Saturday, 9 June 2012

Russia 4-1 Czech Republic - analysis

Russia started in a 4-3-3 formation, with Denisov playing just in front of a back four of Anyukov, Berezutski, Ignashevic and Zhirkov. Zyryanov and Shirokov, playing in midfield, supported the front three of Arshavin, Dzagoev and Kerzhakov.

The Czech Republic started in a 4-2-3-1 with Plasil and Jiracek in the holding positions to provide support to attacks, with Rosicky playing in the middle behind Milan Baros and Pilar and Rezek in the wide areas, supported by the full backs.

First Half

Czech Republic started the game the better side, mainly looking to get Plasil, Jiracek and Rosicky on the ball and use the wingers to support Baros inside. They pushed Russia back in the early stages, with Advocaat's side playing too many long balls towards the front three.

The Czech full backs were being tracked inconsistently by Arshavin and Dzagoev, meaning they often got free when they moved forward and meant the Russian midfield three had to come across and provide cover to their full backs.

Jiracek and Plasil weren't playing the usual holding midfield roles and instead were looking to aid attacks by moving forward from midfield, particularly the former who looked to capitalise on the space created by the second line.

However, the Czech control didn't result in any clear chances early on and Russia soon created some of their own. The first one came when Gebre-Selassie got too tight to Arshavin from a throw in and allowed Zhirkov to get free to provide a pull back for Kerzhakov who hit it wide.

Just a minute later, they won the ball and got around the Czech defence. Kerzhakov hit the post from a cross but the ball rebounded off and with the Czech midfield slow to react to the second ball, Dzagoev made it 1-0.

From there on, the Russians looked more composed and controlled the game, trying to make it compact down the middle and then counter in the space left behind. Rosicky dropped deep to receive the ball for Czech Republic, which meant they lost a presence between the lines and meant Baros was often isolated up front. They also had the problem that they kept giving possession away poorly and with Jiracek often leaving Plasil on his own to provide cover, Russia were able to counter attack in the space around him.

What was interesting was that 26 of the 29 passes into the final third in the first half for Russia, came on the wings. This was because the initial pass generally went into the space between the midfield and defensive line and they were then able to move forward and play it to the players moving outside the defenders. Arshavin had space and freedom to dribble and take players on 1v1 and his confidence grew as the match went on, as did his influence.

The second goal came when Plasil lost the ball in midfield and then allowed Shirokov to get behind him and run at the defence. Arshavin received the ball from him and then returned the favour by finding him at the far post to make it 2-0.

Only Kerzhakov's poor finishing kept the scoreline from increasing, with Russia the better side before the break, only really troubled from set pieces and always a threat in the space on the counter attack. They also looked dangerous when they switched the play to their attacking full backs, especially as the Czech full backs were following their man inside, creating space in the wide areas.

Second Half

The Czech Republic made a substitution at half time, bringing on Hubschmann for Rezek, with Jiracek moving to the right in attack.

Hubschmann was better at providing defensive balance than Plasil had been in the first half but they still had the same problems, giving the ball away poorly. Their full backs always moved high when they had the ball which left space behind them on the counter and the centre backs were too deep, which extended the space and allowed Russia to attack with ease in the channels.

However it was the Czech Republic who got the first goal of the second half, with Plasil not picked up in midfield. Throughout the game, Russia had kept compact and limited the Czechs' forward passes down the middle but here Plasil had time and space to pass it behind for the run of Pilar, who beat the offside trap and rounded the keeper to make it 2-1.

This gave the side added confidence, and they were able to bring Baros into the game more and extend the play to provide more attacking threat.

Russia's counter attacks however were clearly more dangerous, though Kerzhakov's finishing was allowing Czech Republic to get away with it. One of the chances, Arshavin was allowed to get 1v1 with the left back and then turn inside to play a pass behind the defence for Kerzhakov who hit it wide with only Cech to beat. Moments later, he again got in the channel on the counter and again lacked precision in his finishing.

Advocaat then brought Pavlyuchenko on to try and provide more firepower up front. Meanwhile their defensive intensity dropped off, allowing Rosicky to get between the lines and have a dangerous shot  on goal.

However the penetration still wasn't really there for the Czech Republic and Russia were again allowed to turn between the lines and play a pass behind, this time for Dzagoev to make it 3-1.

Pavlyuchenko then made it 4-1 when he was allowed to turn inside and have a shot on goal and that finished the game off.

The tempo consequently slowed down with Russia looking to keep hold of the ball, even when they got promising situatitions between the lines. Meanwhile the substitute Petrzela provided more depth on the right for Czech Republic and was the main threat late on but it wasn't enough to get back into the game

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