So you couldn’t find a way through against Australia and lost to them for the first time ever while floundering in a pool of your own bad decisions. The United States is nothing if not adept at mentally picking themselves up. The key here is what adjustments they’ll make, if any, in order to deal with a team that will be even more adept than the Australians at keeping the ball and forcing the United States to chase the game.
The last time these two teams played, the United States beat Brazil 3-1 in an October 2015 friendly in Orlando as part of a two-game series. But in the first game of that series, they tied Brazil 1-1 in Seattle, having to find a a late equalizer from Carli Lloyd.
Brazil is a team on the verge. They’ve been on the verge for a long time, hampered by a lack of true support from their federation. That they achieve as highly as they do despite this lack of support should be a cause for some concern among other nations’ soccer fans, because if the team were ever to have a sustained level of investment from their federation, they would become a pretty terrifying contender amongst top football nations.
With the 2016 Olympics being hosted in Brazil, they did receive increased support from their federation, essentially entering an 18-month camp that carried them through the 2015 World Cup, culminating in their home Olympics. They topped a group that included Sweden, gutted out an awful series of penalty kicks against Australia in quarterfinals, and finally got knocked out in semis by Sweden, once again on penalties. It was, some felt, rather an unfair result for a team that had been laying it all on the line until then as opposed to Sweden, who stymied other teams into extra time and then penalty-kicked their way into the gold medal match against Germany. But winning is winning, and Sweden stuck to their plan, and Brazil couldn’t find goals through open play against either them or Australia.
The players to watch here begin, obviously, with Marta. Beyond being the Brazilian, elevated to the ranks of single-name notoriety years and years ago, she’s 31 years old, starting the gentle downslope out of her prime, but still ferociously competent on and off the ball. She can pull two or three players into her orbit and slip away , putting in the teammates left behind in free space. She can shoot from distance or drive deep for a cross, and she can definitely still go 1-v-1 at goal. And now there’s a nice complement of young Brazilian talents in the squad who can capitalize off of her string-pulling.
Several of these players are in NWSL. Camila is Marta’s teammate at the Orlando Pride and, at 22, is still very much learning and learning well from her teammate. Assuming Brazil her plays her the same way as Orlando, she can very easily drift inside from the right to combo with Marta and she can shoot at range too.
Monica, Andressinha, Bruna Benites, and Debinha all play in NWSL as well, to varying levels of proficiency. In that cohort probably Andressinha is the one to really watch as a midfielder who can slip the ball between defenders.
Brazil opened their Tournament of Nations by tying Japan 1-1 in a very watchable game that opened up the longer it went on. Both sides exhibited some defensive vulnerabilities that the United States undoubtedly will be keen to exploit. On Japan’s lone goal, Brazil got outmanned in their own 18 with a 3-on-2 situation that left a Japanese player completely open on the far post, easily heading the ball into the net. But they were exciting in the attack as they made dangerous transitions, and Camila once again displayed her quality at range with the equalizer for Brazil.
In that sense Ellis may think to stick with her two deep midfielders, cutting off Brazil as they attempt to shift from middle to attacking third. But that might once again strand her forwards on an island of loneliness, unless the wingers can find a way to improve over their average-at-best start against Australia. Maybe that means a first cap for rookie Midge Purce, forward by trade but midfielder by Ellis’ labeling. Maybe that means Megan Rapinoe going full Reign and absolutely thrashing all those Brazilian defensive errors. They were certainly less organized on that end than Australia, although getting all their nervous out versus Japan could mean a sterner test for the United States.
BRAZIL ROSTER BY POSITION:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bárbara (SE Kindermann, Brazil), Dani Neuhaus (Santos, Brazil)
DEFENDERS (7): Bruna Benites (Houston Dash), Jucinara (Corinthians/Audax, Brazil), Leticia (SC Sand, Germany), Maurine (Santos, Brazil), Monica (Orlando Pride), Andreia Rosa (Avaldsnes IL, Norway), Tamires (Fortuna Hjørring, Denmark)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Andressinha (Houston Dash), Camila (Orlando Pride), Debinha (North Carolina Courage), Djenifer (Iranduba, Brazil), Fran (Avaldsnes IL, Norway), Maria (Santos, Brazil), Gabi Nunes (Corinthians/Audax, Brazil),
FORWARDS (4): Chu (São José EC), Ludmila (São José EC), Marta (Orlando Pride), Bia Zaneratto (Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels, South Korea)
TIME AND TV INFO
USA vs Brazil kicks off at 5 PM PT / 8 PM ET on Sunday, July 30 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The game will air live on ESPN2.