Brazil vs. Germany
Olympiastadion, Berlin, March 27, 2018
Kickoff: 2:45 PM EDT / 3:45 PM BRT / 6:45 PM GMT
US TV: None (the hell?); Streaming: WatchESPN
Starting Lineup: Alisson; Dani Alves (C), Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Fernandinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho.
Zetona’s Keys to the Game™:
- Brazil has to perform at a high level all game long, not just for stretches like we did against Russia. Germany is much less likely to let us get away with the sort of sloppy errors we made on Friday.
- Dani Alves had a horror show against Russia, leaving massive gaps behind him whenever he came up the pitch to participate in buildup play. If he isn’t restricted to a purely defensive role against Germany, Leroy Sané is likely to absolutely eviscerate him. That would certainly be an ignominious way to mark his turn with the captain’s armband.
- Paulinho scored a goal and won a penalty against Russia, but he also missed two absolute sitters and was constantly, conspicuously absent both in midfield buildup play (which incentivized Dani Alves to come forward and playmake, see item 2) and in defense. We’re all familiar with this tradeoff between his poacher’s instinct and his frequent total lack of technique, and it’s one that Tite has long since decided is worth it. If it’s ever going to be shown up, though, it’ll be against Germany, as capable as any team of overwhelming and picking apart an undermanned midfield.
- Tite’s inclusion of Fernandinho just might tip the scales, however, especially if Coutinho and Willian cut inside frequently and make up the numbers in midfield. His added technical ability and defensive nous could be the key to keeping Brazil from being overrun in the middle, and to making sure we advance the ball effectively and incisively in attack.
- Our possession game doesn’t really suit our players, as we saw against Russia, where we couldn’t find a breakthrough until Russia began pushing up and leaving avenues for counterattacks. When we faced Germany in the Olympic final, we went toe-to-toe in midfield for much of the game, but only truly asserted ourselves as the better side once we began looking more on the counter late in the second half and into extra time. The same principle should apply at the full international level, and I expect Germany will push forward and leave plenty of space for counters—but without Neymar, our only truly fast player is Willian, so we might not be able to make the most of them.
Fun Fact: Neymar has scored in every game he has played against the German national team at any level. Unfortunately for us, today’s game means he’s missed as many Brazil vs. Germany games due to injury as he has played.