‘Friends for life’ Modric and Kovacic are the ‘family’ at the heart of Croatian football

April 6, 2022


“In the offices behind the west tribune of the Maksimir Stadium there is a door bearing a black-and-white collage of iconic photographs from Dinamo Zagreb’s history. It is a collection that stretches all the way back to 1945, when the club once known as HSK Gradanski was re-formed as FD Dinamo in the shadow of the Second World War and entered into the Yugoslav First League. In the middle, just above the famous image of former Dinamo captain Zvonimir Boban kicking a police officer during the 1990 riot at the stadium against Crvena Zvezda, is a picture that stands out both in its style and relative modernity. …”
The Athletic


The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song

April 2, 2022


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)


The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.

April 1, 2022


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind


2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets

March 25, 2022


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations


A Brief History of Dimitar Berbatov

March 23, 2022


“One the original luxury centre forwards, Dimitar Berbatov entertained all those that paid to watch him live. But run-ins with gangsters, and playing in the shadows of some of the game’s best players perhaps held him back from being one of the game’s greats. This is the story of Dimitar Berbatov. Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
YouTube
W – Dimitar_Berbatov


Poland Refused to Play Russia Once. It May Have to Do So Again.

March 16, 2022


“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …”
NY Times


Portugal 1986: Part 1: A Troubled Beginning, Part 2: The Saltillo Affair

March 2, 2022


“Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle of a player or coach’s career. To test yourself in the world’s premier tournament is the ultimate challenge and a dream come true for many footballers. However, there are times when the dream of participating in a World Cup can turn into a nightmare. No country would have such a nightmare of a tournament than Portugal in 1986. Prior to the mid-1980s, Portugal were unable to build on the success of the 1960s, where Portugal finished third in the 1966 World Cup and Benfica won back to back European Cups in 1961/62 under the coaching of Béla Guttmann. Since then, Portugal had failed to qualify for a World Cup or European Championship. …”
Breaking the Lines: Part 1, Part 2
W – Saltillo Affair
The Saltillo affair – the story of Portugal at Mexico ’86


Lokomotive Leipzig, the 1987 Cup Winners’ Cup final and a rebirth from the ashes

February 3, 2022


“Picture the scene. A communist-era colossus of a stadium, the vast expanse of concrete stretching as far as the eye can see, enclosing a seething mass of humanity, congregating in their blue and yellow scarfs. They will need them tonight, for this open bowl is completely at the mercy of the elements. The fans do not care, however. This is the Zentralstadion in Leipzig and it is about to witness its finest hour. They have seen bigger crowds than this here, of course. The Turn-un Sportfest, the socialist government’s regular celebration of athletic achievement, can draw attendances of 100,000 or more. This is the largest crowd it will ever see for a football match, though – and that matters. …”
These Football Times
W – 1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final


How Goran Pandev Put Macedonia on the Football Map

January 26, 2022


“If you were to mention the name Goran Pandev to an informed commentator of European football, they’ll tell you of his dynamic forward play, his wicked left foot, and an impressive record of appearances and goals in one of the continent’s top domestic leagues. Mention his name to a North Macedonian, and you’ll hear a response permeated with references to an icon, a hero, a demi-god. …”
Football Paradise


Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)

January 21, 2022


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice

December 27, 2021


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson


Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot

December 9, 2021


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage


ESPN FC 100: Messi, Lewandowski, Oblak among No. 1s; Premier League has most representatives

December 4, 2021


“For the sixth consecutive year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches in world soccer! Welcome to FC 100. As always, rankings are broken down into Top 10 lists for positions, plus a countdown of managers, in order to present the most meaningful look at talent on the pitch and the sideline. Whereas last year was dominated by Liverpool and Bayern Munich — the clubs combined for eight of the 10 No. 1 spots — the leaders in this year’s edition are spread across six teams, with none having more than two men on top of their respective category. …”
ESPN (Video)
Go to: Goalkeeper | Right-back | Centre-back | Left-back | Central midfield | Attacking midfield | Winger | Forward | Striker | Manager


