Why are Americans buying Italian football clubs?

September 24, 2021


“There is a wave of American-owned clubs in Serie A currently. Roma, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Parma, Spezia, Bologna and Venezia are all under US or Canadian control, meaning more than a quarter of the clubs in Italy’s top flight are owned by individuals from North America. Why do Americans want Italian clubs, and why is the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) allowing them to purchase these clubs at such a rate? Also, is it working out for them?”
The Athletic (Video)
Fortune: Despite ‘zero chance to win a championship,’ American business tycoons continue to pile into Italian soccer (March 2021)
Fortune: The Great Serie A Sale: Six Italian Soccer Clubs Are Currently Looking For New Ownership (Audio – Aug. 2020)
Understanding ‘Football’ in Italy By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
W – List of Italian football club owners


Arrigo Sacchi’s cultural revolution

September 18, 2021


Arrigo Sacchi
“In the early 1990s, the Italian national team were in a distinct crisis. To solve the tactical issues, the Federazione drew on the secret weapon of domestic Italian football: Arrigo Sacchi. The former Milan coach replaced Azeglio Vicini, who had not been able to win the World Cup at home, in 1991. Making its début against Norway, a draw meant that the qualification for the 1992 EURO was definitively over. However, Sacchi’s real goal was to rebuild the Squadra Azzurra – and in the long term to succeed at the 1994 World Cup. In that context, Sacchi relied on the well-known Milan axis composed of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi. Meanwhile, the 1993 FIFA World Player of the Year, Roberto Baggio, was considered the pivotal point in attack. Certainly missing the qualities of his Dutch players from Sacchi’s Milan days, he was able to work on a coherent system, involving Baggio and the two Rossoneri Roberto Donadoni and Daniele Massaro. A system that, unsurprisingly, was very similar to the one Milan played in the late 1980s. …”
Arrigo Sacchi’s cultural revolution
Arrigo Sacchi: The Tactical Masters (Video)
How Marcello Lippi masterminded the resurgence of Juventus in the 1990s
The footballing fairy tale of Juventus cult hero Moreno Torricelli
How Giovanni Trapattoni adapted his way into legend
Total Football Journeyman: Arrigo Sacchi & The Cult of Universal Player (Video)
W – Marcello Lippi, W – Arrigo Sacchi, W – Giovanni Trapattoni
YouTube: A Brief History of Arrigo Sacchi, The coaching genius who made Juve invincible | Marcello Lippi Interview | Serie A, Legendary: Press Conference with Giovanni Trapattoni

Marcello Lippi


The Blueprint: Five Tactical Trends to Look out for in Juventus vs. Milan

September 16, 2021


“It’s official. The Blueprint’s gone continental. This week, we’re headed to Turin for a Serie A clash that pits the league frontrunners against an old superpower that has since faded. But maybe not in the way you think. Milan travel to Juventus with the sides in two very different frames of mind.  Juventus’ start has been troublesome to put it kindly, and downright dreadful if we are being less kind.  Defeat to Napoli last Saturday left Massimiliano Allegri’s side with just one point from their opening three fixtures, and they sit in 16th place. It’s the first time they’ve failed to win at least one of their first three Serie A matches in 52 years. …”
The Analyst


Catenaccio

September 13, 2021


Catenaccio (Italian pronunciation: [kateˈnattʃo]) or The Chain is a tactical system in football with a strong emphasis on defence. In Italian, catenaccio means ‘door-bolt’, which implies a highly organised and effective backline defence focused on nullifying opponents’ attacks and preventing goal-scoring opportunities. … The key innovation of Catenaccio was the introduction of the role of a libero (‘free’) defender, also called ‘sweeper’, who was positioned behind a line of three defenders. The sweeper’s role was to recover loose balls, nullify the opponent’s striker and double-mark when necessary. Another important innovation was the counter-attack, mainly based on long passes from the defence. In Helenio Herrera’s version of catenaccio in the 1960s, he used a 5–3–2 formation, in which four man-marking defenders were tightly assigned to the opposing attackers while an extra player, the sweeper, would pick up any loose ball that escaped the coverage of the defenders. The emphasis of this system in Italian football spawned the rise of many top Italian defenders who became known for their hard-tackling and ruthless defending. …”
Wikipedia
Football Tactics For Beginners: Catenaccio
YouTube: Catenaccio explained


