After a string of convincing victories in friendly games, Brazil started the World Cup 2014 rather shaky and was lucky to win the opening match. There were many who claimed that the referee made that victory possible, by awarding a penalty shot that shouldn’t have been there. Nevertheless, the hosts picked up speed and they doubled their efforts after drawing against Mexico, to win the final match by 4-1.
It was an impressive effort but the fact that they were competing against a team already out of the competition casts some shadows over that triumph. Things are about to turn serious, as they prepare for a decisive match against Chile, a squad that stunned the teams in Group B. They won with relative ease against both Australia and Spain, but decided to take the foot off the gas in the final match, which resulted in a defeat to the Netherlands.
The players are under no illusion that they are in for a challenge, because past performance suggests that Brazil wins in most cases. Their opponents have an impressive home record that includes three victories and they are yet to lose a game to Chile when having the support of their fans. All these facts explain why the odds are stacked against the visiting team, but this is not the first time that Chilean players have to fight seemingly insurmountable odds.
Defending against Brazil is clearly a better idea, but against the likes of Neymar and Fred, it would be a mistake to retreat all players into their own half. A flexible approach is needed, something that Chile proved to be capable off, but it will all come down to how well Vargas and Sanchez perform. The two strikers have been a constant presence upfront and there is no reason for either of them to be kept on the bench, especially with both of them scoring one so far.
There is no room for a third striker and taking unnecessary risks is not what the underdogs need to do right now, but they have another ace in their sleeves. Arturo Vidal is both willing and capable of advancing to support the strikers if his skills are necessary and he’s expected to assume an offensive role. The backline is decent, but if the defenders are forced to block the Brazilian strikers on many occasions, it should be only a matter of time until a mistake will be committed.
As for the hosts, this is the best opportunity to extend an already impressive winning streak, against the team that they have always dominated. They can rely on the support of their fans as the arena will be packed with enthusiastic Brazilians, cheering for the Cariocas. It goes without saying, that the hosts are under a lot of pressure and they can’t afford to take it one step at a time and hope that they will eventually score a goal.
The sensible approach would be to back Brazil to win outright, but the odds of 1.60 offered by most bookmakers are hardly impressive. A far more tempting proposition would be to trust the hosts to cover the -2.5 goals spread at odds exceeding 2.30. If the hosts score early, the game could easily spin out of control, but if the Chilean defenses hold by half time, both teams will shift into a less aggressive gear.