Teamwork makes the dream work

Brazil and Tite blew it vs Croatia in World Cup quarterfinal

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AL-RAYYAN, Qatar — When Marquinhos strode up and kissed the ball forward of Brazil‘s fourth penalty kick, Neymar was down on his knees in midfield. He regarded as if he was sobbing, as if the second was too massive to absorb. Marquinhos would both rating, which meant Neymar can be up subsequent, carrying with him the load of 190 million Brazilians. Or he would miss and Neymar’s World Cup can be over.

Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic went a method, Marquinhos’ shot the opposite manner… and kissed the put up, rolling again away from the objective line.

Brazil have been out of the World Cup, overwhelmed on penalties by a Croatia facet which have now gained 4 straight penalty shoot-outs. Neymar, who remained on the pitch crying within the arms of teammates, knew that whereas this might not be his closing World Cup, at 30 years of age it was doubtless his final World Cup as a protagonist.

Brazil coach Tite, as is his customary in these conditions, no matter whether or not his crew gained or misplaced, disappeared down the tunnel. And possibly he was fascinated about sliding doorways, about selections not taken, about roads not travelled that will by no means have left the Selecao going through spotkicks towards Croatia. This was doubtless his final shot on the World Cup — “the cycle is over” he stated afterwards — and he knew that in a world of second-guessers, the buck would cease with him.

To be honest, there’s a lot to second-guess about Brazil on this recreation and lots to query on the subject of the near-boundless religion Tite confirmed in his males and his system. To paraphrase Khalil Gibran’s archer, all a coach can do is intention the arrow and let it fly. If the arrow is crooked, if there’s wind or rain or if the enemy’s armor is stout, it will not discover it is mark. However so too will it fail if the archer’s hand trembles or if his intention is defective.

On at the present time, even an skilled veteran like Tite, top-of-the-line on this planet in his job, noticed his hand tremble.

“Generally we shoot straight and the ball would not fly straight,” he stated after the sport. Besides, fact be advised, it did not really feel as if he shot straight this time both.

Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic accurately known as it earlier than the match when he stated that Brazil may “endure” towards groups who can hold the ball, which his elegant midfield of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic definitely can do (and did). Croatia edged the possession — including a midfielder like Mario Pasalic, in lieu of a winger, in his 4-3-3 additionally helped — which is not any imply feat towards Brazil, maybe essentially the most technically gifted facet within the World Cup.

“I stated it earlier than the sport and I say it once more now,” Dalic stated after the match. “We’ve got the very best midfield on this planet and we demonstrated it once more at present. We managed the sport.”

O’Hanlon: The artwork of profitable a penalty shootout (E+)

However Tite caught to his weapons. His entrance 4 — Raphinha and Vinicius huge, Richarlison up prime and Neymar tucked in simply behind — stayed excessive up the pitch, leaving Casemiro and Lucas Paqueta out-manned in the midst of the park. The upshot was that not solely did Croatia see numerous the ball — and when the opposition has the ball, you may’t rating — however they have been in a position to set the form of bland tempo that suited them and allowed their thirty-something stars like Modric, Brozovic, Ivan Perisic and Dejan Lovren to remain within the recreation bodily and athletically, even after the 120 minutes (plus penalties) they performed towards Japan.

Brazil, then again, had exerted minimal effort of their Spherical of 16 towards South Korea — they have been 4-0 up at half-time — and the plain factor would have been to push the tempo and make Croatia chase them. As an alternative, a lot of the initiative stayed with Dalic’s males, with Brazil content material to depend on particular person moments. It is a recreation plan that served them nicely so far in Qatar — when you could have this a lot expertise, it solely takes a second to attain — however it felt as if it was an pointless danger. As a result of whereas Brazil did have their probabilities, they have been interspersed with needlessly lengthy durations of Croatian possession.