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


Analyzing Maurizio Sarri’s First Home Game in Charge of Lazio

September 5, 2021


“Lazio kicked off the Maurizio Sarri era with a 3-1 win against newly promoted Empoli, where Sarri coached from 2012 to 2015 and led to promotion. Their final match before September’s international break saw them host Spezia, coached by Thiago Motta following Vincenzo Italiano’s departure to Fiorentina in the summer. Whilst Spezia started in a 3-4-3 formation, Sarri continued with his traditional 4-3-3 formation, making just two changes: Luis Alberto came in for Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro on the left side of midfield, whilst Patric started on the right side of central defense in the place of Luiz Felipe. Lazio started off with a 4-4-2 high-block pressing scheme, with Felipe Anderson joining Ciro Immobile up top whilst Pedro dropped deeper to the wing. This was a flexible shape as Sergej Milinković-Savić often stepped out from midfield to press, which then saw Anderson drop back to a wider, deeper position. …”
Breaking the Lines
Tactical analysis analyze Lazio Empoli
NY Times – Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea’s Tuscan Son (Aug. 2018)
W – Maurizio Sarri


A Look at Possible Build-up Mechanisms in a 4-1-2-1-2

August 30, 2021


“We’ve done a lot of tactical content here through the years, from investigating Paulo Sousa’s innovative Fiorentina tactics to Thomas Tuchel’s build-up patterns at Borussia Dortmund and Diego Simeone’s suffocating, positionally-oriented Atlético de Madrid. However, this piece is not an analysis of a team or a coach; rather, this piece investigates possible implementations coaches could use when building from the back in a 4-1-2-1-2/4-4-2 diamond. …”
Running the Show (Nov. 2020)


The Parable of Inter Milan

August 21, 2021


“The first alarm rang in February, a warning from thousands of miles away. Jiangsu Suning was one of the mainstays of that strange period, five or six years ago, when soccer awoke — almost overnight — to discover that China had arrived, its pockets bottomless and its ambitions unchecked, intent on inverting the world. At first, Europe saw this new horizon as it sees everything: as a market. China’s corporate-backed clubs were, as Turkey’s and Russia’s had been years before, a convenience and a curiosity, a place where they could offload unwanted players from bloated squads. …”
NY Times


Rodrigo de Paul: La Liga Player Watch

August 8, 2021


“Rodrigo de Paul cost Atlético Madrid a fee of £30m when they tempted him back to Spain from Udinese with the offer of a five-year contract and the opportunity to work under fellow Argentinian Diego Simeone. Like Simeone once was, De Paul is established in midfield for Argentina, and has experience of playing for some of Italy’s and – in Valencia – Spain’s biggest clubs. Aged 27 when he moved in July 2021, he is, typically for one of Simeone’s signings, a player in his prime. ‘I’ll enjoy being under his command because I grew up watching him play with Argentina’s national team,’ said De Paul, an influential figure in the team that won the 2021 Copa America. …”
Coaches Voice (Video)
How Rodrigo de Paul Will Fit Into Atlético Madrid
W – Rodrigo de Paul


Football Ideologies: ITALY

July 29, 2021


Federico Chiesa
“As part of our special series on football ideologies, culture and tactics in the European Cup and UEFA Champions League, we sit down with Renzo Ulivieri, President of Italian Football Managers’ Association, and hear from some of the biggest names in the Italian game.”
YouTube: Football Ideologies: ITALY (Feb 14, 2021)  11:45


Pep Lijnders’ Euro 2020 tactical diary: A young genius, why Grealish is dangerous and what went wrong for France

July 17, 2021


“Euro 2020 has been an absolute triumph for the collective. I’ve loved watching it every step of the way. I’ve loved the commitment of so many teams to an attacking style of football. I’ve loved the tactical battles between different systems. I’ve loved the sight of supporters back inside stadiums across Europe and the atmospheres that have been generated. Credit to England and Italy for making it this far. They deserve to be there. I wouldn’t bet on the outcome of Sunday’s final. It’s too close to call. Two evenly matched, well-balanced teams. …”
The Athletic (Audio)


