Flexible England win battle for the centre ground in collective triumph

June 30, 2021


“Inevitably, it would be the attackers who grabbed the headlines. Amid the uncorked pandemonium of England’s 2-0 win against Germany on Tuesday, perhaps it was only natural that the defining motifs would be of England’s two goalscorers. The gnarled, gritted features of Harry Kane, staring out from Wednesday morning’s front pages like a king restored to his throne. The stern thousand-yard stare of Raheem Sterling adorning a thousand memes and highlights reels, daring you to doubt him ever again. But perhaps the most interesting element of England’s night of jubilee at Wembley was that on first glance it didn’t appear to have an obvious architect. …”
Guardian
Tactical Analysis: How England found a way past Germany in the Euros
Tactical Analysis: Germany vs. England
***England 2 Germany 0: Euro 2020 Tactical Analysis


An appreciation of Paul Pogba’s incredible passing

June 30, 2021


“Watching Paul Pogba pass is a special experience. It feels luxurious. It feels expensive. It feels like those of us on our sofas at home should have to pay to watch him in central midfield, just like the in-stadium crowd did. Few can do what Pogba can do. We were treated to Pogba’s brilliance while watching France at Euro 2020, even if we won’t be anymore. His distribution in their last-16 defeat by Switzerland on Monday was a major highlight of what was otherwise a disastrous night for the world champions. …”
The Athletic
Tactical Analysis: France vs. Switzerland


Ukraine-Sweden provides more late Euro drama, as match-winner Dovbyk pops up as the unlikely hero

June 30, 2021


Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko scores the opening goal
“It was never going to live up to Monday’s drama, but Ukraine and Sweden closed out the Round of 16 with a dramatic ending of their own, after a tremendously absorbing match. Ukraine have a new folk hero, his name is Artem Dovbyk and generations of Dovbyks will remember the moment he scored his very first international goal. Or, better yet, they’ll look it up on YouTube, because if they’re merely told the story, they may not believe it. Dovbyk, a 24-year-old forward with SC Dnipro-1, only made his international debut in March and is not exactly what you’d call a rising star. He’s a young man whose itinerant career has seen him play in the Ukrainian second division, the Danish league and the Moldovan league. Before Tuesday night, he had played just 51 minutes of international football… against Kazakhstan and Bahrain. …”
ESPN (Video)
Euro 2020: Artem Dovbyk scores dramatic 120th minute winner to send Ukraine throught to meet England
Guardian: Ukraine strike late in extra time against Sweden to set up England quarter-final


England step into strange new light as fear turns to joy in win over Germany

June 29, 2021


“Well, that was unexpected. On a grey, boisterous, increasingly wild night at Wembley Stadium England’s footballers did something new. When it comes to these grand, operatic international tournaments England shrink. England are fearful. At best England flutter, briefly, before being broken on the wheel. Except not this time. Instead Gareth Southgate’s fine young team produced a performance of slow-burn fire to beat Germany – yes, really – 2-0 and progress to the quarter finals of Euro 2020. …”
Guardian (Video)
Guardian: Gareth Southgate praises ‘immense’ England but warns against complacency
NY Times: England Overcomes Germany, and Its Demons
BBC – England 2-0 Germany: ‘England must reach final to make Germany win one of their greatest’


Switzerland’s Sommer saves Mbappé’s penalty to send France crashing out

June 29, 2021


“Kylian Mbappé was France’s sure thing. That is why he was fifth in their list of penalty takers and is why, when he stepped up to keep them in Euro 2020, the thought he might miss felt like too heady a twist in the narrative. Things like that have simply not happened to Mbappé during a young career of rare accomplishment, but here came the kind of horror that exposes even the preternaturally gifted as flesh-and-blood mortals: Yann Sommer, Switzerland’s exceptional goalkeeper, smelled weakness and read his intentions correctly, diving right and clawing the spot-kick away. France were out; their delirious opponents had made their own slice of history and a tournament of unstinting drama took its least plausible turn yet. …”
Guardian
BBC: Kylian Mbappe and world champions France’s fall from top
BBC: France 3 – 3 Switzerland
Four Four Two: France out of Euro 2020 as Kylian Mbappe misses in shoot-out loss to Switzerland


Croatia 3-5 Spain (AET): Alvaro Morata scores in extra-time to book Euro 2020 quarter-final place