The entrance 4, plus Lucas Paqueta, attacking and the again 4, plus Alisson, defending scheme wasn’t yielding outcomes. For a lot of the match, Neymar was uninspired, Vinicius ethereal, Raphinha AWOL and Richarlison under-served.

In these conditions, you both regulate your techniques, maybe by stiffening up the center of the park so that you get extra of the ball otherwise you merely change your personnel up entrance. Tite opted for the latter. First Raphinha, then Vinicius after which Richarlison made manner for Antony, Rodrygo and Pedro respectively. The soloist, Neymar, did not change, nor did the hymn sheet; simply the choir. And guess what? The track remained the identical.

Whilst Croatia started to tire and Brazil created probabilities, the sport nonetheless felt within the stability… after which got here the second when Tite will need to have felt vindicated as Brazil took the lead on the finish of the primary interval of extra-time with essentially the most Brazilian of targets, transformed by their most Brazilian of gamers.



Ale Moreno wasn’t impressed by Neymar’s show towards Croatia, regardless of his nice objective.

Neymar acquired the ball and sliced his manner into the Croatia defence, enjoying one-twos with Rodrygo after which with Paqueta earlier than rounding Livakovic to make it 1-0. It was his 77th objective for Brazil, equalling Pele‘s nationwide crew report and from his hospital mattress, you could possibly think about the King nodding in approval. The Brazil bench emptied and mobbed a celebrating Neymar within the nook. The whole squad celebrated, bar two gamers: Thiago Silva hung again in his penalty space, fingers pointed on the sky, thanking God, whereas Casemiro lay face down on the pitch, feeling a combination of aid and exhaustion.

It was virtually as if these two nice veterans suspected one thing the others didn’t: specifically, that it wasn’t over. Reality be advised, it by no means is towards Croatia — not till the whistle blows 3 times. And so, when Josko Gvardiol‘s deal with cued a Croatian counterattack that rapidly — and inexplicably — was a 3-on-3, and substitute Mislav Orsic discovered substitute Bruno Petkovic within the field, and he swung an enormous left boot by the ball, and it ended (with a slight deflection off Marquinhos) past Alisson and into the again of the online, instantly we have been degree.

That is soccer, a maddening sport that activates a dime. One the place the burly Petkovic — Croatia’s Mister Bump who, to that time, had principally seen the ball bounce off his limbs — can instantly flip into an inconceivable hero. One the place the momentum can swing so sharply that because the gamers lined up for the shootout, it was Brazil who regarded stone-faced and fearful whereas Croatia, chests puffed out, regarded as in the event that they have been relishing the event. One the place Tite, with all his attacking riches, can stumble within the worst manner and be left to ponder on selections that went awry.

From his strategy — which handed the keys to Croatia — to his substitutions — which stored that strategy intact and easily modified the personnel — to the truth that Brazil conceded on a counter after they have been three minutes from reaching a World Cup semifinal, one in all soccer’s nice cardinal sins. And if you wish to nitpick, for saving his finest penalty-taker, Neymar, for the fifth penalty, the one which by no means got here. (Dalic, who’s four-for-four in shootouts, could not resist saying: “I’d have used him sooner.”)

There may be a lot a soccer coach does not management, and there isn’t any query that Tite shall be remembered as one in all Brazil’s best coaches. However on at the present time, he fell into the entice that coaches, in any sport, so usually fall into. He confirmed an excessive amount of religion in his gamers, an excessive amount of religion in his decisions, an excessive amount of religion in what obtained them there. And now he’ll should dwell with the remorse, as will Neymar and as will all of Brazil. And someday, possibly, they’re going to recover from it.

“We’re all accountable to some extent, however I perceive I’m essentially the most accountable,” Tite stated post-match. “However there are not any things like heroes and villains in sport. You share pleasure and also you share unhappiness.”

As for Croatia, two straight World Cup semifinals communicate for themselves. The stellar midfield could get the headlines whereas their grit and toughness often is the envy of different groups, however this was a match that above all, noticed them out-think the opposition as a lot as out-will and out-pass them.

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