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


How statuesque Donnarumma made it so hard for England’s penalty takers

July 13, 2021


“From the moment the referee blew his whistle to when Marcus Rashford finally made his first move to begin his run-up on England’s third kick of the Euro 2020 final penalty shootout, 11 seconds had passed. For the entirety of those 11 seconds, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma stood like a statue, his feet wide apart and his arms loose at his sides, as everyone else in Wembley Stadium held their breath. Rashford then swung his body to his left and made a stuttering approach while Donnarumma waited, waited, and waited even more. It wasn’t until right before the England attacker made contact with the ball that Donnarumma finally made his first move. During the entirety of his approach, Rashford kept his eyes on the goalkeeper, waiting for Donnarumma to dive early, but he never did. …”
The Athletic
“An impassable brick wall” – Player ratings after a defensive battle as Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties to win Euro 2020
Breaking The Lines
YouTube: Tactical Analysis : England 1 – 1 Italy | How Mancini won the Euros


Breaking down England’s penalty heartbreak: At 10.49pm, Maguire slashes penalty home. At 10.54pm, everything changes

July 12, 2021


“It’s brutal sometimes, football. One by one, the players went to Bukayo Saka. They told him it would be OK, that they were proud of him, and that he should be proud of himself, too. They told him there was no blame and, even as they were saying it, they must have known their words made little difference. Maybe, in time, Saka will come to understand that, yes, he ought to be proud he played with such distinction during Euro 2020 that he was trusted, at the age of 19, to be part of the penalty shootout which decided the final between England and Italy. For now, though, what can anyone say to console a player who has suffered this kind of professional trauma? …”
The Athletic
NY Times: How Italy Beat England to Win Euro 2020 (Video)
Leaving Euro 2020 – Brian Phillips
BBC: ‘Out of despair, Italy have brought joy to a nation’
NY Times: After Defeat, England’s Black Soccer Players Face a Racist Outburst
Marcus Rashford mural vandalised after England lose Euro 2020 final
Guardian: England battle for survival instead of control as deep-lying issue resurfaces – Jonathan Wilson
W – UEFA Euro 2020 Final
NY Times: In the Big Euro 2020 Game, I Knew the England I Was Rooting For


Italy vs. England – Euro 2020 Final – Tactical Preview

July 10, 2021


4-3-3 Italy
“After the craziness of the Round of 16 resulted in France, Germany and Portugal all being eliminated from the competition, the match that was expected to take place in the Euro 2020 final will now come to fruition. Italy and England have been the two best teams at the tournament, and the only two teams to go unbeaten in all of their games up to this point. Here is a tactical preview of the Euro 2020 final battle between Italy and England. …”
The Mastermindsite
Out wide, substitutions and set-pieces: Where the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy will be won and lost (Video)
YouTube: Tactical Analysis : England vs Italy | Southgate vs Mancini
YouTube: England vs Italy Tactical Preview


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)


Mancini’s Manchester City legacy: messiah, maniac or misunderstood?

July 10, 2021


“If there comes a time on Sunday evening when Roberto Mancini stomps along the Wembley touchline repeatedly shouting, ‘Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you’ at his Italy players, then we can safely say he hasn’t changed much after all. But throughout the summer of Euro 2020, Mancini has cut a far more relaxed figure than the one anybody at former employers Manchester City might remember. The now 56-year-old, tailored jacket slung over his shoulder, is the figurehead of perhaps the most urbane coaching staff ever to grace a football stadium, but more importantly he is the man who has guided Italy from their footballing ‘apocalypse’ — failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — to the final of this European Championship. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: How Mancini’s quest for joy rebuilt Italy from the wreckage of 2018
BBC: ‘Out of despair, Italy have brought joy to a nation’
W – Roberto Mancini
Esquire: Giorgio Armani, Italian Football and the Perfect Summer Suit


