Sunday, 10 June 2012

Analysis of Spain 1-1 Italy

Italy lined up with a back three of Chiellini, Bonucci and De Rossi that converted into a back five when they were pushed back. Balotelli and Cassano started up front for Prandelli's side.

Spain started with a 4-3-3 but with no natural striker, with Iniesta, Silva and Fabregas starting as a front three, assisted by Xavi.



FIRST HALF

The tactical battle was always going to be interesting in this match and it certainly lived up to it.

Spain's shape, even without a proper striker, was a 4-3-3 with Iniesta, Silva and Fabregas as the front three with freedom to interchange in the middle. One of the problems for Spain in the first half, far from lack of reference point, was a simple lack of penetration. Italy pressed higher than expected, especially the midfield three of Pirlo, Marchisio and Motta and this made it difficult for Spain to thread passes through and combine in the middle.

It also slowed their game down and with a lack of penetration in the wide areas, Italy dealt with their threat well. Iniesta, who had a great game, was their main source of danger with his control and direct dribbling threatening to penetrate the Italy backline.

However Italy also provided a very good defence-attack balance. One of the notable things about the pressing and shape of both the sides was that Spain's intent on pressing high often meant that their front three pressed Italy's three CBs. What that meant was either the full backs had to go and pressure high on Italy's wing backs, or leave it to the midfield three who because they were playing in the middle, came late to pressure and in turn opened up the space in the midfield for Italy to exploit.

Spain pressing high on Italy's defenders and wing backs, leaving space in the channels.


Because Spain's full backs were relied upon to give width to their attacks, it left space for Italy to exploit in the channels, especially if the full backs had to go out to pressure the wing backs. Both Pirlo and De Rossi played some lovely passes for Balotelli and particularly Cassano between the centre backs and full backs which stretched Ramos and Pique. The best chance of the half came from this a minute from the end when Cassano got free behind Alba, which dragged Ramos out of the centre and the striker's cross was met by Motta in the middle whose header was well saved by Casillas.

SECOND HALF

Del Bosque clearly needed to change the gameplan or tactics for the second half and although there were no substitutions, Spain came out with more intent; there was more verticality with runs behind the Italy backline, which allowed for a quicker tempo in the passing, more space in the middle and created chances for the Spanish early on in the second period.

However Italy were still a threat on the counter attack with their strikers in the channels, with Balotelli too ponderous on the ball, wasting a great chance after Ramos had made a mistake and allowed him in.

Prandelli decided to bring on Di Natale to provide more of a threat behind the Spanish defenders and it paid off soon after. Spain were playing with Xavi very close to the front three and what that meant was when those four pressed high, it isolated the two holding players in midfield for Spain. For the goal, Italy managed to pass past the front four and then Pirlo, making a break from midfield, dribbled past Busquets and provided a good throughball behind Pique for the substitute Di Natale who finished it off well.

Although Italy were constantly providing a threat in the channels, Spain stuck to their gameplan, bringing the ball out of the back, enticing the Italian midfield to pressure high, and then taking advantage of the space left with quicker transitions and more runs behind the defenders. In short, they were much more of a threat vertically.

Fabregas's lovely diagonal run between the left wing back and centre back made it 1-1 after good play by Silva and Del Bosque immediately brought him off for Navas.

That provided more depth and penetration on the right for Spain and also allowed Arbeloa to sit in a deeper position, which made Italy less of a threat in the channel between him and Pique.

Del Bosque then brought on Torres to cause danger behind for Spain and allowed them to use quicker transitions and isolate the Italian centre backs 3v3. The Chelsea front man made some great vertical runs behind the Italian defence, though couldn't provide the finishing touch to get the winner.

Alonso also tested with a shot from just outside the area and both teams began to find more space between the lines on the counter attack, due to the impact of the substitutions or most probably tiredness from the midfields. In the end a draw was probably the fairest result to end the game.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Analysis of Germany 1-0 Portugal

Germany started in a 4-2-3-1 with Khedira and Schweinsteiger as the two midfielders. Podolski and Muller played in the wide positions with Ozil behind Gomez in the middle.

