Pressing Issues at the World Cup

July 8, 2018

“One of the tactical questions heading into the World Cup was whether the modern popularity of pressing at club level would be replicated on the international stage. The best pressing teams are a meld of intelligent positioning and trigger movements, honed during hours on the training pitch, requiring intense and sustained athletic performance.” Stats Bomb

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Russia Finally Falls, Leaving a Trail of Admirers and Doubters

July 8, 2018


“It was only a couple of minutes to midnight, and Miroslav Romaschenko did not want to leave. As Croatia’s players bounced around in ecstasy and as Russia’s collapsed, disconsolate, onto their backs, the losing team’s assistant manager sat down, frozen in place on the Fisht Stadium’s turf. He stayed there, staring into space, as the Croatian captain, Luka Modric, leapt into the crowd, celebrating his country’s second-ever World Cup semifinal; as both teams sought out Fyodor Smolov and Mário Fernandes, the two players whose missed penalties brought Russia’s tournament to a close; and as the fans turned to leave, back to the beach, back to the bars, back to reality.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis: Brazil 1-2 Belgium | Belgium Nick a Fortunate Win Through Decisive Counter-Attacks

July 8, 2018

“Brazil entered the 2018 World Cup as one of the favorites thanks to their athletic and/or defensively astute central midfielders Casemiro, Paulinho, and Fernandinho, and the fearsome left-sided trio of Marcelo, Coutinho, and Neymar. Understanding the threat the latter threesome posed, Belgium manager Roberto Martínez instructed his side to overload the right section of their midfield. This ploy forced the three tricksters to play through clogged spaces or switch play to the under-supported Willian. Eventually, the difficulty of building these types of attacks led to losses of possession that Belgium looked to convert into dangerous counter-attacks; Hazard and Lukaku led the way in this department with their dribbling, hold-up play, and aerial duels. This strategy, along with a handy own goal, provided Belgium with a two-goal cushion – something they held onto for dear life as Tite’s second half adjustments allowed Brazil to created chance after chance in a valiant losing effort.” Outside of the Boot (Video)


Fear of a Black France

July 8, 2018

“I was born in the late 70s of a mother from Martinique and a father from Lorraine region in Eastern continental France: I was always aware that, for good and bad, France was more than white, more than Europe, more than what most thought and took for granted. I looked to history to make sense of the very existence of my family, and the history I found was a history of exploitation, slavery, abuse ignored by most French people.” Africa is a Country


Sweden 0-2 England

July 7, 2018


“England reached the World Cup semi-final for the first time since Italia 90 as Harry Maguire and Dele Alli struck either side of the interval to beat Sweden in Samara. Gareth Southgate’s side will now face Croatia in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday after overcoming a stubborn Sweden challenge in this quarter-final, with help from a magnificent display by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Maguire, outstanding once more, broke the deadlock on the half-hour when another England set-piece bore fruit – Leicester City’s powerful defender flashing a header past Sweden keeper Robin Olsen from Ashley Young’s corner.” BBC (Video)


Croatia book World Cup semi-final with England after penalty shootout win

July 7, 2018

“The drama was unremitting but when Ivan Rakitic strode forward to address the penalty to win it for Croatia, he located a pocket of calm. The Barcelona midfielder had been in the same position last Sunday, standing over the shootout kick to beat Denmark in the last 16, and he had risen to the challenge. He would do likewise here and, in truth, it never looked in doubt. When Rakitic picked out the bottom corner, Croatia’s joy knew no bounds. At last, they have emulated the glory boys from France 98, who reached the semi-finals, and it is they who have advanced to face England in the last four.” Guardian


Drug Use. Corruption. Scandal. There’s an Ugly Side to the Beautiful Game.

July 7, 2018

Musa Okwonga, a poet, activist and author of two books on football, answered questions on Reddit this week about the off-the-pitch issues around the World Cup and some of the most exciting matches. Mr. Okwonga is no novice. His ties to the beautiful game started generations before his birth in England, when his grandfather coached the Ugandan national team. The Reddit conversation, ranging from doping to inequality, was punctuated by his friends’ inside jokes about frozen beans and wedding poetry. Mr. Okwonga, who lives in Germany, used the Reddit forum to expand upon the writing he has done for our newsletter, Offsides.” NY Times