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Brazil sparkled early but faded to a draw against a resolute Uruguay led by the return of one Mr. Luis Suárez.
For a country in turmoil the atmosphere at the Pernambuco stadium was rocking. Dunga rolled out his 4-2-3-1 to Tabárez’s 4-4-2 and it was clear the early strategy was to release Willian on the right as often as possible.
It paid immediate returns when in the first minute Willian feinted towards the byline then cut back to his left, shredding Coates and whipping in a sweet ball for Douglas Costa to toe snap home.
When Brazil weren’t building attacks through Alves and Filipe Luís, Nike poster-boy Neymar, stylish even in uniform, with socks pulled past his knees, continually found opportunities to turn and swish past Uruguay’s center midfield pairing of Vecino and Arévalo.
The home crowd spurred on Brazil’s destroyer tandem of Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo. Their ankle snapping presence unsettled Vencino and Arévalo who struggled to play into Cavani or find Suárez in the channels.
Brazil’s second goal included a touch of good fortune when a loose ball fell to Neymar’s feet. He took a few touches before playing a swift diagonal ball to his right for Renato. Pereira went to ground cutting out the pass initially before it bobbled onto Renato’s path, who dummied Muslera out of his gloves before roofing it home with his right.
Brazil were back!
Music blared, badges were kissed and cameramen focused on attractive women in the crowd.
Uruguay refused to buckle and responded through Arévalo picking out an overlapping Pereira wide left. Pereira dribbled past Willian with a calm nutmeg and curled in a cross for Sánchez who laid off a clever header back to a steaming Cavani to volley home.
Neymar and Willian each traded sombreros to keep the home support believing that yes, they were Brazil and despite conceding a softie would go on to win.
Suárez begged to differ, attempting an insane volley from distance. Though it soared harmlessly into the crowd, his ambitious attempt did stand to foreshadow his growing influence.
Brazil, like her fans, were lethargic at the start of the second half. Suárez continued to harass and agitate Brazil’s back four, jawing at Felipe Luís and pressing David Luiz at every opportunity.
Suárez was everywhere and it wasn’t a surprise when at last his runs in behind Brazil’s defense were rewarded. Carlos Sánchez’s pass took out three Brazilian players hitting Suárez in stride, allowing him to strike first time across Alisson’s weak fingertips into the bottom right corner.
The king had returned.
The only kink in his crown was when played into an one v. one with Allison he shot into the keepers foot. Allison totally redeemed himself as Suárez palmed his temples in disappointment, knowing he should’ve won it.
Credit must go to Óscar Tabárez for making the needed halftime adjustments. Neymar’s second half was snuffed out. Uruguay refused to allow him to pick up the ball and turn and dribble into dangerous areas around the penalty box.
No one in the sky blue shirts were exempt from these duties. Even Edinson Cavani acted as an auxiliary center midfielder when Brazil were in possession, shutting any possible trap doors of space Neymar might look to exploit.
Neymar adapted by dropping into midfield and distributing. Sure he can pick a pass, but Xavi he is not, and taking up deeper positions facing a Uruguayan wall of ten rendered him useless.
Dunga countered by bringing in Coutinho and dropping Augusto alongside Gustavo. It worked moderately well as Brazil became more fluid in their build-ups from midfield. Coutinho acted as an extra lock picker in the final third taking some of the attacking burden off of Neymar.
Coutinho did draw a solid save from Muslera but couldn’t conjure up any of his Liverpool magic to win the match.
This Uruguay team, while not the most technically accomplished, are built on a foundation of tactical cohesion and a pair of world class strikers who believe in the team ethos.
And though this is not one of the great Brazil teams, letting a two goal lead slip at home in a crucial World Cup qualifier can not be swept aside. If results like this continue their never ending presence at the World Cup may end.