought Brazil would have was scoring.
In five matches, Brazil scored only eight times. Certainly low by the Selecao standards. A more damning fact is that Brazil took 27 shots compared to 9 shots by Belgium.
A Brazilian attacker who is different from the others is Gabriel Jesus. A poacher that is a fantastic finisher, Jesus was underutilised by Tite. He felt that he was being overrun and thus came back when Coutinho and Co crowded the area. He should have instead, stayed right there and made something fruitful of Marcelo’s crosses and looked to steer in rebounds of long range shots. This miscommunication in Brazil’s attack was excruciating to watch.
Brazil will go home with many positives after this tournament, but should rethink their style, attack and mentality.
(The author is a school student who follows football, when he’s not finishing his homework. On a side note, he also answers to the name ‘Pele’ after his mother nicknamed him so.)