June 28, 2021


“Alvaro Morata’s extra-time goal helped Spain secure an extraordinary 5-3 victory over Croatia in a pulsating Euro 2020 last-16 tie in Copenhagen. In a game full of twists and turns, Luis Enrique’s side dominated the early stages but fell behind in bizarre circumstances when goalkeeper Unai Simon’s miscontrol caused Pedri’s 49-yard backpass to bounce into his own net (20). Spain fought back, scoring three goals without reply through Pablo Sarabia (38), Cesar Azpilicueta (57) and Ferran Torres (76), but Croatia, who appeared out of it at that point, staged a remarkable comeback to send the game into extra-time. …”
Sky Sports
Guardian: Luis Enrique’s Spanish revolution takes nerve-shredding step forward – Jonathan Wilson
ESPN – Euro 2020: Spain show character in spades again, as Morata, Simon inspire extra-time win vs. Croatia (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Italy vs. Austria

June 28, 2021


“London’s Wembley stadium was the contemporary battleground for the most recent iteration of the long and storied history between Italian and Austrian forces. Some 200 years on since Italy’s northern heartlands were the jewel in the Austrian Empire’s crown; it was Italy who came out on top in this showpiece event against their once overlords. Italy came into the tie as clear favourites as both their arsenal of players and recent form suggested that the Italians should make light work of the overmatched albeit hardworking Austrian side; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the Austrians gave the Italians their toughest test to date at this summer’s tournament. The 90 was an attritional affair dominated mainly by the imperious nature of both sides CBs who did well to avert almost all threat from either side. The man with many friends, Marko Arnautović, though he had put Austria in the lead and in the process soiling Italy’s clean sheet record, whoever the striker can not count those in the VAR room as one of his many diverse, close associates. …”
Breaking The Lines
NY Times: Italy Beats Austria, Adding Some Grit to Its Flash
YouTube: How Italy Eventually Broke Down Austria | Tactical Analysis
Breaking The Lines – Tactical Analysis: Wales vs. Denmark


Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Ronaldo draws a blank, Hazards come to the fore, Pepe loses his cool (again)

June 28, 2021


Thorgan Hazard
“Cristiano Ronaldo had the all-time men’s international goal scoring record and the Euro 2020 quarter-finals in his sights, but he hadn’t reckoned on a stubborn and resilient Belgium side, who defended solidly and provided the game’s most outstanding moment of technical quality. Here, The Athletic’s Liam Twomey and Tim Spiers pick through the major talking points… The stage was set for Cristiano Ronaldo. His team, his tournament, his Euros, his next goal record… but for once, he failed to take the spotlight. … But while the elder Hazard brother’s improved rhythm should be cause for optimism among Belgium supporters, he wasn’t the hero of this particular night. Thorgan shattered Portugal’s ultra-cautious game plan from 25 yards with one magnificent swish of his boot late in the first half. …”
Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Ronaldo draws a blank, Hazards come to the fore, Pepe loses his cool (again)
Guardian: Thorgan Hazard strike sinks Portugal and puts Belgium in quarter-finals
Guardian: Cristiano Ronaldo exits but does not have the look of a man whose race is run – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: Relief for Belgium Comes at Ronaldo’s Expense


Total Dutch collapse: leaderless Netherlands outmuscled by Czechs

June 27, 2021


Matthijs de Ligt handles to deny Patrik Schick and is sent off.
“Farewell then, the Netherlands 2021. Never mind total football: this was a total collapse. And not just a simple collapse, but an abject, jaw-dropping collapse, the kind of collapse you can see happening in front of you in real time, like a slow-motion car crash. Thrown by the second half dismissal of Matthijs de Ligt, a Dutch team that came romping out of the blocks in Budapest, all regal vim and pep, was transformed at a stroke into a sagging orange soufflé. The Czechs were hugely deserved victors. What a likeable, clever, well-organised team they are. They have a quarter-final to savour now. But let us linger, for a moment on the Dutch, and the spectacle of a genuine collapse, a panic-fright. Welcome to the anatomy of a bottling. …”
Guardian


EURO 2020: tactical trends

June 27, 2021


No team has pressed or had the ball as much as Spain but that did not help them beat Sweden in their opening game
“Thirty-six matches played, with 94 goals scored at an average of 2.61 per game. It is a ratio lower than the 2.93 recorded in last season’s UEFA Champions League, yet this is no surprise for the UEFA technical observers analysing the action at UEFA EURO 2020. Their reflections on the opening fortnight of action point to less risk-taking than in the European club competitions with a tendency towards three centre-backs and low blocks – arguably motivated by the wish to avoid early elimination. …”
UEFA (Video)
Tactical trends from the Euro 2020 group stages: What we’ve learned


