Brazil Colombia preview
A further three points in Manaus would see Brazil leapfrog their opponents Colombia and cement their place in the top 4 qualifying spots. With Uruguay and Paraguay playing one another in Montevideo, at least one of Brazil’s rivals for a qualifying place is guaranteed to drop points. However, Colombia will be no pushovers in the Amazon. Los Cafeteros have won their last three qualifiers- albeit in more forgiving fixtures against Bolivia, Venezuela and at home to Ecuador.
Matches between Brazil and Colombia have become feisty affairs since a hotly contested World Cup quarter-final match in 2014. Brazil indulged in a fair bit of roughhousing in that contest, before Christian Zuniga sent a kneecap crashing into the base of Neymar’s spine in the final minutes, injuring the Barcelona man and causing him to miss the semi-final. The teams played a ‘friendly’ in Miami two months later. Brazil were issued two yellow cards and Colombia racked up 5 yellows- including two for Juan Cuadrado, dismissed for persistent fouling of Neymar.
Then there was a hotly contested Copa América encounter in Chile in 2015. Colombia won the match 1-0, but tempers exploded in the final minutes. Carlos Bacca was sent off following an altercation with Neymar, the Brazil captain responded to the final whistle by booting the ball at Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez. The ensuing fracas saw Neymar issued a four match suspension, bringing the curtain down on his Copa América involvement.
When the two nations met in the Olympic quarter-finals last month, Neymar was fouled on countless occasions, leading to another fracas close to half time, when Colombia refused to kick the ball out of play for the prostrate Brazil captain. Between the 41st and 45th minutes, Neymar was fouled on 5 separate occasions by the Colombians. Whether or not the bad blood between Neymar and Colombia bleeds into this contest, turning it into a kind of rumble in the jungle; remains to be seen.
One can expect a very tight game, however. Colombia may continue to try to wind up the notoriously combustible Neymar, but with Gabriel Jesús in tow alongside him, Brazil’s attacking threat is more diverse now. Jesús and Neymar found great success against Ecuador by swapping spaces between the centre forward position and the wandering left sided role. Colombia will need to be alive to this threat.
Tite will likely maintain the back four that shut out Ecuador, with Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Miranda and Marcelo across the back. He does have a decision to make in midfield; last time out Tite opted for Paulinho, Renato Augusto and Casemiro in his central trio. The three formed a hard working unit and Paulinho and Renato were encouraged to go forward and support Neymar and Gabriel Jesús when possible in Quito.
However, the triumvirate lacks creativity and Tite might be minded to remove Paulinho from the equation and add a sprinkling of imagination via either Lucas Lima or Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho got the nod from the bench against Ecuador, but he seems more suited to playing further forwards, whereas Lucas Lima can operate in a slightly more disciplined fashion in a midfield three. One would expect Willian to maintain his place on the right to add width.
Peckerman is likely to arrange Colombia in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Carlos Sanchez and Macnelly Torres anchoring the midfield. Carlos Bacca likes to raid the channels upfront, with a rotating three of Daniel Torres, Luis Muriel and captain James Rodriguez orbiting behind. Most of Colombia’s threat will be channelled through James, who is just as capable of supplying the bullets for Bacca, as he is joining the Milan striker in the area and offering goal threat himself.
Off the ball, Brazil will defend in a 4-1-4-1 shape, with Casemiro at the base of the midfield. He will need help from Renato Augusto and Paulinho (if selected) to help control Colombia’s triangle of attacking midfielders. Renato Augusto and Casemiro will also be asked to cover for Dani Alves and Marcelo, who are a big part of Brazil’s attacking setup from full-back. Gabriel Jesús’ first goal on Thursday night came as a result of a raid down the left from Marcelo.
Expect a tight and potentially feisty game in the Amazon. For both sides, points are incredibly precious in this very tight qualifying group. Colombia would probably consider a draw a fair result, especially since Brazil still have to visit Bogota next September. A draw would also maintain Los Cafeteros’ advantage over Brazil in the table. For Tite and the Seleção, only a win will do.
Predicted line-up; 1.ALISSON, 2.DANI ALVES, 3.MIRANDA (c), 13.MARQUINHOS, 16.MARCELO, 5.CASEMIRO, 8.RENATO AUGUSTO, 15.PAULINHO, 19.WILLIAN, 10.NEYMAR, 9.G.JESUS.
Predicted score: Brazil 1 (Neymar) Colombia 1 (Bacca).