Up against a well-drilled Korea DPR side in their opening game in Group G at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Brazil found themselves faced with a problem that also dogged them during South American qualifying: how to break down a team that defends deep and in numbers.
The North Koreans were able to nullify A Seleção for large sections of that opener by denying the likes of Robinho, Kaka, Elano and Maicon the space to launch their clinical counter-attacks, forcing them instead to patiently probe for chinks in the opposition armour. Nor has that narrow 2-1 victory been a one-off, with Dunga’s men having to cope with similarly stifling tactics in the 3-1 success against Côte d’Ivoire and particularly the 0-0 stalemate with Portugal.
“Portugal made life very difficult for us,” Sevilla hitman Luis Fabiano told FIFA.com after the goalless tussle in Durban which rounded off Group G. “We were hoping for our opponents to play a different style of football, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. There’ll be more difficult games to come from now on and we’re going to have to learn to deal with this situation, because I don’t think many teams are going to want to go toe-to-toe with Brazil.”
Despite the paucity of openings so far, Luis Fabiano was still able to tuck away two goals in the win over the Ivorians to open his account at South Africa 2010. But speaking before the final round of games in Group H, the section set that would provide the five-time world champions' Round of 16 opponents, the No9 said that “whether we play Chile or Switzerland the same thing will happen – they’ll park the bus in front of their goal”.
Though the words of someone clearly frustrated by the lack of chances coming his way so far, the former Porto and Sao Paulo goalgetter’s statement did not do justice to Chile’s pacy and enterprising displays so far. Indeed, if the Swiss relied on a mainly defensive approach, coach Marcelo Bielsa’s energetic La Roja have attacked their opponents throughout and will be hoping to make Luis Fabiano eat humble pie in the countries’ last 16 clash on 28 June.
Patient approach the key
Since Dunga took the reins in 2006, victories at the 2007 Copa America, the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and top spot in South American Zone qualifying for South Africa were all secured on the back of rapier-like counter-attacking. Nor have lightning-fast breaks been totally absent from these finals, with Robinho’s driving run and defence-splitting diagonal ball for Elano’s first-time finish for the second goal against Korea DPR a perfect example.
In the eyes of Brazil’s USA 1994-winning captain, the strategy for unlocking watertight backlines has been to encourage accurate passing, plenty of intelligent movement to lose markers and the patience not to panic should a goal not arrive straightaway. “Football nowadays is built on speed and technique,” said Dunga after the Portugal game. “When you find space you need to make the most of it, but unfortunately in Friday’s game that wasn’t possible. Controlling possession has always been one of the hallmarks of Brazilian teams. We need to hold onto the ball and tire out our opponents.”
That may be easier said than done against a super-fit Chile side at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium on Monday, in what promises to be a fascinating encounter.