Neymar and Brazil’s game model – positional play

“We have an idea of how to play. Triangulations, speed on the ball. Build from the back, even when pressured. We have to keep control of the ball, sometimes resisting the urge to penetrate right away.” – Tite

This sums up Tite’s ideas. He wants to implement a more collective approach, returning to the Canarinha old philosophy. He wants more patience in the build-up and more quality in the possession. It´s not really a positional play – very difficult to apply at a national team context – but rather an accession to some of its principles. 

To achieve that, Tite has great confidence in Neymar. With his unmatched technical abilities, Neymar has a key role to successfully establish those ideias.

During build-up, Neymar rarely stays wide. In transition it’s different, but when the team is trying to build up from the back, Neymar comes in deep and moves centrally, leaving the left flank to Marcelo.

*All images are analysed with the drawing tool of Videobserver. 

With this positioning, he can help in the build-up, but his main goal is to create options for vertical passes – to be himself a pass option or to drag the opponents to freeing space for one of his teammates. Usually, this type of movements happen between him and Renato Augusto. 

Another key principle of position play is the manipulation of the opponent.

That’s what Tite is referring to when he talks about resisting the urge to penetrate right away. He wants his team to patiently displace the opponentes, opening gaps in their structure, purposefully attracting the opponent to one small area in order to attack other area. Is there a better player in the world to do that, individually, than Neymar? He attracts 2 or 3 opponents just by himself. Now consider that there are 2 other technically superior players in that left side (Marcelo and Renato Augusto). This makes Brazil sublime in opening even the most solid defenses.

Neymar causes an insane amount of doubts in a full back’s mind, by moving around the pitch. If the full back keeps his position, maintaining his team’s shape, he gives all the time in the world for Neymar to do what he wants. If the full back follows Neymar, he can leave a big gap that other players try to explore. 

The last principle of position play that Brazil embraces is commonly referred as “finding the free man”. The idea is to concentrate a large number of players in one side of the pitch to then move the ball quickly to the free man on the other side. Brazil does this really well, thanks to their player’s abilities.

Most of Brazil’s attacks come from the left flank. On the right, Coutinho has a natural tendency to roam to the middle helping to overload that left side. This leaves an open lane in the right for a player like Dani Alves to take advantage. All that’s missing is a way to quickly move the ball. What a better way to do it than Neymar’s diagonals?

Tite’s record, so far, is faultless. The fans connection to the national team is returning to what it was before. Teams that we all remember with fondness as having played some of the best soccer in history. This is happening because there´s a new tactical approach to the game.

In the center of it all, one of the best players in the world, almost perfectly suited to play this style of soccer.