Estádio Mineirã, Belo Horizonte
26th June, 2013
When Brazil takes on Uruguay tonight, there will be more than just a place in the final of the Confederations Cup at stake. These two nations have developed one of the fiercest rivalries in world football over the years – something which started way back during the 1950 world cup. Perhaps it is a shame that this match won’t be played at the Estádio do Maracanã, the historic venue where near about 210,000 spectators witnessed what is considered to be one of the biggest upset in the history of this sport back in 1950. Estádio Mineirão will host a much smaller crowd tonight, but irrespective of the venue one can expect a derby like atmosphere when these two South American giants go head to head.
The host nation has had to bear a lot of expectations throughout this tournament as it has been seen as an important part of their preparations for the upcoming World Cup on their home soil. Perhaps the minimum expectation of this Brazilian squad was to reach the final of the tournament and Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men are one step away from achieving it.
For Brazilian fans, the way victory has been achieved has always been more important than the victory itself. It is a nation which is proud of its footballing ethos and distinctive style of play. While this Brazilian side is still a work in progress and not as strong as some of the teams they have put out in the recent past, it has certainly showed the attacking flair one has come to associate with them.
Brazil were drawn into the toughest group in the tournament with the likes of Italy, Mexico and Japan in it, and it is safe to say that they have cruised through their group without facing any significant hurdle. Statistically they had the best attack and defence in the group – scoring nine and conceding only two. But importantly, these two goals were conceded against Italy – their toughest opponent in the group. Italy, it must be remembered, were playing without two of their most influential players in Pirlo and De Rossi and yet they managed to trouble Brazil whenever they attacked. It was once again a remainder of Brazil’s vulnerability at the back against good teams,
The defence will now be up against one of the best forward lines in the World when they face Uruguay in the Semi Final. The likes of Suarez, Cavani, Forlan and Abel Hernandez can trouble any defence around the world and they are lethal on counter-attack. Scolari will be specifically concerned about his full-backs who can be caught out of position a lot of times. So the Seleção might just revert to the tactics of scoring more than they concede.
Neymar has undoubtedly been the star of the tournament so far and the prime focus in Brazil’s attack. It has been apparent that his team mates have tried to bring him into the game as much as possible. The Brazilian forward grabbed the headlines during the early part of this summer after his much talked about move to Barcelona, and now he has once again been grabbing the headlines with his performances.
Scolari is expected to make only one change to the starting line-up that took to the field against Italy in their last match. Paulinho will replace Lazio midfielder Hernanes and resume his role as the box-to-box midfielder alongside the more defensive minded Gustavo. The Bayern Munich defensive midfielder will have a crucial role to play in this match as he is expected to shield the defence and cover for the full-backs against Uruguay’s counter attack. Fred, who put up a dominant display against the Italians in their last match, will once against lead the line upfront, with the trio of Hulk, Oscar and Neymar providing the creativity behind him.
Expected Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) – Cesar (GK); Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
Considering their performances in the recent past, it is fair to say that they have already achieved what was expected of them at the start of this tournament – reaching the Semi Final. It is hard to analyse what has went gone wrong for such a strong Uruguayan side. When the Celeste lined up during the 2010 World Cup, it looked like one of the best Uruguayan team for decades. But after winning the 2011 Copa America, the team has gone off the boil a bit. They struggled in the Olympics last year and now incredibly they might miss out from the 2014 World Cup. Uruguay are currently fifth in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification standings – five points behind Chile, who currently occupy the last of the direct qualification spot, with four matches to go (they have played 12 matches, while Chile has played 13). So Uruguay came into this tournament with the primary aim of restoring their pride and confidence ahead of the crucial upcoming fixtures in the Qualification rounds – and what better way to do so than defeating their arch rivals Brazil on their home soil. The result of this match can go a long way into resurrecting Uruguay’s faltering qualification campaign.
Uruguay started this tournament on the back foot with a 2-1 loss against World Champions Spain, and the score line hardly indicates how much they were dominated by their European opponent in that game. But Spain were always expected to win this group, the crucial fixture to decide the second best team was the one between Uruguay and Nigeria. Old war horse Diego Forlan came to the rescue for the South American side in his game, as he scored the winner in the second half. They followed that up with a 8-0 thrashing of minnows Tahiti as the forward line had a field day against their weak opponents.
But the match against Brazil will undoubtedly be crucial fixture for Oscar Tabarez’s men so far – with so much history between these two sides. Tabarez is never shy of experimenting tactically and one can expect a tactical surprise against the Brazilians. He is likely to focus on his team’s strength and set them up for counter-attacking football. Uruguay will look to exploit the wings as the Brazilian defence seems to be vulnerable in the wide areas. They press hard and deny the Brazilian midfielders time and space on the ball. The defence is expected to hold a very deep line as both Lugano and Godin are quite slow on the ground, so they will look to deny the likes of Neymar and Hulk any space to run in-behind the defence. They are also expected to play a very physical game against the Brazilians.
The 4-3-3 formation can easily to change to a 4-5-1 formation with Suarez and Forlan helping out the Pereira and Caceres defensively. Tabarez is unlikely to play in the 3-4-3 formation he deployed against Tahiti in their last match. Tabarez fielded a completely different line-up against Tahiti, so a long of change is expected in their match against Brazil.
Godin and Lugano will return at the center of the defence after missing out in the last match, while Maxi Pereira and Caceres will complete the back four. The midfield composition is difficult to predict as Tabarez has deployed different midfields in all the three matches so far. Gargano is the most likely to start along with Perez and Gonzalez. Despite scoring four goals against Tahiti, Hernandez is likely to be dropped to the bench as the front three of Suarez, Cavani and Forlan looks set to start.
Expected Starting Line-up (4-3-3) – Muslera (GK); Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Caceres; Gonzalez, Gargano, Perez; Forlan, Cavani, Suarez.
Player to watch out for
Neymar (Brazil) – It is hard to nominate any other player from this Brazilian squad than the latest Barcelona recruit. There were a lot of scepticism about the huge transfer fee involved for a player who has no experience of playing in Europe, but Neymar has silenced most of those critics with his performances in this tournament and he already looks like bargain deal given the commercial value he will add to the Catalan team. How he will get along with Messi is something only time can answer, but Neymar has proved why he is considered to be the biggest talent of come of Brazil in recent times. At an age of 21, he is already shouldering the hope of an entire nation. Although he still needs to mature as a footballer and become more of a team player, he has time on his side. The Brazilian forward will once again be the focus of their attack against Uruguay.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay) – The Liverpool forward has grabbed all the headlines this summer with speculations regarding the future at Anfield being the main topic of discussions. Uruguay are unlikely to enjoy a lot of possession in this match, so when they have it, they need to make it count and who is better than Suarez in pulling out a moment of magic during those limited opportunities. Against Spain he showed his ability from set pieces as his wonder striker gave a score line a far more respectable look than it deserved. He also scored a brace after coming on as a substitute in the second half of the match against Tahiti. Uruguay will once again look towards Suarez to produce that moment of inspiration on the pitch against their arch rivals.
Brazil 3 – 1 Uruguay
Uruguay will come out hard at the Brazilian in a very physical approach. But Brazil are expected to dominate possession, while their opponents looks for opportunity to counter-attack. Brazil will take the lead, but one can expect Uruguay to score against this defence as well. Tabarez’s side will be stretched in the second half as they have to come out in search of a goal, this will leave them open at the back and Brazil will take advantage of that. The home side should win this exciting fixture by a two goal margin.