Brazilian football is notorious for its flair and skill. Kevin Real is here to discuss whether the lack of flair in this current Brazil side is leading to despair amongst fans.
Luis Gustavo, Ramires, Fernandinho, Paulinho and Hernanes. These are the central midfielders that Luis Filipe Scolari has to choose from for the World Cup finals. Apart from Hernanes all are renowned for their defensive attributes and the solidity they offer to the team. They are all very talented midfielders but one could be excused for claiming they are also essentially carbon copies of each other.
Admittedly Scolari has chosen these midfielders himself so the blame must fall on him. That being said, a look at the players he left behind shows that he did not have a luxury of options. Lucas Leiva, Sandro and Shakhtar’s Fernando would not necessarily have added an extra attacking dimension to the squad. He did however leave Phillpe Coutinho and Lucas Moura out of the squad, just the type of creative flair player that this Brazilian team is rather uncharacteristically deficient in.
The only flair players on the pitch for Brazil are Neymar and, to a lesser extent, Oscar. As Bill O’Herlihy pointed out on RTE’s coverage, Fred and Jo sound like a pair of plasterers and at times play like so. Both players failed to cut it at the highest level in Europe and for Brazilian centre forwards they are sorely lacking in creativity and flair. David Luiz has more flair and creativity than the two of them put together.
All Hulk seems to offer is the occasional display of physicality to bully a defender and the potential to maybe at some stage hit a thunderous forty yard shot. Other than that he has shown very little in the opening rounds. Whilst he did have a goal contentiously ruled out for handball against Chile, his overall play still left a lot to be desired. He tamely missed what could have a crucial penalty in the penalty in the shoot-out and he carelessly gave away possession in the lead up to Chile’s equaliser. For a sixty million euro player, he does not provide enough.
Hulk was carrying a slight injury into the Mexico game and Scolari did not start him. He instead chose to play Ramires, just in case Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho got a little too adventurous. Bernard appeared to be the logical option to fill the right sided attacking void left by Hulk. He would have offered pace, skill and excitement for the public but unfortunately the qualities of Ramires were more appealing to Scolari, which is a clear example of the lack of flair that exists in this Brazilian World Cup squad.
Neymar and Oscar are the only true magicians who can get the crowd on their feet. This is mind-boggling for a Brazilian national team, a team historically known for their exciting tricksters and samba style football. That is a sad state of affairs. In recent World Cup tournaments, we were treated to the flair of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ze Roberto and Juninho. Now Neymar must carry the mantle almost on his own.
It is true to say that for every one of those flair players there was a Gilberto Silva, an Emerson or an Edmilson behind them to take care of the defensive side of things. While these players were valuable, they were never the focus and rarely were two or three of them played together. The attacking players were the centre of attention and the flair of Brazil always won out, but regretfully the same cannot be said for today’s team.
Bizarrely, the back four is where Brazil’s more attack minded players seem to be located. Whilst his offensive influence has waned in the past few years Dani Alves still vastly prefers spending most of his time in the opposition’s half as opposed to his own. Marcelo is basically a converted left winger and David Luiz…well David Luiz speaks for himself.
Gary Neville controversially described him as a Playstation player being controlled by a ten year old and Jamie Carragher stated that he would have hated to play beside him due to his numerous defensive lapses. Essentially, he is a wannabe superstar playing centre-half. In his defence, he generally performs on the biggest occasion and he showed a lot of character in his performance against Chile. He rather fortuitously scored the opener and he slotted his penalty with considerable ease considering the enormous pressure he was under.
As usual though, he was still suspect in his primary role as a defender. Luiz is very comfortable on the ball and can do a very good job in a defensive midfield position. Jose Mourinho described him as an absolute “beast” after his performance in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint Germain.
Unfortunately for Luiz, this Brazilian team appears to be bursting at the seams with defensive midfielders at the minute. Alongside Luiz, Brazil do possess arguably the best defender on the planet in the form of Thiago Silva. Brazil can compensate for an awful lot of the defensive mistakes made by the other three with Silva at the heart of the defence.
A predominantly forward thinking defence with a defensive orientated midfield in front of it is quite paradoxical in nature. If Scolari is so keen on setting up a team with such defensive solidity it makes you wonder why he did not include Atletico Madrid pair, Miranda and Felipe Luis, in his squad. These players were two of the cornerstones in what was probably the best defence in Europe last season.
It is one thing to leave the Atletico Madrid pair out of the starting line up but to leave them out of the squad all together seems baffling. A backline of Felipe Luis, Miranda, Silva and Alves would offer far more solidity to the team and it might enable Scolari to sacrifice one of his two holding midfield players for a more attack minded option.
Brazil will face their toughest challenge to date in the quarter-final against a James Rodriguez led Colombia who have confidently swept all before them in the tournament so far. Columbia have been defensively solid and incredibly clinical in their route to the last eight and let’s not forget they have achieved all of this without their best player Radamel Falcao.
Brazil’s best player Neymar is a slight doubt for the game after Scolari admitted that he picked up a knock against Chile. Columbia’s chances will be massively enhanced if he is forced to miss out. One really must start to wonder where the goals will come from in a Brazil team without Neymar.
In the 2002 World Cup final Scolari started five defenders with Gilberto Silva and Kleberson in front of them. That being said, two of those ‘defenders’ were Cafu and Roberto Carlos. He also had the mesmeric trio of Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo up front. Even then Scolari liked to have a strong defensive base to his team complimented by wonderfully skilful flair players.
Unfortunately this time around apart from Neymar, Brazilian creativity and trickery is noticeably lacking. They are not like a traditional Brazilian team and people are wondering where all the traditional Brazilian talent has gone. The next time you walk into the shop of Brazilian flair asking where it has all gone, they will have Neymar out front and the rest of it, oddly enough, will be kept in the back.
Kevin Real, Pundit Arena.