When Hollywood came for Wrexham FC

October 17, 2021


“Ryan Reynolds and Wrexham. Two names that would have never been associated with each other. But thanks to an inherent entrepreneurial instinct, an Always Sunny In Philadelphia actor, and the Netflix documentary, Sunderland ‘til I die, Ryan Reynolds is now the co-owner of the National League outfit. How did this happen? Matt Slater writes, Craig Silcock illustrates. …”
YouTube: When Hollywood came for Wrexham FC
ESPN: Wrexham AFC have Hollywood owners, Premier League hopes and TikTok sponsors. But first, Tamworth


Who invented the red card?

October 15, 2021


Referee Horacio Elizondo of Argentina shows the red card to Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup … Berlin, Germany, July 09, 2006.
“… Yet that law was only instigated in 1992. Those that watched football throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s still find themselves wondering why the defence doesn’t kick the ball back to the goalkeeper to waste some time. Of all the rules that have been introduced to football over the years, perhaps none have been as influential as the decision to issue players with yellow and red cards for infractions of the rules of the game. The backpass rule that we’ve just mentioned is widely considered to be one of the game’s most successful changes, but it has never had the ability to influence a match in the same way that a sending off has, for example. …”
Yellow And Red Cards In Football
Who has more red cards in their career: Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
W – Fouls and misconduct
YouTube: Who invented the red card?


Andrew Watson: The ‘most influential’ black footballer for decades lost to history

October 14, 2021


Watson is also depicted in a mural at the site of the original Hampden Park
“There are two murals of black footballers facing one another across an alleyway in Glasgow. One helped shape football as we know it, the other is Pele. Andrew Watson captained Scotland to a 6-1 win over England on his debut in 1881. He was a pioneer, the world’s first black international, but for more than a century the significance of his achievements went unrecognised. Research conducted over the past three decades has left us with some biographical details: a man descended of slaves and of those who enslaved them, born in Guyana, raised to become an English gentleman and famed as one of Scottish football’s first icons. And yet today, 100 years on from his death aged 64, Watson remains something of an enigma, the picture built around him a fractured one. …”
BBC


Jack Grealish must play the system to be an England regular for Southgate

October 14, 2021


“Jack Grealish could not hide the frustration. And nor could pockets of the England support inside Wembley on Tuesday night, some of whom booed the decision. There were 62 minutes on the clock, the team were level at 1-1 with Hungary and Gareth Southgate had substituted Grealish, replacing him with Bukayo Saka. The TV cameras lingered on Grealish as he took his seat. The midfielder shook his head before putting it down and running his fingers through his hair. It was the night when Southgate tried a different blend, dispensing with his usual minimum of six defensive-minded outfield starters and going with five whose first instinct is to attack. It was Phil Foden and Mason Mount as the No 8s in the 4-3-3, leaving only Declan Rice in front of the defence, and there is no doubt that it was what the fans had demanded. …”
Guardian
Guardian: Southgate must not ditch newfound attacking intent. Fail again. Fail better the same way
“We didn’t play at the level we need to play” – Five things learned as England slump to a 1-1 draw with Hungary


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


Why Do Football Teams Have 11 Players?

October 6, 2021


“Football is changing all the time, international tournaments are growing, wages and transfer fees continue to rise, and even VAR continues to evolve. But the number of players never does. Why are there 11 players on a team? Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Craig Silcock. …”
YouTube: Tifo Football


Turf Moor

September 23, 2021


Turf Moor is an association football stadium in Burnley, Lancashire, England. The stadium has been the home of Burnley F.C. since 1883. This unbroken service makes Turf Moor the second-longest continuously used ground in English professional football. The stadium is situated on Harry Potts Way, named after the manager who won the 1959–60 First Division with the club, and has a capacity of 21,944. … In 1922, Turf Moor hosted its only FA Cup semi-final and, in 1927, it was the venue of an international match between England and Wales. The stadium’s record attendance was set in 1924, when 54,775 people attended an FA Cup third round game between Burnley and Huddersfield Town. …”
Wikipedia


How do you decide which football team to support as a neutral?

September 15, 2021


“For me, 11 July 2021 will go down in history. Not as the date of the England men’s football team’s first major final since 1966, but the first time as an adult I supported England in a major tournament. Since 1980, I have found myself looking forward to the point in tournaments when England are knocked out and I can enjoy the rest of the competition, so it was a very different experience to find myself seriously pondering the choice between Braveheart Mancini or Humble Southgate before the final. But why did I end up supporting Anyone But England in all those other tournaments? Was it schadenfreude, the trepidation of UK media, which is dominated by the thoughts and concerns of England, reacting to an England victory? Or maybe it was just the commonplace behaviour of any football fan, helping to cement my own sense of community and belonging by the use of the ‘other’. …”
Guardian
Guardian: The joy of seeing a football stadium for the first time (Oct. 2020)