Portugal went with a 4-3-3 with Veloso, Meireles and Moutinho in midfield, Ronaldo and Nani looking to penetrate in the wide areas and Postiga playing up front.



FIRST HALF

The two sides came out with different game plans set by their managers. Germany were the side looking to dominate possession. Both of their centre backs were comfortable moving forward with the ball and with Portugal only generally pressing the centre backs with one player (Postiga), Germany were able to switch it to the spare centre back if pressure was applied. From there, the free centre back would look for the forward pass to Ozil or if not, the wingers or full backs.

Portugal were playing a medium block, reliant on the work rate of the midfield three to press and cover. This made it hard for Germany to pass through the middle, particularly with their slow, methodical transitions. Germany were trying to entice Portugal's midfield out to leave space between the lines for quick combinations but most of their threat came from wide crosses, particularly from the right, to take advantage of Gomez's ability in the air. This was evident even after a minute of the game. However, Portugal still made it difficult for them to penetrate, even when space was created from a quick switch of play or combinations.

Having said that, Portugal's attacking play was also poor. They were particularly looking to take advantage of quick transitions and allow Nani or Ronaldo the opportunity to get 1v1 against the full backs on the counter. This was shown in the 17th minute when Coentrao quickly played it down the line to Ronaldo to run at Boateng and send in a dangerous cross from the left.

However these were few and far between - Germany were pressing high after losing the ball which limited Portugal's quick transitions. When Portugal went long for Postiga, they didn't win enough in the air and Germany often won the second ball, making it difficult for Portugal to build any pressure.

It was however Portugal who had the best chance of the half when Pepe got free from a corner and shot onto the bar where the ball then bounced dead on the line and away.

SECOND HALF

Germany started the second half quickly when Muller got free from a throw in and sent in a low cross from near the byline where Portugal managed to get enough men in the way to block the German shots.

Portugal themselves started to get a bit more possession at the back and looked to take advantage of their strength in the wide areas with long switches of play from Bruno Alves to Nani which allowed them to bypass the midfield and get a 1v1 on the right or with quick transitions to allow Ronaldo to get 1v1 on the other side. The first two times they did this in the second half, two corners were won.

Germany also looked to get 1v1s, particularly on the right with Muller. They, however, did this a different way. Because Ronaldo was staying fairly high up on the left, it was often down to Portugal's midfield three to get across to that side and help Coentrao at left back. What Germany did was to stick to their possession game, enticing the Portuguese middle three higher and then playing it into the space on the right for Muller to get a 1v1 against Coentrao, often assisted by Ozil moving to link up on that side or even Khedira or Schweinsteiger coming across.

This proved to be the biggest threat for Germany, with Muller sending in seven crosses from that side, often near the byline which made it more dangerous for the Portuguese defence.

However, it was a deflected cross from Khedira which got Germany the goal, with a great header from the Gomez across the goalkeeper.

This meant Portugal had to be more aggressive in attack. The quick transitions still proved their biggest threat though. Before the Germany goal, Portugal had created one situation on the counter attack with Moutinho finding Ronaldo on the inside left channel but the right back Boateng got back just in time to make the tackle. After the goal it was still that same threat.

First Ronaldo got played in early and, 1v1 with Boateng, turned inside and had a shot which was saved. Then moments later, he again ran at Boateng and pulled it back to Coentrao whose deflected shot went over.

Germany were now being pushed back more and started playing a more deeper, compact block. Portugal's best chance came when a ball was played over the top for the substitute Oliveira, who held it up well in the area and then played it across to another substitute in Varela, whose shot was well blocked by Neuer in goal.

Their last chance came from an Alves header from a corner but it went over and Germany took the victory to get their EURO 2012 campaign underway.

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