On Tuesday afternoon in Abu Dhabi, Brazil broke their five game winless streak to beat South Korea by three goals to nil. Here’s what we learned from the tie.
The shame of the Brasil Global Tour knows no bounds
This friendly could have been played in Brazil at a stadium such as the Maracana in Rio or one of Sao Paulo’s four main grounds, with cheap tickets helping to bring the public closer to their national team as is badly needed. Instead, it was contested in an empty ground in Abu Dhabi at 10.30 AM Brasilia time when most Brazilians are at work or school. This showed yet again that the money-spinning Brasil Global Tour and money-grabbing CBF, the country’s soccer federation, has little consideration for them.
Brazil started with more urgency
When compared to Friday’s outing against Argentina. In a 4-2-3-1, long striker Richarlison was immediately served by number 10 Lucas Paquetá, who had a point to prove after being hauled off at half time last time out. On this ocassion, Tite found a way to play both he and Coutinho behind the Everton target man, with Gabriel Jesus on the right flank.
Aware that his job is on the line after five winless games, the players said they wanted to respond for Tite and respond they did
Paquetá silenced the doubters with his goal
The critics were manyfold for a ‘nervous’ and ‘silly’ display against the Argentines and the AC Milan ace shut them up momentarily with his 10th minute header from close range to take pressure of himself, Tite and the rest of the team.
Brazil may have finally found their Marcelo and Filipe Luis successor in Renan Lodi
The youngster has been a revelation since joining Atletico Madrid upon Filipe Luis’ return home to Flamengo this summer. Providing the assist for Paqueta, Lodi is now tipped to succeed Luis not just at club level, but also, as the long-haired lateral predicted himself, on the international scene. It may be hard for Juventus’ Alex Sandro, who struggled badly with Messi in Riyadh and in previous games in yellow and green, to make his way back into the first XI now.
As expected, Son Heung-min was South Korea’s main source of danger
There was a chance before that, and also, around the 20 minute mark, the Spurs attacker dragged one wide past Alisson’s left post. Though 1-0 up, Brazil knew they were by no means out of the woods with such a tight lead and space to operate afforded to him.
When Casemiro is out, Brazil might be in safe hands with an Arthur and Fabinho double pivot pairing
The Real Madrid warhorse deserved a rest and got one to allow the in-form Fabinho start. With this however, we got a good look at how Brazil might operate with Arthur and Fabinho as double pivots and the results were pleasing. With the Liverpool man’s cover and positional awareness, Arthur was protected and they both distributed the ball well - especially to Coutinho and Lodi on the left.
This could prove especially important when Casemiro picks up one two many yellow cards in a major tournament and has to sit one out, as was seen to terminal effect against Belgium at the 2018 World Cup when Brazil were dumped out at the quarter-final stage.
Philippe Coutinho badly needed that goal
And what a goal it was. Picking up where Luis Suarez left off to put Uruguay 2-1 ahead of Argentina in Tel Aviv yesterday, Little Phil scored his first goal for his country since the opening of the Copa America in June by putting a rocket of a free kick into the ‘keeper’s top right corner.
Out of sorts for Bayern and flat on Friday after losing his place to Thomas Muller and Paquetá for club and country, the 27-year-old needed that one for his confidence.
Simultaneously, he broke a dead ball hex for the Seleção stretching back to September 2014.
But then he almost put one into his own net
Not that it would have been his fault if South Korea pulled one back however. The usually reliable Alisson had his ‘lettuce hands’ on, as they say in Brazil, and spilled the ball to Coutinho’s feet in their own box.
Coutinho did what he could and hit it against the post. Second time lucky though, he cleared it out of danger and Brazil went down the tunnel 2-0 up for the first time in what seems an age.
Tite didn’t see it necessary to make changes at half time
When losing to Argentina 0-1, he swapped Paqueta for Coutinho and sparked criticism from the legendary Rivaldo for dishonouring the hallowed 10 jersey.
His team on top here however, Tite must have liked what he saw against the South Koreans.
The left and right backs connected to make it three
Dragging a low pass across the box, Lodi bagged his second assist of the night when Daniel Alves stand-in Danilo drilled home to put the tie well beyond reach on the hour.
The longer that match went on, the more the impatience grew with Tite’s refusal to bring on substitutes
This their homeland’s last game of 2019, Brazilians began to grow annoyed by how the likes of wonderkid Rodrygo were still on the bench heading towards the 80th minute.
And then finally it came
In the dying minutes, Roberto Firmino came on for Paqueta and Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, an U23 Olympic captain, replaced Arthur to make his deserved senior debut. Also from that team, Real Betis right back Emerson dislodged Lodi strangely, instead of Danilo, and Rodrygo got his run on in the place of Gabriel Jesus
The hex is over
As briefly mentioned earlier, Brazil have now ended an unwanted five game winless streak and 2019 with a victory. There is much to consider, however for the meantime Tite’s job is safe as Brazil heads into its Conmebol 2022 World Cup qualifiers and the defence of its Copa America title.
When the men in yellow and green return to action, it will be interesting to see how Neymar returns to this side and the midfield is reshaped when Casemiro demands starting minutes.