Portugal on collision course with Italy after Qatar World Cup play-off draw

November 27, 2021


Italy and Portugal have been drawn in the same pathway for the European FIFA World Cup play-offs, meaning only one will be able to secure qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar. Italy are the defending European champions, after beating England on penalties in the final of Euro 2020 in the summer. Portugal meanwhile won Euro 2016, overcoming France in Paris to win the tournament for the first time. But one — or both — will miss out on a place in Qatar after Friday’s play-off draw. …”
The Athletic


Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

November 24, 2021


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times


World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar

November 19, 2021


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter


Euro 2020: Wide players key as England beat Ukraine to book final semi-final spot – tactical analysis

October 13, 2021


“The Euro 2020 knockouts have featured some brilliant clashes that have been both entertaining from a visual as well as a tactical point of view. With three teams already having booked their semi-final berths, the final spot will be battled by Ukraine and world-cup semi-finalists England. This tactical analysis will discuss the tactics deployed by both teams and will look into how Gareth Southgate’s men triumphed over their opponents. Let’s begin the analysis. …”
Total Football Analysis


World Cup roundup: Denmark thrash Moldova to keep up perfect record

October 10, 2021


Denmark thrash Moldova
Denmark maintained their 100% record in Group F, with a 4-0 win in Moldova. Andreas Skov Olsen opened the scoring before Simon Kjær added a penalty. Christian Norgaard and Joakim Mæhle were also on target. Austria won 2-0 in the Faroe Islands to keep up their slim hopes of overtaking Scotland, who beat Israel 3-2 in a Hampden Park thriller. First-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk gave Ukraine a 2-1 win over Finland in Group D. The West Ham forward Yarmolenko put the visitors ahead less than five minutes after kick-off when he drove home from 20 yards past the Finnish goalkeeper. Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki levelled for Finland in the 29th minute but Ukraine regained the lead minutes later with a goal from Yaremchuk. …”
Guardian


Chelsea’s loss at Juve illustrates the challenges Tuchel faces in fighting for titles domestically and abroad

September 30, 2021


Leonardo Bonucci in action for Juventus against Sampdoria.
“Thomas Tuchel probably didn’t need a reminder of the difficulty in competing on two fronts this season, but Manchester City and now Juventus have given him just that in the space of five days. The chaotic circumstances surrounding his arrival at Stamford Bridge in January — replacing fan favourite Frank Lampard and thrust straight into a condensed schedule made more unrelenting by COVID-19’s impact — created a degree of breathing space in the Premier League that helped propel them to Champions League glory. Tuchel was of course under a degree of pressure to secure a top-four spot last term, but he harnessed that rarest of things under owner Roman Abramovich — a sense of freedom arising from lowered expectations — to galvanise this group to an improbable European success. The dynamic is different this time. …”
ESPN
Guardian: Tuchel and Chelsea are failing to capitalise on Lukaku’s specific threat
YouTube: Juventus vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights, Bayern München vs. Dynamo Kyiv: Extended Highlights, Zenit vs. Malmö: Extended Highlights, Atalanta vs. Young Boys: Extended Highlights, Benfica vs. Barcelona: Extended Highlights, Wolfsburg vs. Sevilla: Extended Highlights


Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid

September 28, 2021


Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid
“The Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, snatching a shock victory thanks to a sensational 89th-minute strike from Sebastien Thill. The competition debutants Sheriff went ahead against the 13-time European champions in the 25th minute with a header from the Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead later in the first half. …”
Guardian
YouTube: Real Madrid vs. Sheriff: Extended Highlights, AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid: Extended Highlights, Porto vs. Liverpool: Extended Highlights, RB Leipzig vs. Club Brugge: Extended Highlights, PSG vs. Man. City: Extended Highlights, Dortmund vs. Sporting: Extended Highlights


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories

September 8, 2021


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup


Spain Loses World Cup Qualifier For The First Time In 66 Matches, 2-1 Against Sweden

