Brazil v Chile - Jonathan Wilson's Tactical Preview


Brazil have no injuries or suspensions, but it seems probable that Fernandinho will come in for Paulinho at the back of midfield. The Man City man replaced his Spurs counterpart at half-time in the win over Cameroon and Brazil became far more fluent as a result. Paulinho then congratulated the City midfielder for his performance - even if that was forced, it showed the strength of the bonds Luiz Felipe Scolari has formed in this squad. Chile still have doubts over Arturo Vidal, who has been struggling all tournament with a knee injury, but the indications are that the Juventus midfielder will start even if he's unlikely to last 90 minutes.


The positives are that Neymar has scored four times in this tournament and has generally handled the extraordinary expectation with good humour and calm, but there is perhaps a sense that Brazil are over-reliant on him. Against Croatia, it felt every attack had to go through him, while Mexico showed that if Neymar can be shut down, Brazil are a far lesser force. If Neymar plays centrally, as he has done so far, he will face the heartbeat of Chile's pressing, Marcelo Diaz, who has had a superb tournament so far. If Diaz can stifle Neymar, then the focus of Brazil's creativity will shift to Oscar on the left.


Chile have beaten Brazil only eight times in 70 meetings. In the past 20 years, they've played Brazil 16 times and won just once: in a World Cup qualifier at home in 2000. At the last World Cup, having impressed in the group stage, they came up against Brazil in the last 16 and capitulated, losing 3-0. That’s the other notable thing about Chile’s results against Brazil: there are a number of big losses in there - a 6-0, a 5-0, two 4-0s, a 4-1 and four 3-0s in the past two decades. They seem to have a psychological issue against the continent's most illustrious sides, something their coach, Jorge Sampaoli, has self-consciously attempted to tackle.

“We will not change how we play,” he said before the tournament. “We will not allow ourselves to be modified by our opponents. We have to want it more than opponents, to surpass them in spirit. We will go mano a mano against anyone.” His pre-tournament programme included friendlies against Spain, Brazil, England and Germany, as though he wanted to convince his side, his “little rebels” as he puts it, that they could compete with the traditional powers. 

Last April, locals in Belo Horizonte, where today's game will be played, jeered Brazil as they were held 2-2 by Chile. In November, in Toronto, Brazil beat Chile 2-1, but there was no sense of fear. The aggression of Sampaoli's approach doesn't allow it.


A lot of teams who play with three at the back run the risk of lacking attacking width as they pack the centre and rely on the wing-backs to patrol the flanks. That doesn't apply to Chile, though, because their front two, Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez, naturally pull wide, creating space for - probably - Vidal to drive into. That is a particular concern for Brazil given both how vulnerable the centre of their defence has looked when forwards have run at it, and the fact that their greatest weakness is probably that space behind the full-backs when Dani Alves and Marcelo drive forwards. Chile have the weapons to expose Brazil here.


Brazil's centre-forward, Fred, has come in for a huge amount of criticism - and was unfortunate that when he did finally score, against Cameroon, television footage suggested he was offside, drawing a line from the last defender rather than the ball, which Fred was behind and thus onside. It's true he has not had a distinguished World Cup so far, but he does offer a muscular option if Chile's pressing prevents Brazil playing neatly through the middle in this match. Furthermore, his aerial is likely to exploit Chile's lack of height at the back. At 5.50 to score first, backing him could prove good value.


Chile are unlikely to freeze as they did against Brazil in South Africa, and will offer a severe test to the hosts, who, although they have scored seven goals, haven't really clicked as yet. That said, I believe we're in for a fascinating match in which the real flair and fortitude of Scolari's side will come to the fore.

Back Brazil 2-1 at odds of 8.00

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