The Cup Running Over

June 27, 2010 5:37 PM

Brazil-Chile: On Paper, the Brazilians Cruise Too


The Good News: For all the laments back home, Brazil has looked good so far -- going 2-0-1 in the mini-group of death. Yes, it gave up two goals it probably shouldn't have but both came when the Brazilians were firmly in control of their games. Yes, the offense doesn't look quite as explosive as past Brazilian teams but it's more than good enough as Luis Fabiano and Robinho have turned it on when necessary.

The Bad News:
No one's unbeatable and Portugal did frustrate the Brazilians, outplaying them in an ugly 0-0 draw. The midfield is still old and can occasionally get caught on the counter.

There is none better. Brazil has won the championship a record five times; is the only team to win the Cup outside its own hemisphere, and has only lost three times at the last five Cups, including this one (and two of those were to France).

Player to Watch:
Kaka is back from an unfair one-game red card suspension and the team tends to play better when he does. He still looks like he's recovering from an injury so maybe the one-game layoff has helped.

To Win:
It's a cliche but they should just keep on doing what they're doing. There have been complaints from the international press that this team lacks "samba sizzle," but that isn't this team's style. If they could score first, Chile might well get discouraged so it would be wise to play as offensively as possible in the opening minutes.

Will Chilean coach Marcello Bielsa have a surprise for the Brazilians?


The Good News: Chile plays one of the most wide-open formations in the tournament (in a 3-3-1-3) and has been one of the only teams to score in all three games as a result. It's the youngest starting team in South Africa so it's quite possible that it won't be fazed as much by Brazil as an older squad would. The team also has one of the best coaches in the world in the eccentric Argentinean, Marcello Bielsa. Its keeper, Claudio Bravo, is decent too.

The Bad News:
Like all young teams, the Chileans are not only capable of playing well over their heads; they can sink fast too. While the offense is strong, the defense is weak -- and Brazil knows how to punish weak defenses. (Remember the Ivory Coast game.) This weakness will be exacerbated by the absence of first-team defenders Waldo Ponce and Gary Medel, both suspended. Perhaps most important, Brazil dominated this team in the South American qualifiers.

When Chile beat Honduras, and then Switzerland, it was the first two World Cup matches it had ever won outside South America. When last at the tournament in 1998, it pulled a New Zealand -- tying all three matches -- and then lost to, you guessed it, Brazil by a 4-1 margin. It finished third in 1962 -- when it hosted.

Player to Watch:
Humberto Suazo led the continent in scoring in qualification but hasn't looked particularly sharp at this tournament due to injury. To beat mighty Brazil, he'll have to be.

To Win: The traditional way to beat a team better than you is to park the bus and play for a 1-0 victory, perhaps on penalties. But Chile doesn't play that way. Bielsa is one of the more creative managers at the tournament, so he'll look for a way to exploit the age of Brazil's midfield and also try to strike on the counter.

This is a battle between two teams that obviously know each other and finished first and second in South American qualification. The problem -- at least as far as the Chileans are concerned -- is that Brazil pummeled them twice, 3-0 and 4-2. Maybe it's really going to be third time lucky for the Chileans but no one would take that bet, especially with Brazil's Elano and Robinho returning from injury rests in the last game and Kaka back from suspension. If it goes to penalties, Brazil is the favorite there too -- thanks to perhaps the best keeper in the world, Julio Cesar of Inter. Chile's manager Bielsa is widely reputed to be a tactical genius. He'll have to be to win this game.

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