Netherlands – Euro 2020 – Tactical Analysis

June 27, 2021


“Netherlands came into Euro 2020 as clear Group C favourites, and they did not disappoint by any stretch of the imagination, winning all three of their matches. Frank de Boer’s team have been tactically fluid, outstanding both in and out of possession and have genuinely looked like one of the most exciting teams at the tournament. So with the knockout stages just a few days away, we take a look at Netherlands’ tactics at the tournament so far. …”
The Mastermindsite


Italy find something extra from Matteo Pessina to see off Austria

June 27, 2021


Matteo Pessina scores Italy’s second that ultimately sealed victory
“Federico Chiesa walked out on to the Wembley pitch with six minutes of normal time remaining and this tight, fretful last-16 tie still goalless. The story of the game to that point had been a finely wrought defensive performance from Austria, who showed great resolve against a team most expected to simply blow them away. The final whistle came as a relief to Italy’s players, who fell into an angsty-looking huddle around their manager. Roberto Mancini’s message was clear even from the sidelines. Take a breath, reset the throttle. And Italy did find another gear. …”
Guardian
BBC: Italy 2 Austria 1


Euro 2020: Hurt but proud, what next for Wales after Denmark defeat?

June 26, 2021


“Even by the standards of this transcontinental tournament, Wales’ was an arduous route to the second round, as they travelled thousands of miles to Baku and Rome for group games before facing Denmark in the Dutch capital. As Wales contemplated their 4-0 beating, was this more than just their European Championship over; the end of an era? This squad included eight of the players who took Wales to the historic new heights of the semi-finals at Euro 2016 and, after the final whistle on Saturday, the spotlight inevitably fell on the most famous of those who remain, captain Gareth Bale. Asked if this would be his final game for his country, the 31-year-old simply walked away. …”
BBC
BBC: Wales 0 Denmark 4
ESPN: Denmark’s fairy-tale run at Euro 2020 continues thanks to new characters Dolberg, Stryger (Video)
Guardian: Denmark end Wales’ Euro 2020 dreams as Dolberg double caps dominant win


Keeper v taker in a penalty shootout – the pressure, the run-up, the psychological battle

June 26, 2021


Diego Alves had a phenomenal record when facing penalties
“Facing a penalty is a game of poker to see who can sell a bluff and come out on top. Every goalkeeper will tell you that they thrive in the moment during a penalty shootout. The opportunity to become the hero is the equivalent of an outfield player scoring a last-ditch winner, so that motivates us and excites us. The pressure is on the taker, because in those moments the odds are heavily stacked against the goalkeeper — nobody really expects you to make the save. Not everyone can handle that and one of the biggest weapons for a goalkeeper in that moment is to let the taker know how much pressure is on them. …”
The Athletic


The Case for a 32-Team Euros

June 26, 2021


Portugal found a way through to the round of 16.
“Thomas Vermaelen’s header hit the ground first and then rose before colliding with the post near the corner where it meets the crossbar. As the ball spun out, sideways toward the middle of the goal, Lukas Hradecky, the Finland goalkeeper, was still turning around. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Instinctively, Hradecky reached out a hand to try to swat the ball away. In that instant, on his fingertips, a substantial portion of Euro 2020 hung. Had Hradecky been able to claw the ball away from his goal, away from danger, Finland might have been able to hang on, to keep a vaguely interested Belgium at bay, to qualify for the knockout stages of the first major tournament it has ever reached. Denmark, playing simultaneously in Copenhagen, might have been sent home. …”
NY Times


Euro 2020’s flying full-backs show risk-free football is not the only path to victory

June 25, 2021


Lukaku & De Bruyne
“… Which is perhaps a polite way of saying a little bit boring. But then most successful international sides are, based on the construction of a solid base and a couple of gifted creators who can extemporise upon that – or at least they have been. The sophisticated models that dominate at elite club level take time to instil. To press effectively in the modern game takes weeks of repetitions on the training ground so that players know instinctively when to hunt the ball and when to ease off. And pressing is pointless if it isn’t coherent: it’s just players running about. It works only if conducted in packs: one or two men to the man in possession, a wave of others blocking off his options, either by closing down opponents or the passing lanes. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The tactical trends you’ve not noticed at Euro 2020

