South America’s 4 World Cup-bound squads — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador — have been in all in motion on Friday as they put together for Qatar. Whereas Brazil and Argentina had appeared the a part of match favourites, Uruguay and Ecuador proceed to be works in progress.
Making an allowance for their performances, we reply a key query for every CONMEBOL aspect as their preparation for the sport’s greatest stage continues.
Are we ready for a super-attacking Brazil?
Brazil coach Tite already has a Plan A and a Plan B — and in an exhilarating first half in opposition to Ghana in Le Havre, France, he unleashed an ultra-attacking Plan C, which most likely labored even higher than he had hoped.
Over the previous yr, his crew have grown accustomed to enjoying with two wingers — often Raphinha on the suitable and Vinicius Junior on the left, with Neymar floating as a false 9, linking up with attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta. The variation has been to incorporate Richarlison as a centre ahead, dropping one of many wingers and utilizing Paqueta reducing in from one of many flanks.
However what if there was a option to have each a centre ahead and two wingers? Now there may be. This time Paqueta fills the position of Fred, dropping deeper to play from central midfield. With him to the suitable of Casemiro and Neymar to the left, there may be room for a entrance three forward of them. It implies that Paqueta has to place in a defensive shift, however so does everybody. As quickly as they lose possession, Brazil press collectively to win it again.
Ghana discovered it onerous to work up any rhythm, and the few occasions they managed to beat the press, the imperious Marquinhos was readily available to make use of his tempo and consciousness to snuff out the hazard. Brazil have been on their option to the 3-0 win — and will have been extra — on the finish of a primary half that, in opposition to respectable opponents, was virtually absurdly one-sided. Brazil’s assortment of attacking expertise handed holes in Ghana’s 4-1-4-1 formation, and front-loading the crew didn’t go away the crew wanting susceptible.
This new formation is not going to work for all conditions in opposition to all opponents. However it’s an choice that Brazil have added to their repertoire — one that may absolutely ship a shiver down their World Cup rivals.
Is that this Messi’s finest Argentina aspect?
By itself, Argentina’s 3-0 win over this Honduras aspect hardly qualifies anybody for greatness. However 34 video games unbeaten tells its personal story. And what was putting was the completely predictable nature of the Argentine triumph in Miami.
Honduras introduced again recollections of an outclassed boxer arising in opposition to Muhammad Ali in his prime. They by no means got here near laying a glove on Argentina, whereas all evening their heads have been being snapped again as, patiently and with goal, Argentina jabbed away, pulling them out of place and setting them up for the massive punch. Some would possibly recall the 2006 aspect, eradicated on penalties by Germany within the quarterfinal, whereas a teenage Lionel Messi sat on the substitutes bench, unable to do something about it.
That crew revolved round playmaker Juan Román Riquelme. The main target of this crew is slightly greater up the sector. With that midfield trio — Leandro Paredes enjoying the primary go ahead with high quality, Rodrigo De Paul including drive and adjustments of rhythm and Giovani Lo Celso stroking the ball round with uncommon precision — Messi is introduced into the sport nearer to the opposing objective, in a zone of the sector from the place he can do one thing to unlock the opposing defence.
For a lot of his earlier time within the nationwide crew, Argentina have been a shambles. Plan A was to provide the ball to Messi and hope. Plan B was to provide the ball to Messi and hope. And there was no Plan C. Not now. It is a aspect with an virtually hypnotic high quality about its possession-based recreation — they took the match away from Honduras within the first quarter-hour. It’s a crew that capabilities, and one which, in his fifth World Cup, would possibly even give Messi his finest likelihood of successful the competitors.
Will Diego Alonso’s first loss unsettle Uruguay?
Since taking up as Uruguay coach on the finish of final yr, Diego Alonso had solely identified victory, plus a goalless draw in opposition to the United States in a June pleasant when he fielded a reserve aspect. He has now tasted defeat after his aspect misplaced 1-0 to Iran in Vienna on Friday. As he mentioned after the sport, there aren’t any grounds for despair however he does have meals for thought.
Towards an opponent who dropped again deep and appeared for the counterattack, Uruguay defended effectively sufficient with a few centre-backs who have been making their debuts — an harm disaster within the place that received worse when Ronald Araujo limped off within the opening minute. There have been clear benefits in fielding a pair of full-backs who may push ahead — it allowed the huge males within the 4-3-3 system to get into the penalty space. This was particularly vital for Darwin Nunez, whose lack of an efficient left foot was an issue when he was out on that flank. Nunez is definitely extra of a menace as a centre ahead, and if there may be solely area for one within the crew the Alonso may have a giant resolution to take.
Luis Suarez appeared effectively wanting his finest and missed a few of the crew’s clearest probabilities. Uruguay ended up enjoying 4-4-2 with each Nunez and Suarez — a swap which, on the different finish, could have price them the sport (Edinson Cavani will not be with the squad as he settles in with new aspect Valencia). Uruguay performed a lot of the match with a trio within the centre of midfield, Matias Vecino holding whereas Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde appeared for area between the Iranian strains.
For the final 20 minutes, Vecino was sacrificed as Alonso modified his system — and the one objective of the sport quickly adopted, the transfer originating within the area that Vecino was now not defending. Uruguay are absolutely at their finest with three within the center, which doesn’t make it simple for Alonso to squeeze in all of his attacking expertise.
The place will Ecuador’s objectives come from in Qatar?
Coaches are all the time happy with clear sheets, so after three video games with out conceding in June, Ecuador boss Gustavo Alfaro may take some consolation from a 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia within the Spanish city of Murcia. However the lack of objectives on the different finish was a disappointment to the area’s sizeable Ecuadorian neighborhood and a trigger for concern for the coach. True, his crew have now gone 4 video games with out conceding — though Japan on Tuesday promise to supply a stiffer take a look at.
However in these 4 matches, Ecuador have solely discovered the again of the online twice. There have been occasions in qualification when Ecuador have been a free scoring aspect, however the objectives have dried up. Alfaro may maybe take some consolation from the way in which that his males created probabilities in numerous methods in opposition to the Saudis — thrusts of Gonzalo Plata from the suitable, crosses of Pervis Estupinan from the left, via aggressive urgent in midfield, from set items performed into the field or lengthy balls excessive of the defence.
However the crew lacks a innovative. Ecuador ‘s all-time high scorer is the veteran Enner Valencia. He’s most likely happier reducing in from the left than working via the center, as he did on this recreation. And his objectives have a tendency to return in spurts. Alfaro has had a take a look at choices within the centre ahead place, however most likely can do no higher than the rangy Michael Estrada, the aspect’s high scorer in qualification, who got here off the bench in opposition to the Saudis however is definitely the favorite to guide the road in Qatar. All however considered one of his six objectives got here within the first half of the qualifiers, and Ecuador want him to rediscover his finest kind.