Previewing the Brazil-Spain match — eyes right

To the extent that Spain and Brazil have been vulnerable during the Confederations Cup tournament, it has mostly been to attacks down the right flank. Brazil’s vulnerability stems from the propensity of its left back, Marcelo, to play as a winger. As with his predecessor, the great Roberto Carlo, left back is more of a mailing address than a position for Marcelo.

Spain has a better-rounded left back in Jordi Alba, rated by most as the best in the world at his position. Yet, Italy found great joy attacking down his side through Maggio and Candreva. It wasn’t all Jordi Alba’s fault. Spain’s midfielders and wide-left attacker should have provided more help. But the left back was beaten one-on-one several times.

What will happen on the right flank today? Brazil hasn’t been using a true right-winger; Dani Alves, like Marcelo a marauding fullback, has supplied nearly all its width on the right side. So unless Brazil changes its tactics, Jordi Alba should have an easier time of it against his Barcelona teammate than he did against the Maggio-Candreva combo.

Spain can call on forward Pedro for pace down the right flank, but Arbeloa, the Spanish right back, isn’t a huge attacking threat. The real potential game-changer, though, is Navas. He’s probably the most impressive winger in the tournament, but Spain has used him only off the bench. If he plays today, Marcelo will probably have his hands full.

Spain’s style of play may count more than its personnel. If Spain plays its short-passing, possession game, then Marcelo shouldn’t be out of position and the right flank shouldn’t be all that vulnerable.

But if Spain plays a more vertical, counter-attacking game (either by choice or out of necessity), Marcelo’s positioning could become problematic.

Soccer matches can be won or lost anywhere on the pitch, and the play on the right flanks may turn out to largely irrelevant. But I’d keep an eye on those areas today.

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