June 25, 2021


“After 36 games condensed into less than two weeks, the group stage of Euro 2020 is over. Sadly for us football fanatics, it means there are just 15 more games remaining to get your European international football fix for the summer. There have already been some interesting tactical battles, some records broken, and plenty of drama but we have picked out a few interesting trends that feel worthy of discussion in a little bit more detail. Is this the year of the three-man defence? Just how much do some players have to adapt between club and country? And is everyone just a bit… shattered? …”
The Athletic (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Sweden vs. Poland

June 24, 2021


“After yet another miserable international tournament display at Euro 2016 in France, the Swedish national team decided it was time to gamble. Back home, a recently promoted side, IFK Norrköping, had just won the Allsvenskan for the first time in 26 years. Their manager, Janne Andersson, had only coached two sides before that unprecedented title win, but that was enough to convince his country to come calling. … Yet, fast-forward four years, and Sweden are gearing up for their second Round-of-16 tie in as many tournaments. Competing in two major competitions under Janne Andersson, Blagult have finished top of their group in both, outranking both Germany and Spain along the way. And, with seven points from nine this time, they’ve even now gone unbeaten. It’s a managerial success story that perhaps doesn’t get as much credit as it should. …”
Breaking The Lines
[PDF] Sweden vs Poland
Breaking The Lines – Tactical Analysis: Spain vs. Poland


The Euro 2020 Group Stage Is Over: Here’s What We Learned

June 24, 2021


“With a couple of minutes to play in Budapest, the French midfielder Adrien Rabiot looked squarely at Sergio Oliveira, his Portuguese opponent, and advised him to back away. Like everyone else in the stadium, Rabiot had heard the news. The group stage of Euro 2020 was effectively over. Both France and Portugal were through to the knockout rounds. There was no need to run or to chase or to press. Now was the time for watching the clock. It had not, for either team, been a straightforward evening. The game had oscillated — Portugal led, then France, then Portugal struck back — and so had their fates, dependent to some extent on the outcome of the group’s other game, between Germany and Hungary in Munich. At one point or another, each of the four teams had believed they were going through. …”
NY Times


Analysed: Which Euro 2020 country matches which club side’s style?

June 24, 2021


“How are you finding the European Championship so far? Not missing club football at all? Or are you sitting on your couch lamenting the inferior standard of these international games, in between scrolling Twitter and replying to football journalists tweeting about Germany’s defensive system with ‘(insert name of sexy transfer target here) update?!?’ If you are, don’t worry. Major international tournaments are very different creatures from the European club season, for better and worse, and they’re not for everyone. Just ask Maurizio Sarri, who shocked journalists in January 2019 while Chelsea head coach when he admitted he didn’t watch a single minute of the previous summer’s World Cup because ‘there is not anything to learn from them’. …”
The Athletic


Euro 2020 power rankings: Italy lead the way after impressive group stage

June 24, 2021


“France and Belgium have been impressive but Italy are unbeaten in 30 and with a comfortable-looking last-16 tie. 1) Italy. The Roberto Mancini juggernaut rolls on. Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and none conceded in the group stage. Italy are unbeaten in 30 games, have not let in a goal for more than 1,000 minutes and beat Wales in their last group game having made eight changes. The introduction of Marco Verratti in that match added another layer to their game – he had been injured – and they are huge favourites against Austria. 2) France. The main question before the tournament was whether the reintroduction of Karim Benzema would destabilise the squad, but they won the group of death and the Real Madrid striker scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Portugal. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Euro 2020: the standout players from the 16 teams left in the tournament


What’s Wrong With England at Euro 2020?

June 24, 2021


Harry Kane, Czech Republic’s defender Vladimir Coufal
“Perhaps the most depressing thing about England’s 1–0 win over the Czech Republic Tuesday—a victory that clinched the group for the Three Lions in the opening round of the Euro Cup—was that England seemed to be trying. The gap in quality between the two teams was apparent, but that was less of a problem for the Czechs than the difference in intensity. England’s players were trying harder: pressing more intently, winning second balls, and showing a willingness to dribble past their direct opponents that the Czech players never did. The Czech offense went off like a damp firework. Even the statuelike Harry Kane nearly won some of his footraces with the Czech defenders. …”
Slate (Video)
Guardian: Set pieces, Kane and Covid curveballs – the big issues now facing England
Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. England
Kane looked lost as England chances dried up – this was most disappointing game of Southgate era (June 19, 2021)


Modric magic ensures Croatia prolong Scotland’s major tournament woes as Tartan Army’s Euro 2020 hopes end