September 6, 2021


“The Spanish national team tasted defeat for the first time in 28 years in a World Cup qualifying match after they lost to Sweden 2-1 on Friday in Stockholm. Sweden came back from a goal down to defeat Spain who lost a World Cup qualifying match after 66 games undefeated. The defeat means that Spain have lost a World Cup qualifying game after 66 matches and 28 years. During this undefeated run, they also managed to win 10 in a row before the 2010 World Cup which they ended up winning. A defeat that Luis Enrique would not have excepted as his men had done well in the Euro 2020 having made the semi-finals where they lost eventual Champions Italy on penalties. …”
Republic World
YouTube: Sweden stuns Spain 2-1 in World Cup qualifier | WCQ Highlights | ESPN FC
UEFA: European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain


The Names Heard Long Ago: How the Golden Age of Hungarian Soccer Shaped the Modern Game – Jonathan Wilson

August 2, 2021


“Jonathan Wilson’s eleventh book, The Names Heard Long Ago: How The Golden Age of Hungarian Football Shaped The Modern Game, once again sees the celebrated journalist and author delving into a fascinating part of football history, meticulously detailed, thoroughly researched, as one would expect from the architect of the football fanatic’s Bible, Inverting The Pyramid. The Names Heard Long Ago explores the revolutionary concepts found in early 20th Century Hungarian football and the subsequent spread of ideas, tactics and characters around the globe, often granting unprecedented success in the far-reaching countries in which they were adopted, and still found in the game today. It illuminates names of once-great teams MTK and Ferencváros, characters who had a profound influence on the game such as Béla Guttman, Dori Kürschner, and Imre Hirschl. …”
How 20th Century Hungarian Football Influenced The Game We Love Today
amazon


UEFA Euro 1972 Final

July 27, 2021


“The UEFA Euro 1972 Final was a football match played at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, on 18 June 1972, to determine the winner of the UEFA Euro 1972 tournament. It was the fourth UEFA European Football Championship final, UEFA‘s top football competition for national teams. The match was contested by West Germany and two-time tournament finalists, the Soviet Union. En route to the final, West Germany finished top of their qualifying group which included Turkey, Albania and Poland. After beating England over a two-legged tie in the quarter-finals, they progressed to the final after defeating tournament hosts Belgium in the semi-final. The Soviet Union won their qualifying group which included Cyprus and Spain, before beating Northern Ireland in the two-legged quarter-final and Yugoslavia in the single-match semi-final. …”
Wikipedia
EURO 1972: all you need to know (Video)
YouTube: West Germany v USSR: 1972 UEFA European Championship final highlights


Player Analysis: Dembo Darboe

July 21, 2021


“The stench of brutal police intervention at anti-Lukashenko protests around Belarus festered long after the protests themselves, clouding opinions worldwide of the former Soviet republic. Once that became old news, plans to assassinate the much-maligned dictator emerged and were quickly foiled by his friends at the FSB. And last but not least, the fiasco at ten-thousand feet saw a Belarusian fighter jet force a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk so that Belarus could detain a pair of well-known activists, despite having no right but plenty of creedence. 2020 and 2021 have not been kind to Belarus, but as famously said, ‘no publicity is bad publicity.’ Belarus’s football scene saw a mini-boost in popularity when it was the sole league operating during the worldwide spring lockdown of 2020 though the attention was sadly short-lived as it dispersed as soon as the announcements of EPL and Bundesliga reopenings emerged. …”
Breaking The Lines (Video)


Intimidation by Tunnel

July 17, 2021


Rajko Mitić Stadium
“… For some deranged reason, instead of shaking hands, my earliest youth teams lined up in pairs, held hands, and created human tunnels for the other team to walk through, while we cheered and jumped for them. This was, of course, reciprocated by the other team, so that we also got the chance to walk through a human tunnel before running off to meet our parents. The whole tradition baffles me to this day. There are other tunnels in soccer too- impressive, non-human ones. They are brick and concrete and wholly different from the tunnels of my youth. These tunnels mark the distance from the locker room to the field in most professional stadiums, and instead of wrapping players in splayed hands and warm cheers, they are meant impose and impress. …”
Soccer Politics (April 2020) (Video)


