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IN DEFENCE

Brazil are World Cup favourites because they are being like Burnley

The likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho may hog the headlines but their defence has been brilliantly solid so far

Brazil have the ominous look of champions.

Because they’re doing what every great champion does; win without seemingly playing at full throttle.

When you can bring the likes of Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa off the bench it’s easy to see why the Samba boys were earmarked as pre-tournament favourites.


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Super sub

Getty Images - Getty
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Super sub

But while the usual suspects – Neymar and Philippe Coutinho in particular – have hogged the headlines, it is their defence that deserves extra acknowledgement.

There are some cynics that feel their utterly humiliating 7-1 mauling by Germany in 2014 is the best thing that could have happened to Brazil.

That might be clutching at straws somewhat, but the defensive improvement since that fatal day in Belo Horizonte is night and day.

Don’t mention the score

AFP - Getty
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Don’t mention the score

Tite has discovered and manufactured a winning mentality that allows his forward players to flourish.

Because while Coutinho and Neymar and co. have flickered into life rather than dominated in Russia, the defence behind them has remained brilliantly consistent.

Neymar is held aloft after his opener against Mexico

AFP or licensors
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Neymar is held aloft after his opener against Mexico

Their 2-0 win over Mexico was their third clean sheet in four World Cup games and it means they’ve conceded just five goals in their last 22 fixtures.

For a nation built on swashbuckling attacking play and skill, it is actually their defence which is coming to the fore.

Alisson and Ederson defy the historical argument that Brazilian goalkeepers are liabilities, while Thiago Silva looks back to his commanding best alongside the calm and assured presence of Miranda.

Another heroic effort

Getty - Contributor
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Another heroic effort

Fagner and Filipe Luis have ably deputised for the injured Dani Alves and Marcelo whilst Casemiro is the best midfield destroyer you could ever ask for.

He must be to keep Fernandinho out of the side, right?

Someone in the office compared Brazil’s defence to Burnley’s and the subtle analogy adds up.

While it seems like their opposition are competitive in every game, Brazil’s defence is barely conceding any big chances because they snuff the danger out before it reaches Alisson.

Just like James Tarkowski and Ben Mee did so heroically for the Clarets all season, Thiago Silva, Miranda and Casemiro are putting their bodies on the line.

Burnley’s wall

Reuters
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Burnley’s wall

The Brazilian Tarkowski and Mee

AFP or licensors
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The Brazilian Tarkowski and Mee

Neymar, Coutinho and the like can take the plaudits but it speaks volumes that, after that German nightmare, their defence has barely been mentioned.