June 23, 2021


“They came to Hampden Park hoping for a night to remember, but in the end, Scotland‘s success-starved supporters had to make do with a goal they will never forget. Croatia’s 3-1 victory in Glasgow on Tuesday secured the 2018 World Cup finalists qualification for the round of 16, but it was Luka Modric‘s stunning second-half strike that ended Scottish dreams of an end to their perennial tournament misery. In 10 previous appearances at a major finals, either the World Cup or European Championship, Scotland were unable to progress beyond the group stage. …”
ESPN (Video)
BBC – Euro 2020: How Luka Modric’s genius for Croatia ended Scotland’s dreams
BBC – Croatia 3 Scotland 1


Letting in the Uefa variant could be Boris Johnson’s next own goal

June 22, 2021


Billy Gilmour of Scotland vies with Mason Mount of England during the UEFA Euro 2020
“How encouraging to see Uefa masterminding a return of jeopardy to the Euros. Not in the football, you understand – putting four third-place teams through simply further deflates the group stages of an already format-compromised 24-team tournament. But threatening last week to take the final away from Wembley and move it to Hungary unless 2,500 of their dignitaries can swerve quarantine – well, this is the stuff of which perilous thrills are made. Not that a Budapest final wouldn’t offer something fresh: large numbers of openly racist and homophobic fans who are finally under investigation by Uefa for their conduct thus far during the tournament. …”
Guardian


The Romelu Lukaku Renaissance

June 22, 2021


“We know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. What footballers know is that the longest distance between two points is the way back from failure. Romelu Lukaku set out on that road almost a year ago and has now reached such speed that he has far outpaced any challenger who was ahead of him. It is a remarkable return, a hero’s journey, and now he ventures across Europe with his national team at the Euro 2020 tournament, perhaps on course for further glory. But more on his adventures with Belgium later. …”
The Ringer


Denmark Advances at Euro 2020, Winning Where Eriksen Fell

June 21, 2021


“Denmark’s players gathered in a circle on the field at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen and stared intently at a staff member’s phone. They must have known, by then, that they had qualified for the last 16 of the European Championship, but they wanted to be sure. They wanted to see the score confirmed, officially. The Danes had come into their final group game on Monday needing the dice to roll in their favor to make it through. They required a win against Russia on home soil, and for Belgium to beat Finland in St. Petersburg. That they had a chance at all, though — that their coach, Kasper Hjulmand, could tell his players that this was the start, not the end, of their tournament — was remarkable in itself. …”
NY Times
SI: Denmark Through to Euros’ Last 16 as Simultaneous Drama Caps Emotional Group Stage


Lionel Messi remains Argentina’s best hope of glory even in his twilight

June 21, 2021


“The ball comes to Lionel Messi in midfield. He returns it with a disdainful flick of the foot that says: I can’t do anything with this. I don’t want it. Take it back. And then he sighs and walks off in the opposite direction. Surprised, and a little abashed, Guido Rodríguez gathers the ball and looks around for somebody else to pass it to. Perhaps it’s because Messi gives so few interviews – and tends to say so little in the interviews he gives – that over time you start to delude yourself, in a weird anthropomorphic way, that you can glimpse some sort of profound human insight in his football. …”
Guardian


Tactical Analysis: Spain vs. Poland

June 20, 2021


“As the final whistle pierced the drone of chatter inside the Estadio de la Cartuja, the Spanish players looked to the sky and puffed out their cheeks once again. Another uninspiring draw in Seville means that it’s the first time since 1996 that the national side haven’t won either of their opening two group games at the European Championships. They haven’t lost any, either, but something just doesn’t feel right in the Spanish camp. Off the pitch, Luis Enrique always seems to be a man under fire. Constantly having to defend his decisions from a barrage of disgruntled journalists, none more so than his unwavering faith in Álvaro Morata, there seems to be national disagreement as to how to best utilise this talented Spanish squad. And, while his vote of confidence in the on-loan Juventus striker was rewarded with the opening goal tonight, the lack of national harmony and trust in their set-up has never been so clear. …”
Breaking The Lines
YouTube: Spain vs. Poland – Tactical Analysis – Spain Continue Their Problems


As France Chases Title at Euros, Its League Faces a $400 Million Hole

June 20, 2021


Chief executive Maxime Saada
“French soccer’s new television deal was supposed to save the league and its clubs from a financial meltdown. Instead, it may have made a bad situation worse. Soon after France’s top soccer league, Ligue 1, announced this month that it had enticed Amazon to become its lead broadcaster, its longtime television partner, Canal Plus, reacted with fury. Canal Plus would neither pay for nor broadcast the two games per week it owned the rights to, the company said. Not at the premium price in its contracts, at least. And certainly not when Amazon was paying roughly $100 million less for four times as many games. …”
NY Times


Why do so many Euro 2020 teams play right-footers at left-back?