Italy’s Resurgence Leaves Them on the Cusp of European Glory

July 8, 2021


“The road toward triumph in a major soccer tournament must at some point take the form of an epic quest, and so the manner of Italy’s win over Spain was duly mythical. They defeated their Mediterranean rivals in a penalty shootout, prevailing by four successful kicks to two, and in doing so they showed an astonishing level of resilience. Against Belgium in the previous round, a match many of us thought featured the two best teams at Euro 2020, Italy were supreme for long periods; against Spain, they were thoroughly human. It is hard to imagine a midfield of Marco Verratti, Nicolò Barella, and Jorginho being consistently on the back foot against anyone, but this is what they experienced against Spain, assailed by the often majestic trio of Koke, the swiftly aging but still sublime Sergio Busquets, and, of course, the prodigy that is Pedri. …”
The Ringer
Italy 1-1 Spain – Euro 2020 Semi-Final – Tactical Analysis
Quick Take: Italy’s Shield is the Euro’s Sharpest Sword
Technical view: flying wingers and back-three success
Guardian: Giorgio Chiellini, the grinning warrior, gives Italy psychological edge
YouTube: Tactical Analysis : Italy 1 – 1 Spain | How Enrique Dominated Mancini


Italy suffer for shootout win in emotional and authentic tournament tussle

July 7, 2021


Federico Chiesa
“That train just keeps on running. On a gripping night under the gloom of high-summer London skies it looked for a while as though Roberto Mancini’s Italy might have hit a dead stretch of track. At Wembley Italy were dominated for the opening hour. Then they were dominated for the final half hour. They suffered, and ran, and suffered a little more. It was, once again, exhausting and also uplifting, the controlled intensity of a team playing right at the edge of its emotions. And of course this semi-final went to penalties. This was always going to penalties. As we moved into extra time, as this became a game of lunges and twists, screaming muscles, heaving lungs, this was going to penalties. And somehow, Italy, outplayed at times by a peppy, tactically smart Spain, were always winning them when we got there. …”
Guardian
NY Times: Italy Bars the Door and Keeps the Party Going
Guardian: Italy into Euro 2020 final after Jorginho penalty settles shootout against Spain
ESPN: Italy beat Spain by reverting to type as Morata’s regression defines La Roja’s Euro 2020 elimination (Video)
UEFA: Italy 1-1 Spain. (4-2 p) (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


Verratti, Barella, Jorginho vs Busquets, Pedri, Koke: let battle commence

July 5, 2021


“There was a time when watching Spain gave you whiplash. Your eyes quickly grew tired flitting from player to player hundreds and hundreds of times and you were left feeling sorry for their opponents as they chased the long shadows under the lights at the Bernabeu and the Nou Camp when the ball moved at breakneck speed, fizzing and popping like bubbles in a flute of crisp cava. The midfield was Spain’s strength when they last won the European Championship in 2012 and it’s probably their best chance of winning the competition next Sunday, too. But unlike in Ukraine nine years ago, when Spain did to Italy what Picasso did to his muses, disarranging their profiles beyond all recognition to win the final 4-0, the tables have unexpectedly turned. …”
The Athletic


How Italy Has Rampaged Through Euro 2020

July 5, 2021


“The new-look Italy has survived its sternest test. Since Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, manager Roberto Mancini has rebuilt the national team by emphasizing quick passing, high pressing, and, most of all, goals. The culture shift has worked better than anyone could have dreamed. Italy was on a 31-game unbeaten streak going into Friday’s match against Belgium. The advanced numbers approved of its form; the eye test liked its cohesion and the speed with which it drove at the goal after forcing turnovers. Italy flooded opposing nets during the streak, scoring four, five, six, seven, and nine goals at various times. It was the complete opposite of the dour, boring Italy teams that had earned reputations for defensive cynicism and attacking opportunism for generations. …”
Slate (Video)


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


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: 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


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


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


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)


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


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


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


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


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)


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


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


‘It’s over, Jogi’: German press reacts to historic defeat by North Macedonia

April 1, 2021


“It had felt like a new and happier time. Since Joachim Löw announced he was standing down after the European Championship, his young and vibrant side had beaten Iceland and Romania convincingly to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start. The mood in the squad relaxed, they took on North Macedonia in Löw’s final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night – and promptly lost 2-1. The feelgood factor that had been building up in the previous seven days was gone in an instant, replaced by questions about team tactics and selections and even a call for the national coach to leave his post immediately. Writing in Bild – in a piece headlined ‘It is over, Jogi’ – Matthias Brügelmann said: ‘This is the third historical debacle that Jogi Löw, after many successful years as national coach, is responsible for. There was the first elimination from the stage at a World Cup ever in Russia. There was the biggest defeat since 1931 with the 6-0 defeat against Spain. And now this 1-2 against North Macedonia, No 65 in the World Cup rankings.’ …”
Guardian, Guardian: Euro 2020 power rankings: Belgium back on top as Germany plummet, Guardian: North Macedonia inflict historic World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany, Guardian: Ronaldo on target in Portugal win


