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Defense coming through for attack-minded Brazil at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For all the attacking power that Brazil brought to the World Cup, the defense has been impressing the most for the five-time champion in Qatar.

After two matches, Brazil is yet to allow an attempt on target, and goalkeeper Alisson has been mostly a spectator.

Defensive midfielder Casemiro has been nearly perfect in the first line of protection, with central defenders Thiago Silva and Marquinhos performing at a high level from the start.

“We have maintained a good performance defensively,” said Thiago Silva, one of the veterans in the Brazil squad at age 38. “That gives confidence to our players up front; they have more freedom to attack.”

Brazil will look to take that form into its final Group G match, against Cameroon on Friday, when a draw will be enough to give Brazil first place.

Good defending by Tite’s teams is not new. In Brazil’s 78 matches under his command in the national team, the Seleção conceded only 27 goals. He has led Brazil in 59 victories, 14 draws and five losses.

Brazil opened its World Cup campaign by defeating Serbia 2-0 with two second-half goals by striker Richarlison, then it beat Switzerland 1-0 with an 83rd-minute winner by Casemiro.

The last time Brazil didn’t concede in the group stage was back in 1986, when it played in a group with Spain, Algeria and Northern Ireland in the tournament in Mexico.

The only other teams not to concede after the first two group matches in Qatar were Poland and Morocco. Brazil was the only one of the three that opened with two victories.

Tite picked an offensive-minded squad for the World Cup, bringing nine forwards to Qatar, but he lost the team’s biggest star when Neymar damaged his right ankle ligaments in the match against Serbia. Brazil struggled without the playmaker against Switzerland, and it was Casemiro who came through with the late winner.

Brazil was never really threatened in the matches against Serbia and Switzerland, which each had only four attempts on goal, none of them on target. It achieved the clean sheets despite losing its full backs because of injuries — right back Danilo hurt his ankle in the first match and left back Alex Sandro injured his hip late in the second game.

Brazil coach Tite used Éder Militão, who usually plays as a central defender with Real Madrid, in Danilo’s position against Switzerland, and Alex Telles replaced Alex Sandro. The coach may also use veteran Dani Alves in the right back position against Cameroon.

With its spot in the round of 16 already secured, Tite is expected to rotate his players against the African rivals.

Brazil will try to win its 10th match in a row, which would tie its previous biggest winning streak with Tite from 2019 to 2021.


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