June 19, 2021


“What do England, Denmark, Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all have in common? A rudimentary online search suggests not a lot, but at Euro 2020 there’s been a common thread linking them: they’ve all started a right-footed left-back. Jan Boril (Czech Republic), Joakim Maehle (Denmark), Kieran Trippier (England), Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy) and Tomas Hubocan (Slovakia) all started for their national teams on what would be considered as the ‘wrong’ flank. When Denmark shifted to a three-man defence for their game against Belgium, the game featured two right-footed left-wing-backs in Maehle and Thorgan Hazard. …”
The Athletic


Unlikely hero Robin Gosens shows Germany anything is possible

June 19, 2021


“… The German police force’s loss has been the Nationalmannschaft’s gain. On Saturday night Gosens was instrumental as Germany rediscovered their form and beat Portugal 4-2 to make an interesting Group F even more interesting. Having stared elimination in the face, Germany go into their final game against Hungary level on points and with a head-to-head advantage over Portugal, and only a point behind France. Gosens has taken a circuitous route to the top. …”
Guardian


Euro 2020: Budapest – the host city enjoying a summer renaissance

June 19, 2021


“It was almost the shock of Euro 2020 so far, played in front of a capacity crowd and inspired by raucous and feisty home fans. Hungary drew 1-1 with world champions France at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on Saturday as more than 60,000 people created an atmosphere befitting of the hosts’ dogged performance. Four days earlier, the Magyars had held defending champions Portugal for 84 minutes before slipping to a 3-0 defeat and this time they led before being pegged back in the heat. Supporters can now look forward to two further games in the Hungarian capital – France’s crucial clash with Portugal in the group and one of the last-16 ties. It is proving something of a summer renaissance for a city that helped produce one of the most talented generations the world has witnessed, had a hand in the formation of the European Cup and whose coffee houses played host to the game’s early deep-thinking tacticians. …”
BBC


At Euro 2020, a Reminder That Good Can Be Great

June 19, 2021


Italy: unbeaten, but not unbeatable.
“Let’s start with a little intellectual exercise. A purely hypothetical, entirely subjective, ultimately inconclusive one, admittedly, but still: Now that each of the presumed contenders to win the European Championship has shown at least some of its hand, how competitive would any of them be if they were to be parachuted, as they are, into the Champions League? Instinctively, it feels as if France, at least, would do pretty well. A front line of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé bears comparison to any attacking trident in the club game. …”
NY Times


England 0 Scotland 0: No impact from Kane, Scotland the better team, time to start Grealish?

June 19, 2021


“England struggled while Scotland shone as they drew 0-0 for the first time ever at Wembley in the 115th meeting between the two nations. The England captain Harry Kane again failed to have an impact and was subbed with 16 minutes to go, while Steve Clarke’s Scotland impressed, particularly in midfield where 20-year-old Billy Gilmour held his own on his first international start. There was plenty of clamour for Jack Grealish to be in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for this Euro 2020 group game but again the England manager chose to begin with the Aston Villa playmaker on the bench. Grealish replaced Phil Foden just after the hour but his cameo was not enough to inspire a breakthrough. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: My day with the Tartan Army (Video)
Guardian: Jack Grealish may not have all the answers but England need to find out
Guardian: Scotland’s Billy Gilmour catches the eye with star turn against England
BBC – England 0-0 Scotland: ‘Real hope for Scotland but a wake-up call for England’


We Are All Mats Hummels – Brian Phillips

June 18, 2021


“Let’s talk about gods and heroes. One of the strangest things about myths and legends is how often the protagonists lose. They fly too close to the sun. They take an arbitrary arrow to an unprotected heel. The stories build them up in order to knock them over, and their falls are as compelling as their rises. Often they’re more compelling. The adventures and victories and feasts are exciting to read about, but the deepest truths of life, the hardest lessons of poetry, are in the tragic ends. It’s Achilles’s death that makes him a story. Without it, he’s only a cheat code. …”
The Ringer