Euro 2020: our writers select their highs and lows from the tournament

July 15, 2021


“Italy’s performances and goals from Patrik Schick and Paul Pogba illuminated a wonderful championships. Sadly, some England supporters let the country down. Match of the tournament. Ed Aarons: It was going to take something to beat Spain’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Croatia after extra-time but the sequel on a crazy Monday evening was even better. Paul Pogba’s elaborate celebration having scored France’s third goal came back to haunt him as Switzerland scored twice in the last 10 minutes to force extra time before Kylian Mbappé missed from the spot to eliminate the star-studded world champions. …”
Guardian


Were these the best games at UEFA EURO 2020?

July 10, 2021


Spain celebrate their fifth goal in the absorbing 5-3 win against Croatia
“From group stage thrillers to knockout phase goal fests, UEFA EURO 2020 has been jam-packed with pulsating contests from start to finish. We decided to pick out our favourites ahead of Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium – do you agree these were the choice cuts? …”
UEFA (Video)


No Semifinalist Is an Island

July 6, 2021


“Kalvin Phillips came home, for the first time, as a fully fledged England international with four jerseys as souvenirs. He had asked his new teammates to autograph one, destined to be framed and mounted on a wall at home. Two others were reserved for his mother and grandmother, as tokens of gratitude for years of support. The final one he earmarked as a gift for the man who, he felt, deserved the bulk of the credit. A couple of years earlier, Phillips had been a promising but inconsistent midfielder in the Championship, England’s second-tier league. Now, despite having not yet played a minute in the Premier League, he had been called into a gathering of the country’s finest players. Without the intervention of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds United manager, Phillips said, none of it ‘would really have been possible.’ …”
NY Times


Will striker shortcomings cost Spain when it matters most?

July 5, 2021


“Spain are into the semi-finals of Euro 2020 – but only just. They needed a penalty shootout to scrape past Switzerland in the quarter-finals, after surviving a scare against Croatia in the last 16. And Spain may be the tournament’s top scorers but could a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal ultimately cost them? Five of their 12 goals came against Slovakia in the group stages and they have played more minutes than any other team left in the competition, after needed extra time twice. In their other three games they have scored only once on each occasion. …”
BBC
YouTube: Tactical Analysis : Spain 1 – 1 Switzerland | How Spain Made It To The Semis


Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. Denmark

July 4, 2021


“First off, it would be appropriate to finally bury the common narrative that this Danish team has made it this far into the Euros as a response to the Eriksen situation. Apart from being almost cynical in nature, that argument does Kasper Hjulmand’s side a huge disservice. Denmark are very, very good. They overcame an extremely difficult group thanks to a valiant, relentless display in a 4-1 win, then they steamrolled a Welsh team that looked solid in defense to set up this quarterfinal game against an odds-defying Czech side. And, with their 2-1 win, they once again proved to be an adventurous unit, with flying wingbacks who create overloads and find pockets of space (as shown by Joakim Maehle’s deep run and exquisite trivela cross to set up Kasper Dolberg for the second goal). …”
Beaking the Lines
Tactical Analysis: Belgium vs. Italy
Tactical Analysis: Switzerland vs. Spain


Revitalised Harry Kane turns England into powerful attacking machine

July 4, 2021


“Are you not entertained? Was this not what you wanted? So much was right for England it is tempting, for all the talk of hard-nosed tournament football, to luxuriate just a little in the beauty of it all. The staging was lovely, the night sky above the lip of the Stadio Olimpico a dusky thing down the feed from Rome. There were England fans in the ground, as there always will be England fans. From the start there was a delicious high-summer quality to the colours under that deep blue light. Ukraine wore yellow. England wore white. And it took just three minutes for the night to start bending decisively England’s way. Best of all, it had to be Harry. England’s opening goal was a thing of miniature beauty in its own right. It was conceived and made by Raheem Sterling, who had a wonderful game. But it was scored by Harry Kane, which carries its own significance. …”
Guardian
BBC: Ukraine 0 – 4 England


