Brazil vs. Czech Republic

Sinobo Stadium, Prague, March 26, 2019

Kickoff: 3:45 PM EDT / 4:45 PM BRT / 7:45 PM GMT

US TV / Streaming: ESPN3

Starting Lineup: Alisson; Danilo, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Alex Sandro; Casemiro (C), Allan, Lucas Paquetá; Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Richarlison.

The Opposition

The Czech Republic are one of Europe’s middling teams, well removed from the glory days when they reached the Euro semifinals in 1996 and 2004. Though they did decently against Ukraine and Slovakia in the UEFA Nations League, they’ve also suffered heavy losses on several recent occasions, including a 5-0 drubbing at England’s hands just this past Friday. Coincidentally, our last opponents Panama also lost by a five-goal margin the last time they played England. Looks like we’re set for another 1-1 draw!

Brazil has only faced the Czech Republic once since the dissolution of the old Czechoslovakia: a 2-0 win in the semifinals of the 1997 Confederations Cup, with goals from Ronaldo and Romário. Against the old Czechoslovakia, though, Brazil has a long history. The two nations met on five different occasions at World Cups over the years, including the 1962 final, pictured above.

Storylines To Watch

Where Are The Goals? The draw to Panama was the fourth-straight game in which Brazil only scored one goal—and thanks to an equalizer that was probably offside, it was the first time Brazil didn’t manage to escape with the win. In short, it was a result that this standard of performance had foreshadowed for a while: Brazil conceded a freak goal, and, because we couldn’t score at the other end, left with an embarrassing result. Tite talked a big game about sorting out Brazil’s offensive problems this week, but against Panama it didn’t manifest. Roberto Firmino was anonymous again, Coutinho continued to look out of sorts, and Richarlison fought valiantly but could do little from his bafflingly wide position on the right. Against the Czechs, Tite is swapping out the entire defense (the “B” back five got to start against Panama), but making only one change otherwise, bringing Allan on in Arthur’s place. You know what they say about the definition of insanity. But really, the problem against Panama wasn’t the quality of the players on the pitch; it was the way the tactical setup didn’t fit the players’ strengths. Nobody moved into the space Firmino opened when he dropped deep; Richarlison was too far out on the right to appear in the box other than on set pieces; Arthur spent too much time trying to work on the edge of the box rather than conducting play from deep. Tite can say all he likes about how testing new players hurts the team chemistry; it’s still up to him to arrange those new faces in a way that will best suit their style of play.

Will Everyone Get To Play? The six changes to the starting lineup mean that, when the game kicks off tomorrow, only three players in the squad won’t have gotten any game time: Fabinho, David Neres, and Weverton. Weverton, being the third-choice goalkeeper, is all-but certain not to play, but that leaves the other two. Fabinho’s problem is that he’s finally being used in his favored position, which happens to be Casemiro’s. Considering that the Real Madrid man is captaining the team for both games this week, it seems unlikely that Fabinho will get more than garbage minutes at the end, depending on the scoreline. Neres’ case is a little different: Coutinho, Richarlison, and Everton are all ahead of him in the pecking order to play on the left wing, but with Richarlison playing on the right, Coutinho flattering to deceive, and Everton doing very little as a sub against Panama, one would hope that the Ajax youngster will get a chance to show what he can do in the second half.