Belgium’s attacking riches bail out creaking back line against Denmark

June 17, 2021


Kevin de Bruyne, a second half substitute for Belgium, turned the game on its head.
“Perhaps this wasn’t the game for making proper judgments. Belgium were in the desperately awkward position of being the other team in the face of a great outpouring of Danish emotion, and for half the game they struggled in that role. But the introduction of Kevin De Bruyne, back after surgery on the facial injury he sustained in the Champions League final, changed everything. But beyond talk of the difficult emotion of the occasion or of De Bruyne’s brilliance, there are other issues for Belgium. Going forward after half-time, they looked like the side that had scored 40 goals in qualifying. Romelu Lukaku, the isolation of the first half ended, was exceptional. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
De Bruyne inspires Belgium comeback win after Denmark’s Eriksen tribute
The Athletic’s 10 Euro stars – Kevin De Bruyne: Belgium’s man on a mission (June 9)


The 10 coaches at the Copa América 2021

June 16, 2021


“The tried and tested, the revolutionary innovations and the evolving the projects; The 2021 CONMEBOL Copa America promises to provide weeks of fascinating tactical duels once we kick off on 13 June. Managing the national team requires a careful balance and provides a different challenge to working with a club side. National team managers don’t have the time on the training field to develop a strong understanding and bond with their players. They have to quickly earn the trust and support from their squad. Tailoring and implementing complicated tactical concepts is also far more difficult with just a few weeks a year to work with the group. Team spirit is key alongside clear, impact communication and an efficient tactical approach. …” CONMEBOL Copa America, Who are the top five coaches at the Copa America 2021? Which coach can mastermind their side to glory?, YouTube: COPA AMERICA 2021 – National Anthem Of The 10 Teams 25:33


France Doesn’t Stray From Its Championship Formula In Beating Germany to Open Euros

June 15, 2021


“There is something slightly odd about this France side, in that the scores of its games so rarely reflect what has just happened. No team seems quite so often to hammer an opponent by a single goal. Germany may have won the shot count and the possession battle in Tuesday’s 1–0 triumph for Les Bleus in the teams’ first match of what’s the competition’s most difficult group. But this was rarely a game Germany looked like winning, with it never quite able to put France under pressure and always appearing vulnerable to the counter. Ultimately, an own goal from Mats Hummels, who had scored the winner at the right end when Germany beat France in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, was enough, but Adrien Rabiot hit a post, Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out for a tight offside and Kylian Mbappé did as well, albeit for a slightly more obvious infraction. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video), Guardian: Paul Pogba full of bite and craft even after Antonio Rüdiger tries a nibble, Joachim Löw’s Legacy (Video, June 12 2021), NY Times: France, So Deep and So Dominant, Finds One Goal Is Plenty


The Athletic’s 10 Euro stars – Joshua Kimmich: ‘The best No 6 in the world’… and a world-class right-back

June 14, 2021


“It’s 8am and here’s a fully-kitted Joshua Kimmich on the call, doing his Joshua Kimmich thing: striking the perfect balance between attack and defence. … You sense he likes it this way. Over the last two or three seasons, Kimmich has developed into ‘the best No 6 in the world’ in the eyes of former Bayern Munich team-mate Javi Martinez and many others, the player who dominates the ball, the space and the rhythm of the game. …” The Athletic (Video)


Euro 2020: Can Portugal’s Latest Golden Generation Defend Their Euro Crown?

June 14, 2021


“With Germany in something of a slump, Italy improving but still inexperienced at the sharp end of tournaments, and Spain lacking the depth of the previous generation, the national team out of Europe’s ‘big four’ (nations that have lifted both the World Cup and European Championships) favored by the bookies is France. The door is open for one of three countries harboring golden generations of players. Outside of family lineage, a generation is a tricky thing to define. The flux of bodies through an institution—in this case, a national soccer team—cannot easily be separated out. Doing so is inherently arbitrary, certainly not scientific, though nevertheless useful. We have chosen a figure of seven years, which would in theory allow players of, say, 26 and 19 years of age to play a cycle of four tournaments together: two World Cups and two continental Championships. The first two parts of our look at these Golden Generations examined Belgium and England. Third up, Portugal. …” The Ringer


How Real Madrid star Casemiro became a leader for Brazil – on and off the field

June 13, 2021


“The last two weeks preceding the Copa America have been far from straightforward for Brazil, who kick off on Sunday with the tournament opener against Venezuela. The reigning South American champions saw the tournament foisted upon them after original hosts Argentina and Colombia pulled out in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus infections, prompting another acute health crisis on the continent. The news did not go down well in the Selecao camp, causing the squad to take almost unprecedented measures to stop the Copa being played in one of the most severely affected countries in the entire world. …” Goal (Video), Scandal, Covid and political meddling: Brazil in crisis as Copa America looms (Video), W – Casemiro


