How did they get here?
The pressure of hosting the tournament got to Brazil in the opening game, with Marcelo’s own goal putting them behind against Croatia in the early stages. Neymar dragged them to victory then, bagging a brace to turn the game, but found himself nullified somewhat in the goalless draw with Mexico that followed. However beating the defensively inept Cameroon 4-1 in their final group game guaranteed progression to the next round, edging out fellow qualifiers Mexico on goal difference.
Neymar’s presence brings the best out of a roaring crowd, who back their country to the hilt and expect nothing less than lifting the World Cup trophy in return. The backing of their fans, particularly in a South American clash with Chile, will be exactly what they need to inspire victory. The Barcelona man is a cult hero here and thrives on the pressure, leading a Brazilian attack that concentrates explosive forward breaks through the flanks to stretch teams and ultimately work space for Neymar while Oscar and Hulk provide strong support.
Brazil are too predictable, with a style and set-up that makes them easy to play against with the right personnel. Fred’s role as a focal point to bring in the more creative attackers behind him has been compromised by the likes of Croatia and Mexico already and he’s struggling to impose himself, while Brazil’s focus on attack has led to a neglect in defence that allowed even goal-shy Cameroon to score past them. Inability to make a notable shift in style has lead them to constantly seek out Neymar, and over-reliance on him means that, as long as he is dealt with, Brazil are less of a threat.
You can’t talk about Brazil without mentioning Neymar; he is crucial to everything they do, especially with other aspects of the team failing to deliver. Even though teams are sure to keep track of him with multiple man-markers, attempts to silence the Barcelona forward have so far proved fruitless, as reflected in his goal tally. Skillful, quick, and with a good eye for goal, he makes for a deadly striker and has so far been unphased by the occasion.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men arguably got the easier of the opening games in Group B, avoiding Spain and Holland and instead taking on Australia. Two early goals dispatched the Socceroos and Chile were able to stave off a fight-back before wrapping up the game late on. The real test came in the second match, where their attacking style and clinical nature in front of goal helped them put out Spain and confirm their place in the last 16, before losing out to Holland for top spot when Louis van Gaal’s men beat them 2-0 in the final match.
A desire to persistently press the opposition and expose teams defensively has paid off so far, doing the damage early against Australia and explosively dispatching a lacklustre Spain side; in this heat teams like to keep the ball, but Chile are used to the climate and can maintain their offensive style for unsettling teams that are comfortable in possession and stealing the early initiative. They’re a cohesive unit that attack and defend as a team, and will dictate the tempo with a lot of pace and energy.
Flying forward so much can lead to defensive neglect, and Chile could’ve been undone by Australia in their opening match had the Socceroos been able to create, and ultimately take, a few more chances. They deployed more conservatively against Holland, lining up more like a 5-3-2 than a 3-4-3, but were still unable to keep them out and, despite having double the possession of the Dutch, were only able to fashion one chance on target all game. Up against in form opposition they’re yet to flourish, and Brazil haven’t lost a game so far.
Arturo Vidal epitomises everything that the national team is about; a box to box midfield dynamo who works tirelessly to press the opposition and win the ball high up the pitch before creating opportunities for his team mates. The Juventus man has had his fitness issues, lasting an hour against Australia and almost the full game against Spain, but was rested for the Holland game; his absence was felt, but his freshness will be crucial if Chile are to progress.
Both teams play high-tempo, attacking football and so an end to end game can be expected. The form of Barcelona forwards Neymar and Alexis Sanchez will be crucial to both sides’ goal threat and will be expected to take their chances, something which could be the difference in a close game. Brazil’s home support may just work in their favour and, if they can have a solid game like Holland have been, Chile will similarly struggle to beat them.
Brazil 3-1 Chile
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