Russia welcomed Brazil to Moscow for an intriguing international friendly game ahead of the 2018 World Cup. The hosts will be on home soil for the prestigious tournament and were looking to prove that they could go toe-to-toe with the best in this game. Brazil meanwhile wanted a positive result to give them some momentum and confidence in the run-up to the competition.
A cagey start but Brazil dominate early on
Brazil manager Tite had named a strong side for this friendly and, despite the freezing conditions in the Russian capital, the visitors dominated the early exchanges. All of the possession went in favour of Brazil and they pinned the Russians back into their own half, knocking the ball around with speed and flair as they probed for an opening. Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus almost found an early opener after an excellent lofted pass from Dani Alves, but the youngster struck his shot right at the palms of Igor Akinfeev, squandering the decent opportunity.
The visitors continued to put a lot of pressure on the Russian defence as the 20-minute mark approached but the home side did well to soak much of it up, sitting deep and using their compact defensive shape to limit the space that the likes of Willian had to run into. As a result Brazil struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities and it soon became a frustrating afternoon for Tite’s men, who insisted on exploiting the wide areas despite their lack of tangible success.
Russia push back but can’t find an opener
With the frustration growing the Brazil forwards soon began to try their luck from range, and both Philippe Coutinho and Willian had speculative efforts that caused Akinfeev little trouble in the Russian goal. The home side’s back five did well to cut out all of the through passes that the visitors attempted, and Stanislav Cherchesov’s side began to look slightly more threatening on the break. It was Roman Zobnin who had Russia’s first real chance of the game, but the midfielder’s venomous shot was met well by Alisson in net. The Brazil keeper was soon forced into another save after a quick break by the home side, this time denying Aleksandr Samedov.
The two quick chances buoyed the Russians and they pressed furiously for an opener, turning the tide of the game in their favour. Some great work down the left wing from Fyodor Smolov saw Aleksei Miranchuk receive the ball six yards from goal, but the attacker somehow managed to blast his effort over the bar when it looked harder to miss than find the back of the net. That was to be the best chance of a first half that was far from eventful, and the two sides went in level, trapped in a defensive stalemate.
Miranda and Coutinho put Brazil ahead
After a frustrating first half the Brazilians came out looking keen to put the game to bed and show their superiority. They almost broke the deadlock immediately after a clever move on the break, with Douglas Costa and Willian combining well to tee up Paulinho. The midfielder’s shot was poor however and Akinfeev was equal to the effort, denying the Barcelona man, and Coutinho couldn’t quite follow up on the rebound. The Russian shot stopper was forced into action again moments later, this time having to make a brilliant reactionary save to prevent Aleksandr Samedov from turning a cross into his own net.
Eventually Tite’s side found an opening through the unlikeliest of sources – central defender Miranda. A great headed effort from Thiago Silva forced Akinfeev to parry the ball straight into the path of the other centre half, who tapped it into the empty net to hand his side a deserved lead. The goal gave the visitors a huge amount of confidence and it didn’t take long for them to double the lead, this time through Philippe Coutinho. An explosive run into the Russian box by Paulinho ended in the referee pointing to the spot as the midfielder was dragged down by Golovin. Coutinho coolly dispatched the subsequent penalty to put Brazil firmly in the driving seat.
Paulinho closes out Brazil’s easy win
After the second goal the Russians proceeded to utterly collapse, allowing the visitors to find an easy third to turn it into an emphatic result. It was Willian who was the provider this time, creating space down the right flank before lifting a perfect cross onto the head of Paulinho. The midfielder had no issues finishing this chance off and the goal put Tite’s men out of sight for the hosts, allowing them to have some fun in the final 20 minutes. The five-time World Cup winners showed off all of their flair and tricks, drawing huge confidence from their comfortable lead and putting on a spectacle for the fans.
The final minutes saw both managers introduce a number of players to compete for the starting spots in the summer, and the constant interruptions upset the flow of Brazil’s previously delightful play. It was a shame for the neutral not to see more goals from this hugely talented side, but they showed off their defensive solidity in the closing seconds as they withstood a barrage of pressure from the Russians as they sought a consolation goal. In the end a 0-3 score line was a deserved result for Tite’s side, while Russia never really looked particularly threatening.
Despite being on home soil, Russia were disappointing in this game and never looked as if they could stand up to the talent of Brazil. Defensively they did well for 45 minutes, but collapsed in the second half, while in attack they were toothless at best. Cherchesov will have a lot of work to do before the summer if he wants his side to compete with the very best.
Heading into half time at 0-0 was somewhat of a surprise for Brazil, but they soon ended their frustration and broke the Russian defence apart with ease after the break. They will be one of the favourites to win the competition in the summer, but there will be tougher friendlies ahead before the prestigious competition begins.
Russia: Akinfeev, Granat, Kutepov, Kudryashov, Samedov (Smolnikov, 80’), Zobnin (Yerokhin, 85’), Glushakov (Anton Miranchuk, 64’), Golovin, Kombarov (Zhirkov, 76’), Aleksey Miranchuk (Dzagoev, 55’), Smolov (Zabolotny, 71’)
Brazil: Alisson, Alves (Fagner, 83’), Miranda (Geromel, 86’), Silva, Marcelo, Coutinho (Fred, 79’), Casemiro, Paulinho (Augusto, 71’), Willian (Taison, 79’), Jesus (Firmino, 65’), Costa
Goals: Miranda (0-1, 53’), Coutinho (0-2, 62’), Paulinho (0-3, 66’)
Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov
Yellow Cards: Name (Min)
Red Cards: None
Russia: Akinfeev 6, Granat 6, Kutepov 6, Kudryashov 6, Samedov 6 (Smolnikov n/a), Zobnin 6 (Yerokhin n/a), Glushakov 6 (Anton Miranchuk n/a), Golovin 6, Kombarov 6 (Zhirkov n/a), Aleksey Miranchuk 6 (Dzagoev 6), Smolov 6 (Zabolotny n/a)
Brazil: Alisson 7, Alves 6 (Fagner n/a), Miranda 8 (Geromel n/a), Silva 7.5, Marcelo 7.5, Coutinho 8 (Fred n/a), Casemiro 7.5, Paulinho 8 (Augusto n/a), Willian 8 (Taison n/a), Jesus 6 (Firmino n/a), Costa 7
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