My cross to bear: what it means to support England in these divided times

June 12, 2021

“… I support England. England is by many objective measures a terrible country ruled by terrible people with a terrible past and a terrifying future, and I support England. None of my forebears were born in England, and I support England. When I watch the news or follow England games abroad or read about politics I often feel utterly disconnected from this country, and I support England. …” Guardian


Euro 2020: Italy Beats Turkey, 3-0, in Opener in Rome

June 12, 2021


“… Italy’s 3-0 win against Turkey in the tournament’s opening game does not guarantee anything; this is still a young team, a work in progress, one that perhaps lacks the star power of France, England and Portugal, among others. Italy came in to Euro 2020 with momentum, but it was always somewhat fragile: an early setback could easily have undone three years of good work. Instead, of course, that momentum will have been redoubled by swatting a decent — if somewhat callow — Turkish team aside. And more broadly, it gave the competition as a whole what it needed: an entertaining, attractive opener, one that will hopefully serve to set the tone for the remainder of the group stage. …” NY Times (Video)


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


U.S. 3, Mexico 2: All the Plot Twists

June 9, 2021


Weston McKennie
“You will not find the word Concacaffy in any dictionary, but any soccer fan in North America knows what it means and how to use it in a sentence. It can explain anything from a terrible field to a terrible call to terrible behavior, and the word works just as well as an anguished cry or accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. Can’t believe that foul wasn’t a red card? That’s so Concacaffy. Field surrounded by a 20-foot moat? That’s so Concacaffy. Were there really just 11 minutes of stoppage time after a 15-minute overtime? Sooooo Concacaffy. Even before the United States men’s national team beat Mexico, 3-2, on Sunday night to win the Concacaf Nations League final on Sunday, the word has been tossed around quite a bit. For fans of the two teams — the twin poles of North American soccer dominance and hand-wringing — the whole night was thrilling and frustrating and exhilarating and maddening. …” NY Times (Video), W – 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals, Overtime Goal From Christian Pulisic and Heroic Penalty Kick Save (Video), YouTube: USA vs Mexico 3-2 Highlights All Goals CNL Finals, USA vs. Mexico: Extended Highlights | Concacaf Nations League Final | CBS Sports Golazo


How Euro 2020 Was Saved

June 8, 2021


“If Aleksander Ceferin has any say on the matter, there will never be another European soccer championship like the one that starts this week. And that decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Ceferin, the president of European soccer’s governing body, quickly listed the headaches that came with organizing this summer’s championship. Matches in 11 countries, originally 13, meant finding 11 cities and 11 stadiums capable of hosting them. It meant creating teams to run each site and arranging for dozens of hotels to house everyone who would go. But it also meant navigating legal jurisdictions and linguistic boundaries, tax laws and big politics as well as soccer politics, currency values and visa rules. And that was before the coronavirus made it all exponentially harder. …” NY Times, NY Times – Euro 2020: Schedule, How to Watch and More, UEFA Euro 2020 match schedule


Joachim Löw’s flawed planning leaves talented Germany at the crossroads

June 6, 2021


“At least now there is no future to work towards. After 15 years as Germany manager, Euro 2020 will be Joachim Löw’s seventh and last major tournament. There is no need for him to have an eye on the next cycle: his only job is to get the best result possible in the here and now – and to rescue a reputation that took a battering in Russia. Löw is a World Cup winner who helped to oversee the great stylistic transformation of German football and for that, he deserves enormous credit. But he also led Germany to their worst World Cup in more than eight decades and, given the extraordinary quality of players available, it is hard to avoid the sense that he has underachieved in recent years. …” Guardian


Euro 2020: England and Spain Drop Big Names; France Adds One

June 4, 2021


“Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four right backs included in England’s final 26-man roster for this summer’s European Championship as Manager Gareth Southgate trimmed his roster hours before the tournament deadline. But after one exhibition game, he was out again. Alexander-Arnold, a late inclusion in England’s team, withdrew on Thursday, a day after sustaining a thigh injury in a friendly match against Austria. England and Liverpool confirmed that the young defender was out. … Instead, all four players made the team — at least initially. England is in a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. If it reaches the final, it could play as many as six matches at Wembley Stadium in London. …” NY Times, W – UEFA Euro 2020, Euro 2020 squads: Every confirmed team for the 2021 tournament, Guardian – Euro 2020: your complete guide to all 622 players