Having spent much of the group phase here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ complaining about their opponents’ defensive tactics, Brazil’s Round of 16 tie with Chile perfectly illustrated just why teams are reluctant to take the initiative against Dunga’s Seleção. Monday’s 3-0 success over La Roja featured two textbook counter-attacking goals from Luis Fabiano and Robinho, with the Chileans picked off when chasing a response to Juan’s headed opener.
“Chile proved they’re a team that try and play football, even when they come up against Brazil. That’s why we sometimes had space to show just how strong we are on the counter-attack,” said Brazilian No10 Kaka, whose clever pass for Fabiano’s goal was his third assist in three appearances at South Africa 2010.
It was a similar story in the teams’ two meetings in South American Zone qualifying for these finals, with Brazil winning 3-0 in Santiago in September 2008 and 4-2 on home soil a year later. Despite these punishing lessons at Brazilian hands, Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa stuck to his attacking guns: a policy that helped La Roja qualify in second spot ahead of the likes of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.
“If we started playing defensively it’d be a betrayal of the style we’ve always had. The way we play is why everybody’s been speaking so highly of Chile,” West Bromwich Albion defender Gonzalo Jara told FIFA. “Attacking football is something that sets us apart and we’re not going to stop that, whoever it is we’re up against. It’s part of our philosophy.”
However, captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was more cautious on the subject. “We’re a young team, one of the youngest at this World Cup. At competitions to come I think we’ll iron out a few flaws, such as how we defend,” the No1 told FIFA. “We controlled possession for the first 30 minutes but Brazil are Brazil. They scored the first goal and soon after got the second, and once that went in we lost our way.”
"The quality to control the game"
Key to the five-time world champions' efficacy on the break at Ellis Park was Benfica midfielder Ramires, in for the injured Felipe Melo, whose ability to carry the ball forward from deep was particularly in evidence for his side’s third goal. It was the former Cruzeiro man who drove right through the Chilean midfield to the edge of the box, where the ball fell kindly for Robinho to place a shot into the corner.
“Of course it’s good for a team like ours to put some counter-attacks together, but I don’t think that’s the only positive thing. The fact we had the quality to control the game and avoid it becoming dangerous was also important,” Ramires told FIFA.com.
He then touched on perhaps the only negative of a comfortable night’s work for A Seleção: the yellow card that rules him out of the quarter-final with the Netherlands: “It’s a real shame. Of course I was annoyed, but I know how strong this squad is. All I can do now is hope my team-mates can take us through and I can rejoin them in the semi-finals.”
Up first in the last eight, however, are a Netherlands side which came through the group phase with a 100 per cent record. “We’ve not yet studied the Dutch to see how they’re going to line up. In theory, though, this could be another game for us to break forward,” said Kaka, when asked if the Oranje’s customary three-pronged forward line could leave them open to Brazil’s trademark counters. Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk, you have been warned.