The Dark Fairy Tale of Atalanta

August 13, 2020


“Our faith will never fade” reads the inscription at a gathering spot for Atalanta’s most devoted supporters.
“BERGAMO, Italy — … It was hard to believe it was happening at the time. It is even harder to believe it happened now. That day was, possibly, the proudest in the modest history of Atalanta. A great tide had made the short journey from Bergamo, the prosperous, pretty city where the soccer team is based, to Milan for the first leg of their Champions League, round-of-16 tie against Valencia. Atalanta had never breathed such rarefied air. It had, in truth, scarcely even contemplated it. The whole town, it seemed, had been transplanted for the night. …”
NY Times
NY Times: The Champions League Returns With a Plan for Everything


Andrea Pirlo: The perfect fit for Juventus? Can the maestro player be a maestro manager?

August 13, 2020

“On Saturday, Juventus broke the internet, in Italy at least, when they announced the sacking of Maurizio Sarri as head coach and the hiring of Andrea Pirlo – the man without an ounce of coaching experience on his CV. Pirlo, accustomed to making headlines as a legendary player for, among others, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus, is now making headlines as a manager when he hasn’t even submitted his final thesis to be called a qualified coach. …”
BBC (Video)


Italia ’90: Roberto Baggio’s magical goal against Czechoslovakia

June 21, 2020


“Retro football has been our staple for the past few months, as we look to get our fix of on-pitch action by looking back at matches gone by. And with classic games screened on TVs from a series of international tournaments, it’s prompted a round of assessment of how good they really were in comparison to perception, collective memory and nostalgia. Which is all fair enough. It’s interesting to look back on tournaments like that, consider things we might not have thought about back then or since. False nostalgia for a time that didn’t exist has got the world into some problems in the past few years, so re-examining those memories are a useful exercise, if nothing else. …” the set pieces (Video)


A History of Soccer in Six Matches

April 18, 2020


Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 was a seminal moment in the modern game.
“A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit ideas for what they would like to see in this column. Not because I am short of them, you understand, but because in this bleak new reality of ours writing about sports very much falls into the category of ‘things you want,’ rather than ‘things you need.’ There was a flurry of suggestions, on every topic under the sun, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. One theme that stood out, though, was that many would welcome the chance to immerse themselves in the comforting nostalgia of soccer history. Even with my understanding editors and generous word counts, that is a vast, unwieldy subject. You can write soccer history in a million different ways: through the lens of teams and individuals, through tactics or geography or culture. …”
NY Times (Video)


Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

September 12, 2018

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph


Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea’s Tuscan Son

August 12, 2018

“STIA, Italy — The road from Faella, down in the Arno valley, winds up and up into the hills, beyond the vineyards, with their military precision, beyond the tangled olive groves and into the woods, thick and dark and untamed. At Consuma, the highest point of the pass, the view stretches all the way west to Chianti; Arezzo lies south, Florence north. Consuma is not where the journey ends. It takes an hour, and countless tight hairpins shaded by slender cypresses, before the road descends into the village of Stia, its terra-cotta roofs nestled in an ocean of green, a little Tuscan idyll nestled in the valley. The soccer field, overlooking the river and screened by a chain-link fence, is the first thing you see as you arrive. Most days, for more than a year, Maurizio Sarri made the trip twice.” NY Times


How Zinedine Zidane’s flawed genius defined the 2006 World Cup

July 10, 2018

“Everyone remembers the headbutt, but not so much what came before. The background to that defining moment in the career of Zinedine Zidane – and the history of the French national team – has been lost in the stark brutality of such an arresting image. A thrilling journey has been forgotten, completely overlooked in favour of the tragic destination. In the final moments of the 2006 World Cup final, with the score at 1-1 and penalties on the way, Zidane planted his head firmly into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi.” The Set Pieces (Video)