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


Total Football

September 5, 2021


Johan Cruyff playing with Ajax in 1971
Total Football (Dutch: totaalvoetbal) is a tactical system in association football in which any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in a team. Although Dutch club Ajax and the Netherlands national football team are generally credited with creating this system during the 1970s, there were other sides who had played a similar style before, such as the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s, the Argentine side ‘La Maquina‘ of River Plate in the 1940s, the Golden Team of Hungary in the 1950s, English team Burnley in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Brazilian side Santos in the 1960s. In Total Football, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure. In this fluid system, no outfield player is fixed in a predetermined role; anyone can successively play as an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. The only player who must stay in a specified position is the goalkeeper. …”
Wikipedia
YouTube: Total Football Explained


2021–22 EFL League Two

August 27, 2021


“One point from their final seven matches last season is hardly stirring evidence of a title push but this incarnation of Bradford City are determined to mount a challenge and in Derek Adams they have a manager eyeing a third promotion from the division after guiding Morecambe into League One against the odds in May. The recruitment looks sound but the arrival of Adams, a Marmite character, may be the most important piece of the jigsaw. …”
Guardian: League Two 2021-22 season preview
W – 2021–22 EFL League Two
Who will win the 2021/22 League Two? FourFourTwo’s season preview and predicted final table
YouTube: EFL League Two 2021-22 Stadiums 14:55


How to sell a footballer

August 27, 2021


“… All six were pitched into the seller’s market — and welcome to it, whether you want to be there or not. Clubs spend endless hours formulating lists of targets they want to recruit, the footballers who improve a team, but maintaining the balance of budgets and dressing rooms is every bit as dependent on clubs ridding themselves of the ones they no longer need. Finances, tactics, personality clashes, fitness concerns; the motivation for getting shot of a player varies from case to case but the process has an identical goal: Find a taker and draw a line through the name, while saving yourselves as much money as possible. …”
The Athletic


2021-22 EFL League One: Location-map, with League History chart.

August 5, 2021


“… This is a new template, which features a standard location-map, plus a chart which shows the League History of all the clubs in the division, this season. As well as showing the locations and crests of the 24 League One clubs this season, the main map includes the 58 Unitary authorities of England, and shows the major Urban Areas of England and Wales. The League History chart lists the total seasons that each club has played in the 1st level [Premier League], the 2nd level [EFL Championship], the 3rd level [EFL League One], and the 4th level [EFL League Two]. Alongside each column there is also listed the most recent season each club has played in each level. …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: League One 2021-22 season preview


Player Analysis: Kalvin Phillips

July 18, 2021


“In their first Premier League match in 16 years, with a breathtaking match against defending champions Liverpool, Leeds United have shown that they came to play football with love and fill the hearts of the spectators with the beauty of football. Leeds’s free-flowing football, holding the ball possession and constant attack gave immense rejoicing to the crowds. Leeds finished ninth in the table after displaying entertaining football. Where the other two teams Fulham and West Brom promoted with them became relegated to the second division. This success of Leeds owes to the contribution of several players in the team. …”
Breaking The Lines
W – Kalvin Phillips
My game in my words. By England and Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips (June 2020)(Video)
YouTube: Why Kalvin Phillips was England’s best player


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


English football’s day of embarrassment and why it has damaged the 2030 World Cup bid

July 14, 2021


England fans tore down barriers outside the stadium
“It was the morning after the night before and, on Wembley Way, a sense of calm was slowly returning. The debris — broken bottles, cans and piles of rubbish — was being gathered up and the streets were being hosed down. Euro 2020 was over and the clean-up operation was well advanced. There was no escaping what had happened, though. The final of Euro 2020 had been billed as the greatest day in English sport since the 1966 World Cup final. ‘Football’s coming home’ and all that. Instead, it turned into a nightmare. Not because of the outcome on the pitch — as agonising as it was for England to lose on penalties to Italy and miss out on a first major trophy in 55 years — but because of the ugly, chaotic scenes that ruined the occasion for so many of those present. …”
The Athletic (Video/Audio)
BBC: Met denies Wembley police operation failed (Video)
The Shameful Story Of English Supporter Chaos At Wembley On Football’s Big Day (Video)


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


A New England: Gareth Southgate, Cultural Revolutionary

July 9, 2021


“‘The standard of leaders in this country the past couple of years has been poor, looking at that man [Gareth Southgate], he’s everything a leader should be, respectful, humble, he tells the truth,’ Gary Neville said as cameras panned over England’s celebrating players and coaching staff at the end of a glorious Euro 2020 semi-final win against a courageous Denmark. It felt like a pertinent intervention: here was his old running mate in England’s celebrated mid-90s back four, leading a team of young footballers into territory uncharted for almost six decades. More than that, here was a man of quiet integrity who had led a national side used to buckling under the weight of not just history, but a thousand tabloid headlines. …”
The Quietus
Gareth Southgate, the man who made a shrinking job bigger (June 12, 2021)
If Gareth Southgate knows his England XI for Euro 2020 it should be this… (March 17, 2021)
Dear England (June 8, 2021)
W – Gareth Southgate


