Wyscout Analysis: Internacional v Boca
In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting matches in world football, providing you with an in-depth tactical analysis powered by Wyscout tools and stats. This time, our eyes were on the Copa Libertadores’ round of 16 clash between Boca Juniors and Internacional. A double matchup eventually decided by the lottery of penalties.
Boca Juniors remain in the hunt for a record-equalling seventh Copa Libertadores title but the tightest of last sixteen wins over Internacional will either serve as a lesson learned to manager Miguel Angel Russo or a potential blueprint to future opponents.
Last week’s 1-0 second-leg defeat at La Bombonera meant Boca were forced to endure the agony of penalties to secure their passage to the quarter-finals and presents a number of doubts over how they set up going forward.
Doubts that Russo perhaps didn’t think were there after a deserved victory in Brazil a week earlier. Yet simple changes from Abel Braga successfully nullified Boca’s attack and exposed a weakness defensively which could prompt changes to the starting eleven.
In spite of wretched conditions in Porto Alegre for the first leg, Internacional played right into Boca’s hands. 39-year-old Andrés D’Alessandro (number 10) tucked in behind a front two with Patrick (14) pushing high up the pitch to try and support the attack, leaving Rodrigo Lindoso (19) and Rodrigo Dourado (31) overrun in midfield and both full-backs exposed.
For a Boca side set up with the pace of Eduardo Salvio and Sebastián Villa either side of Carlos Tevez it was suicidal and could easily have seen the visitors kill the tie before the second leg.
Regardless, after six consecutive clean sheets at home in the Libertadores, Russo thought that with that solid foundation the same eleven would be ideal to punish an Inter side, in need of a goal, on the counter.
Internacional had other ideas. Braga’s switch from the 4-3-1-2 of the first leg to a 4-1-4-1 effectively shut down much of the space that Boca were able to exploit in the previous match.
Rodrigo Lindoso (19) dropped deeper (see the average player positions from second leg above) to help the center-backs and prevent Tevez from finding space when dropping off; Bruno Praxedes (29) and Edenilson (8) applied pressure to Jorman Campuzano and Nicolás Capaldo centrally, and Marcos Guilherme (23) and Patrick (14) were able to provide width to the attack while supporting the full-backs to blunt Salvio and Villa’s threat.
Without that space against an isolated full-back Villa in particular was unable to have any impact. Seven dribbles, seven crosses, four shots, and nine touches in the opposition penalty area dropped to a paltry two dribbles, two crosses, no shots and a solitary touch in the box before Villa was replaced after the hour mark.
From the outset Internacional were aggressive in their press, aiming to win possession from Boca high up the pitch and force mistakes. At times this was arguably close to the line and full-back Moisés was fortunate to remain on the pitch with less than five minutes on the clock, scything down Julio Buffarini for a yellow card and soon after catching Carlos Tevez with a challenge possibly worthy of a red alone.
Fortunately for Internacional, Moisés stayed on the pitch and it was down his left flank that they caused Boca such problems.
Buffarini took time to settle at Boca but has been a dependable part of the starting eleven for the past year or so. However, the Libertadores winner with San Lorenzo, who is far more comfortable attacking down the right than defending his own goal, was given a torrid time.
Three clear chances came from the Patrick-Moisés combination down the Inter left during a first half that deserved to produce the away goal required for the Brazilians.
Having weathered the storm in the opening 45 minutes Boca found themselves behind within minutes of the restart when Patrick pounced on a Buffarini error, found Moisés and his low cross forced an own goal.
With Frank Fabra on the opposite side, another full-back whose real strengths lie on the ball and contributing to Boca’s attacks, future opponents will be looking at those wide areas as points of weakness.
Boca eventually gained a foothold as the second half went on but Internacional were good value for their away win over the 90 minutes. Victory on penalties meant Boca avoided a cup upset and they move on to face Racing Club in the quarter-finals with Russo pondering a number of changes.
Leonardo Jara may come in to replace Buffarini at right-back in a straight swap but Boca may also bring back Franco Soldano to partner Carlos Tevez upfront.
What Boca would do for a Martín Palermo now and yet in the absence of such quality and with Ramón Ábila injured there is a dearth of other options. Soldano may not be much of a goalscorer but contributes to the team and allows others greater freedom. Carlos Tevez can drop to link play, Eduardo Salvio drifts in off the right and with Edwin Cardona, shifted to replace Sebastián Villa in the eleven, the Colombian can orchestrate things from deep.
With that kind of firepower, Boca remain one of the Libertadores’ favorites but Racing will have seen weaknesses that they feel they can exploit.