‘A daily nightmare’ – how four big nations not at the World Cup are coping

July 1, 2018

“People in Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana are watching the party in Russia from afar. For some it is a painful experience” Guardian


France 3 – 1 Italy

June 2, 2018

“France continued their impressive build up to the World Cup with a comfortable victory over Italy in Nice. Samuel Umtiti set the hosts on their way after Kylian Mbappe’s effort was parried by the Italian goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu. The French doubled their lead when Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty after Lucas Hernandez had been fouled. Leonardo Bonucci reduced the arrears for Italy but Ousmane Dembele’s chip rounded off a fine French display. …” BBC


10 Greatest World Cup Matches

May 18, 2018


The 1966 World Cup Final makes our list of the best matches in World Cup history.
“The World Cup has seen some of the greatest matches ever take place, so bearing that in mind we have put together ten of the best. From amazing goals, to spectacular moments, these matches have helped write World Cup history. …” World Soccer


Reliving Giants Stadium

April 29, 2018

“The 1994 World Cup in America was the first for Luke Constable of the brilliantly named RGSOAS (Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed). His native England hadn’t qualified but thanks to his Irish grandfather, Luke was rooting for the Republic. Having missed the full game with Italy, the myth around the match had grown. Houghton’s goal and McGrath’s performance became legendary as the years went on. Luke has never seen the game in its entirety…until now. …” Pog Mo Goal


World Cup stunning moments: The Battle of Santiago

March 22, 2018


English referee Ken Aston sends off Italian player Mario David, while an injured Chilean player lies on the ground, during the 1962 World Cup meeting.
“It took two days for highlights of the match that was christened, even during the commentary, the Battle of Santiago, to be flown from South America and broadcast in Britain. Two days in which the game became, in its own brutal way, legendary, spoken of in ways which must have sent anyone with a combined interest in football and mild gore into a frenzy of excitement. …” Guardian (Video)


World Cup stunning moments: Cameroon shock Argentina in 1990 World Cup

March 22, 2018

“Of the great World Cup upsets – the USA’s victory over England in 1950, North Korea’s over Italy in 1966 and Algeria’s over West Germany in 1982 probably push it close – this one stands alone in myth and memory. It was not a perfect match but it was an irresistible narrative, as the World Cup champions, led by the great Diego Maradona, were vanquished by an unheralded team largely assembled of journeymen players from the French lower divisions – though for some of them even that was either an impossible dream or a distant memory. …” Guardian (Video)


The Last Cup of Sorrow – the story of the Anglo-Italian Cup

January 30, 2018

“MATTHEW CRIST remembers a short-lived and short-loved relic of the 60s which was reincarnated for football’s boom time in the 90s but eventually fell foul of supporter apathy and violence both on and off the pitch. The arrival of the 1990s provided something of a watershed for English football. The national side had shone at Italia ‘90, club sides were once again able to compete in Europe after a five-year ban, and Channel 4’s live Italian football coverage beamed a host of new names and faces into our living rooms for the first time; not to mention the introduction of the Premier League, which promised us a whole new ball game. …” Football Pink


Italy’s Soccer Apocalypse

November 17, 2017


“Is soccer a matter of life and death? ‘It’s much more serious than that,’ the droll Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool in the club’s glory days, once remarked. But how much more? ‘Us, out of the World Cup?’ Carlo Tavecchio, the head of the Italian Football Federation, said to journalists, after Italy lost a crucial qualifying game in September. ‘It would be the apocalypse.’ What he seemed to be saying was that it would be something so bad that it surely couldn’t happen. But then it did. ‘THE END,’ the enormous headline of the Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed, when, on Monday, contrary to all expectations and pundit wisdom, Italy failed to score against a modest Swedish side and crashed out of the forthcoming tournament in Russia. …” New Yorker


Where it went wrong for the teams who missed out on the World Cup

November 17, 2017

“Fans from 21 countries explain why they will be staying at home next summer. Holland were unlucky, Italy were mismanaged and Mongolia were a disaster” Guardian


World Cup 2018 power rankings: Germany on top among qualified 23

October 12, 2017


“Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland.” Guardian (Video)