Brazil vs Russia: Five talking points
A last minute goal from Fred spared Brazilian blushes against Russia and earned them a 1 – 1 draw at Stamford Bridge. While the Russians had been on top for much of the game, it was against the run of play in the second half that they would take the lead and, in spite of not winning, maintain their undefeated streak under the reign of Fabio Capello. Here are five talking points from the game.
Just as they had against Italy, Brazil started the game quite lethargically and were lucky not to be punished by the multiple forays from Russia. The defense was chaotic, disorganized and overall in tatters, with Russia often winning the second and the third ball in Brazil’s defensive third. A couple of good efforts from Kerzhakov were blocked at the last moment, and Julio Cesar was needed to make a couple of good saves in the early minutes of the game. They might have gotten away with it against Italy and Russia in friendlies, but a similar start in competitive games might leave them with some major catching up to do.
Prior to this game, Russia had only conceded once in seven games under Capello, that too in a friendly against the USA. After their exceptionally loose play at the back in the Euros last year, it is easy to see why Fabio Capello was brought in to manage the side; and he has worked wonders. The defensive strength of the Russian side was obvious for all to see, with some whole hearted clearances complementing a side which kept its shape immaculately throughout the game. Of course, the fact that Brazil weren’t at their sharpest in attack also helped the Russian cause.
Near the end of the first half, there was an appeal for a penalty when an effort from Berezoutski struck the hand of Fernando on the edge of the Brazilian box. The loose ball was then volleyed goalwards by Kerzhakov and went narrowly wide of Cesar’s left post. The referee, Howard Webb, chose to ignore the appeals for a penalty and rightly so. Firstly, it was more an instance of the ball striking Fernando’s hand than him trying to obstruct play, and secondly, Russia had chosen to take the advantage route by firing a shot away at goal anyway. Would they have settled for a foul if the ball had landed up in the back of the net? One thinks not.
After yesterday’s performance, one thing is certain about Brazil’s poster boy, Neymar; he is no Ronaldo or Messi, at least not yet. His play was too selfish, yet fell short of Ronaldo’s prowess with the ball at his feet, and his attempts at tricking his way past the Russian defence were frail and easily cut off. His heading skills need improvement, as does his judgement in the attacking third of the pitch. What is good, however, is his ability to strike the ball from range, and he will be disappointed that he was not able to test Gabulov more than what he did yesterday night.
With just under 15 months to go for the World Cup, and having qualified de facto as hosts, Brazil are not participating in any competitive games regarding qualification. They are, however, taking part in a number of friendlies to keep them sharp, and settle upon a squad for the World Cup. Sadly for them, a defeat to England, and draws against Italy and Russia have not been the most encouraging of results, along with their current FIFA ranking of #18 in the world. The old warhorses like Kaka have lost their sharpness, and the Samba style seems entirely to be missing from this current crop of players. It was only after the introduction of Hulk that Brazil managed to get in behind the Russian defence, and it will be something that Luis Felipe Scolari will take note of when he assesses his team, which is a work in progress.