From our Special Envoy in Doha,
In the recent history of the Seleção world titles, let’s say the last two (1994 and 2002), there has of course been talk of offensive genius, but also of tactical pragmatism. More in the United States with a legendary triple pivot Dunga, Mazinho, Mauro Silva than in Korea and Japan, where we will still remember the impassable defensive wall formed by Roque Junior, Lucio and Edmilson. But the idea is there. Not that the 2022 World Cup version of the Canarinha really follows this line, although it has the needy Casemiro and Fred in its ranks, but it showed encouraging predispositions to solidity against Serbia.
First in its impeccable implementation. A perfectly drawn block of three lines, including a five-man defense at the loss of the ball (Raphinha in the role of the spare wheel). Poor Mitrovic still has nightmares about it. Exiled at the forefront like Napoleon in Saint Helena, the Fulham striker finished the game with zero shots. Better, Serbia was not even damned to frame the slightest shot at Lusail Stadium. Something to make Thiago Silva smile in the mixed zone.
“Our defensive system is very good, I still find myself talking about their coach who yesterday, or the day before, I don’t remember, asked: They play with four attackers, but is there anyone a behind? It’s not good, it’s a lack of respect. With Alex Sandro, Marquinhos, Danilo, and especially Casemiro, we have a story, he should find out better before talking like that. »
Brazil ended up wearing out Serbia
Then, in the way that Brazil had to control the tempo of the meeting, even if it meant frustrating the audience through long sequences of possession. Boring in the first period, it must be admitted, they had the knack of making the Serbs run in all directions. As strong as they are, like a Pavlovic gladiator, they ended up paying for their efforts in the second half, as Dragan Stojkovic ended up acknowledging in a press conference. “In the second half, we declined physically. Brazil knew how to take advantage of it, they have excellent players and they punished us. In the second half we gave them too much space because my team was really declining and that surprised me. »
This completely contradictory Brazilian pragmatism lasted a good hour. And it wasn’t always intentional. With the exception of breakthroughs from Vinicius and clumsiness from Raphinha, Tite’s team stuck to their plan, out of comfort. And tension. “In a first match, everyone becomes anxious, it’s part of human nature, but we tried to calm the players down,” says coach Auriverde. At the break, I told them to be light-footed, to lower the adrenaline. »
Richarlison, world class
“European” Brazil ceased to exist when Richarlison opened the scoring, giving way to a fantasy made possible by the spaces left by Serbs in search of an equalizer. It is also amusing to note that the first goal, without panache, is entirely opposed to the striker’s masterpiece on the second: a love of control at 9/10 on the Dennis Bergkamp scale to take up a center a bit gross and finish the job with an acrobatic gesture. 10/10 on the Amara Simba scale. Milinkovic-Savic only has his eyes to cry. “It was a very nice goal, I had already scored a similar one with Fluminense, and then with Everton, recalls the man of the match. But this time it’s in the World Cup. It was a tough game for us but it’s one of the best goals I’ve ever scored. »
Behind, the exit of Neymar did not really cut the momentum of Brazilian madness, well helped by voluntary replacements. Or rather should we speak of “finishers”, à la Fabien Galthié. Because it would be offensive to reduce Gabriel Jesus, Rodrygo and Anthony to mere substitutes. A depth of bench to disgust you the most valiant of the Serbs. A quick word on the recent signing of Manchester United, to finish. His undeniable technical qualities could make him a formidable player. But for the time being, his annoying commas-small-bridge predisposes him to pursue his career in the Marineland sea lion basin. Like what, pragmatism can also be good.