England vs Colombia, World Cup 2018: Drop in performance raises question about Gareth Southgate’s tactical nous

July 4, 2018


“England finally ended their abysmal run in penalty shoot-outs with their second-round victory over Colombia, but a dramatic drop in performance towards the end of normal time raises a question about Gareth Southgate’s ability to influence matches tactically. Jose Pekerman spring a surprise with his team selection. Having previously used a 4-2-3-1 and experimented with a 4-3-3 in training, this was actually more of a midfield diamond. With James Rodriguez out, Juan Quintero played as the number 10, with Radamel Falcao upfront to the left, and Juan Cuadrado playing in a right-sided forward role. Quintero pushed forward to press England’s centre-backs three-against-three, but Pekerman’s approach was basically about keeping things tight in deeper positions, and guarding against England’s midfield runners.” Independent – Michael Cox

England’s unique 3-3-2-2 formation could cause Colombia headaches
“For all the optimism about Gareth Southgate’s side and their chances of winning the World Cup, it’s so often this stage — the first knockout round of a major tournament — in which England collapse. This is usually because England have appeared unprepared for the opposition’s approach, or at least too inflexible to guard against it. Germany’s counter-attacking speed wasn’t nullified in 2010. Andrea Pirlo’s deep-lying playmaking skills weren’t shut down in 2012. Iceland’s long throw proved fatal in 2016. Tactical naivety has constantly been England’s main problem.” ESPN – Michael Cox

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How to improve the World Cup? Scrap penalties and move the goalposts

July 4, 2018

Penalty shootouts are an offence against the greatest of team games, association football. They are a lottery, doctored to add tension, personal agony, group ecstasy and nationalist hysteria, for the benefit of television. They are to sport what Love Island is to Romeo and Juliet. Before shootouts were introduced in the World Cup in 1978 (although the first time one was needed was in 1982), coins were tossed if nothing could be decided on the field. No triumphalism was attached to the winner. But since coin-tossing was boring, it was replaced by what amounted to the public execution of individual players who missed. Team effort was replaced by unarmed combat.” Guardian (Video)


Brazil is Haiti’s national football team

July 4, 2018

“On a balmy evening in Port au Prince in 2013, I was on my way to meet folks from Radio Metropole, Haiti’s historic radio station, to begin the groundwork on a compilation of Haitian music largely recorded under Papa Doc Duvalier’s reign. It was a weekday, just before rush hour which meant bottlenecked traffic jockeying for road space with UN armored vehicles, yet the streets were dead silent. Normally bursting with sounds of school children and faint fragrances of scotch bonnet peppers and griot pork, the silence could be mistaken for an arbitrary curfew.” Africa is a Country


Anatomy of a Goal

July 4, 2018


“… Those words are true of every goal—the ugly ones and the pretty—but were perhaps never more honest than after witnessing Nacer Chadli’s last-minute stunner to complete Belgium’s 3-2 comeback win over Japan on Monday. Despite dominating the majority of the match, the Red Devils found themselves facing a two-goal deficit, and time was acting against them. The Japanese goals were each stunning in their own rights. Genki Haraguchi caught the end of a through ball and threaded it past a diving Thibaut Courtois in the 48th minute. Four minutes later, Takashi Inui found a window in a sea of Belgian defenders and unleashed a shot that touched the back of the net before a diving Courtois hit the ground.” The Ringer (Video)


Stuck in Soccer Limbo, in the Shadow of the World Cup

July 4, 2018

“An odd thing happened in December when soccer fans in Crimea, the disputed Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, began trying to buy tickets to the World Cup. Some ticket seekers trying to make purchases through FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, encountered error messages on their computers. The problem, the president of Crimea’s soccer federation told reporters, was that FIFA still recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine. Fans on the peninsula feared that World Cup tickets had joined cellphones and credit cards on a list of imported items banned by international sanctions.” NY Times


If Ronaldo Can’t Beat Uruguay, the Least He Can Do Is Pay Taxes

July 4, 2018

“Before his team lost on Saturday, Portugal’s superstar forward Ronaldo was having a thrilling World Cup. There was his stunning performance against Spain, where he scored three of the game’s six goals. There was his outstanding early header against Morocco, which prompted his coach to declare that Ronaldo was aging ‘like a port wine.’ Exhilarating displays of virtuosity! Brilliance and showmanship! What’s not to like?” NY Times