Euro 2020: Denmark continue to show they’re no underdogs, even without Eriksen

July 3, 2021


“There might be a temptation to think Denmark are riding a wave of goodwill at these European Championships after the world watched Christian Eriksen collapse on the pitch three weeks ago, but their run to the semifinals of Euro 2020 is being driven by more than just destiny and fairytale. There was nothing mysterious about their 2-1 win over Czech Republic on Saturday. Denmark are good players, well coached by Kasper Hjulmand, and are able to score goals of high quality and equally defend with grit. Denmark are ranked as the 10th best team in the world for a reason. …”
ESPN (Video)
Guardian: Denmark’s Euro 2020 run is built on class and coaching, not just team spirit


Andriy Shevchenko’s modern methods have revolutionised Ukraine

July 3, 2021


“Five years ago, Ukraine lost 1-0 to Poland in Marseille to complete a miserable Euros campaign in which they lost all three games and failed to score. Their football was leaden and uninspired, predicated on three lumbering holding midfielders and the vague hope that either Andriy Yarmolenko or Yevhen Konoplyanka might do something spectacular. Yarmolenko remains but as Ukraine prepare for a European Championship quarter-final, almost everything else has changed beyond recognition. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


At Euro 2020, Calculated Risks Reap the Greatest Rewards

July 3, 2021


“Euro 2020 may be the most arrogant and audacious major tournament in soccer history. It is certainly the most counterintuitive. It’s being played amid a global pandemic, brought on by a virus that is particularly spiteful and startlingly contagious. Yet our beloved sport has chosen not to remain within its cities and ride out that storm, but to swagger out of the gates and meet it. The plan for Euro 2020 to be staged in multiple countries at once, effectively a festival of burning fossil fuels, was a concern for environmental activists long before COVID-19 came on the scene. …”
The Ringer


Lorenzo Insigne’s stunning goal a defining moment for the new Italy

July 2, 2021


“If we needed one moment to sum up Italy’s transformation over the past four years, it arrived in the 44th minute at the Allianz Arena. Lorenzo Insigne’s goal was a thing of beauty, cutting in from the left and curling the ball from the edge of the area into the far corner of the net with such precision that Thibaut Courtois had no chance. The forward had started his run from the halfway line. This was Insigne distilled, a goal that he has scored countless times down the years. The finish might not always be so flawless, but the ambitious dribble, the move inside and the right-footed shot across goal have been foundation stones of a career. You could accuse him of being too predictable, but like Arjen Robben in his prime, Insigne has learned that it does not matter if defenders know what dance you’re doing if they still cannot match your steps. …”
Guardian
NY Times: Belgium’s Golden Team Searches for a Silver Lining
ESPN (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Netherlands vs. Czech Republic

July 1, 2021


“‘He knows why he is here and this is the most important thing,’ Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer said of Denzel Dumfries ahead of his nation’s last sixteen clash against the Czech Republic. ‘He will read about it; he will hear about it but I’m not scared he will do strange things because of rumours about his future.’ Although it was speculation regarding Dumfries’ fate that dominated the headlines before kick-off in Budapest, it was a strange play by defensive teammate Matthijs de Ligt that changed the course of the tie. Ten minutes into the second period, the Juventus starlet was dismissed for handling the ball on the edge of the Dutch penalty. Although the resultant free-kick was struck into the wall, De Ligt’s absence disrupted what had already been a topsy-turvy round of sixteen tie. Just moments before the 21-year-old denied Patrik Schick an obvious goalscoring opportunity, the Netherlands had one of their own – with Donyell Mallen inches from rounding Czech goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík. …”
Breaking the Lines
YouTube: Netherlands’s Tactical Analysis Preview | Dumfries and De Jong to derail the Czechs’ campaign


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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)