Brazil 7 Haïti 1 report
Brazil destroyed them consummately and with an unprecedented measure of style under the current manager’s premiership. Dunga opted for an unchanged side from the team that stuttered to a 0-0 draw with Ecuador on match day 1. In his pre match press briefing, the coach assured the media that with a few more days training behind them and a more settled squad, his team would grow into the tournament. His players justified his faith.
The Seleção started quickly- as they had against Ecuador. Haiti ought to have been either a goal or a man down inside 90 seconds. Coutinho, a constant livewire moving in from the left hand side, got in behind the Haiti defence from Renato Augusto’s pass and Goreux cynically hauled the Liverpool man down as he bore down on goal. The referee showed leniency by awarding only a free kick when a red card would have been an uncontroversial call.
Coutinho, encouraged by Haiti’s high line, played much higher up the pitch than he had against Ecuador and constantly caused havoc between the lines. He opened the scoring on 14 minutes with a trademark dipping drive from distance and doubled the lead with a tap in inside the six yard box after unselfish work from Jonas. Filipe Luis’ tireless overlapping down the left encouraged Coutinho inside and he ultimately helped himself to a hat trick, which he completed with another arrowing shot from range in the second half.
Brazil pressed Haiti high up the pitch and forced turnovers. Their success in doing so, together with Coutinho’s influence drifting infield, made the lack of a recognised number 10 a moot point. Renato Augusto and Elias persistently burgled Haiti defenders of possession in their own half and fed Jonas and Coutinho, who almost operated as a strike pairing at times. It was Dani Alves’ ravenous pressing that yielded the fourth goal too- he latched onto a poor throw from Haiti keeper Placide and arrowed a beautiful swerving cross onto the head of Renato Augusto.
The only downside of a rampant first half came in the shape of a yellow card for Casemiro, which rules him out of the final group game against Peru. His range of passing has given Brazil the chance to open up new angles in their approach play from deep. Luiz Gustavo is a good ball retriever and an economical passer, but he does not possess the same range as Casemiro. It is likely that either Walace or Rodrigo Caio will deputise for Casemiro against Peru on Sunday.
Dunga has a reputation for conservatism, but even with a resounding 4-0 score line at half time, he made positive changes. Jonas was unlucky not to help himself to a goal in the first half, but the Benfica man was hooked at half time for the impudent promise of Gabriel Barbosa. After the match, Dunga explained that Haiti’s high defensive line was tailor made for Gabigol’s penetrative running and he was quite correct. The 19 year old Santos man helped himself to a goal by latching onto a through ball and could easily have helped himself to a hat trick. As he did in the friendly against Panama, Dunga then opted for a ‘volante free’ system, replacing Casemiro with Lucas Lima and dropping Renato Augusto into a deeper role. Lima responded with a sumptuous headed goal.
This match occurred prior to Ecuador’s 2-2 draw with Peru. The coach obviously felt that the size of the victory here could have a significant impact on group placings and opted to go for the jugular. Haiti did manage a goal on the breakaway to make the score 5-1, but further efforts from Renato Augusto and Coutinho completed a satisfactory six goal margin, which will go a long way to helping Brazil to win the group and avoid a quarter-final tie with in form Colombia.
The relative weakness of the opposition provides a number of caveats for this win, but Dunga was not under pressure to win this game so much as win it well and to play entertaining football. Scratching out a workmanlike two or three nil victory would have been met with grumbles. Without Douglas Costa and Neymar, Brazil are reassimilating their style a tad, opting to pass through the midfield rather than to counter attack.
The use of Casemiro, Elias and Renato Augusto in concert looks like an attempt to control the midfield via domination of the ball. Haiti are not the stiffest opposition to test this new gestation, but the margin of victory ought to go some way to increasing cohesion and confidence among the players. The loss of Casemiro is a blow for the Peru game and it will be intriguing to see how Dunga handles his absence. He could give the inexperienced Walace or Rodrigo Caio their turn, or else, he may select the “sem volante” option he trialled for periods of the Panama and Haiti matches.
Interestingly, Gabigol has been Dunga’s first call from the sub’s bench in both group games so far. The manager was effusive in his praise of the Santos youngster after the match. There is a chance that he may have done enough in this match to start ahead of Jonas against Peru. The Peruvians will probably need to win the match, Ecuador sit two points behind them but with Haiti to play prior to the Brazil v Peru match. La Blanquirroja will probably have to play for victory in Foxborough, which could leave some space for Gabigol to exploit behind their defence.
7-1 is a score line lugubriously etched into the psyche of the Seleção. Whilst this result will do little to cleanse the stain of the 2014 World Cup semi-final, there were some green shoots- signs that Brazil are finding an identity and style of play once more. The Peru game will probably tell us more about the mettle of this squad and its chances of landing the trophy in New Jersey on June 26th.