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Brazil v Ecuador match summary

Mowa press
Brazil drew their opening Copa América match 0-0 with Ecuador in Pasadena on Saturday evening.

It proved to be a lively affair, but one low on overall attacking quality. The Seleção continue to look disjointed as a unit, with boos ringing out at ear splitting levels from Brazil fans at the final whistle as Dunga made his way to the tunnel. So long as there are no unexpected surprises against Peru and Haiti, the draw isn’t a bad result for either side.

Brazil set the early tempo, looking to feed Willian and Dani Alves on the right hand side at every opportunity. Several early crosses flashed across Ecuador’s box from that side and Ecuador keeper Dreer was on hand to thwart Coutinho from close range from a Willian cross in the opening ten minutes. However, Ecuador, with Enner Valencia, Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia in their ranks, carried a constant threat on the counter.


Elias, Gil and Casemiro were all booked in the opening 25 minutes as Tricolor looked to break at pace. Brazil’s midfield was dysfunctional at best. Casemiro sat effectively enough, but Renato Augusto and Elias were unable to replicate their old Corinthians chemistry. At Timão, they had Jádson ahead of them in the number 10 role. Dunga did not select anybody in the enganche position, which gave Brazil a very uneven look in midfield.


Renato and Elias constantly struggled for an out ball in a congested midfield zone. By replacing the injured Douglas Costa with Coutinho, Brazil surrendered a lot of their natural width, which is ordinarily a big strength for the Seleção. As a central player, Coutinho understandably looked to drift inside and create a midfield four, but struggled to do so effectively. Brazil are usually able to make the pitch nice and wide with Willian and Costa raiding the flanks.


Utilising Coutinho in this way completely changed the emphasis of their attack and with such short preparation time for the tournament, it’s little wonder that it did not work, frankly. Casemiro, Elias and Renato Augusto have never played as a trio before and have only trained together in that shape since Tuesday. The lack of familiarity and dysfunction showed as Brazil cried out for a more creative outlet in the centre of the pitch.


Dunga tinkered, throwing Gabriel Barbosa into the mix for the isolated Jonas after 65 minutes. Jonas had been quiet, no doubt, but Brazil struggled to get the ball to him and that problem persisted with Gabigol upfront. Lucas Moura came on for Willian, who took an almighty whack to the knee after a 50-50 with Gruezo in the first half. Lucas came closest to scoring for Brazil with a glanced header at the near post.


Brazil did enjoy something of a let off in the second half however when Ecuador controversially had a goal disallowed. Miler Bolaños ran after Valencia’s overcooked pass, hooking it towards goal from the by-line as the ball trickled towards touch. Seleção keeper Alisson fumbled as he collected, the ball clipping the outside of the post before it advanced into his grip. As a result, he spilled the ball into the goal, but the linesman’s flag spared his blushes. Replays showed that the whole ball was probably, just about not the whole way over the line. It was a microscopic call that went in Dunga and Alisson’s favour.


The second half was feisty but starved of other incident or quality. It is somewhat understandable that Dunga’s Brazil look disjointed given the absence of Neymar, the several injuries suffered in the build up to the tournament and the lack of preparation time. All of the games in the tournament thus far have taken on an incoherent demeanour due to the short turnaround between the end of the European season and the start of the Copa.


Both teams will view the draw as a reasonable enough result, with simpler assignments ahead as they feel their way into the tournament. However, it feels as though Dunga has foisted unnecessary transition onto his team by not replacing like for like. Jonas for Neymar and Coutinho for Douglas Costa completely change Brazil’s approach up top, whereas selecting Gabigol and one of Hulk or Lucas Moura for the left hand side instead probably makes that transition smoother.


It is difficult to see a midfield of Renato Augusto and Elias having the creativity to break down even average defences. Elias advanced into attacking positions often, but looked a little lost, waiting for a pass that never came. Renato Augusto looked overworked, expected to simultaneously play a number 10 and number 8 role. It was somewhat baffling that Elias survived for 86 minutes and equally confusing that his eventual replacement, Lucas Lima, only got 4 minutes to cast his spell on the game.


Next month, we will be exactly two years into Dunga’s reign and other than the fact that he is quite conservative in his team selections, it is difficult to decipher any sense of style or identity with his team. This was the first time that nobody present in the starting line-up for the 7-1 defeat to Germany was present. That would suggest the clear out operation we was brought into perform has happened, but in truth, he has sort of muddled along to this stage and he doesn’t look any clearer on what his team is or what it is supposed to do.

 
 

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