Sterling and Saka lead charge as England throw off old anxieties

July 8, 2021


“Gareth Southgate values control almost above anything else. For England, this has been a tournament about control. He has talked about aping Portugal at Euro 2016 and France at the World Cup, of learning how to manage games. But there are two ways of controlling games. There is controlling games by attacking, as England did with remarkable intensity and consistency between the start of the second half and the end of the first half of extra time, and there is controlling the game as England did in the second half of extra time, keeping the ball away from Denmark with such efficiency that they managed only one touch in the England box in that period. Control, it turns out, doesn’t have to be boring. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
Pickford’s positioning at fault for Denmark’s clever free-kick and wall routine? It’s not that simple…
Slate: The New Strategy That Put England Into the Euro 2020 Final (Video)
Two footballs, a laser pointer and Sterling’s penalty: The England vs Denmark controversies explained
Tactical Analysis: England vs. Denmark
YouTube: Tactical Analysis: England 2 – 1 Denmark | How Southgate’s Central Overload Prevailed


‘Denmark robbed blind!’ – Kane equals England scoring record as penalty call sees Euro 2020 semi-final erupt in controversy

July 8, 2021


“Harry Kane tied Gary Lineker’s record for the most combined England goals at European Championships and World Cups, but his extra-time winner against Denmark came with huge controversy. Raheem Sterling dashed through Denmark’s defence in extra time of the Euro 2020 semi-final and went down in the box after what appeared to be minimal contact. But the referee still pointed to the spot and although Kasper Schmeichel saved Kane’s penalty, the England captain buried the rebound to send the Three Lions to the final with a 2-1 win. …”
Goal
England 2-1 Denmark: A final at last as England get that little bit of luck that’s been missing for 55 years
Ignore the Kane penalty controversy: Southgate’s England deserve their shot at Euro 2020 glory
NY Times – Euros 2020: Highlights From England’s Triumph Over Denmark
BBC: England v Denmark – how you rated the players


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


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


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


Hartlepool United 1 – Torquay United 1 : Hartlepool United win 5-4 on penalties

July 1, 2021


The Gander Green Lane ground, home of Sutton United
“Hartlepool United returned to the English Football League as they beat Torquay United 5-4 on penalties, despite Gulls goalkeeper Lucas Covolan scoring a stoppage-time equaliser. Luke Armstrong’s first-half strike looked to have sealed promotion for Pools after Torquay’s Kyle Cameron had headed goals disallowed in either half. Covolan headed in a 95th-minute cross to send the game into extra time. Torquay’s Matt Buse missed a sudden-death penalty to see Pools go up. In a game that had everything it was fitting that it ended with a sudden-death shootout – all four opening penalties were missed with Covolan saving from Nicky Featherstone and Armstrong while Billy Waters and Danny Wright missed for the Gulls. …”
BBC
The 2 clubs promoted to the Football League in 2021….
Football as it should be: Chasing the dream with Sutton United, their dancing kitman and tactics talks in the showers (April 22, 2021)
W – Sutton United F.C., W – Gander Green Lane, W – 2020–21 National League


Flexible England win battle for the centre ground in collective triumph

June 30, 2021


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


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

June 29, 2021


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


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)


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)


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


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

June 19, 2021


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


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


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

June 12, 2021

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


Euro 2020 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


Newcastle United’s old St James’ Park and a striking vision of bygone football

January 21, 2021


St James’ Park, Newcastle, 1930, by Byron Dawson 
“This wonderful depiction shows St James’ Park as it was nine decades ago. It’s a far cry from the towering concrete, steel and glass structure that occupies the same site and dominates the Newcastle skyline today. It was painted in 1930 by the artist Byron Dawson. The fans, seemingly all male, are smartly dressed in coats and hats. There isn’t a black and replica shirt in sight!On the left of our painting is the old West Stand. Built in 1906, in the midst of United’s Edwardian golden era, the stand was St James’ main seating area for decades, as well as home to the players’ dressing rooms, the boardroom and press area. …”
Chronicle
W – History of Newcastle United F.C.
50 Hints On Association Football Cigarette cards in album (1934)


England (incl. Wales): Historic Counties location-map of the 1920-21 Football League

August 13, 2020


“… Next to the 22 1st division clubs’ home kits are each club’s current (2020) badge. The 22 First Division clubs also have home-jersey segments next to their location-dots on the map. The 22 Second Division clubs have slightly smaller home-jersey segments next to their location-dots on the map. And the 22 Third Division clubs have even smaller home-jersey segments next to their location-dots on the map. The source of the illustrated kits and jersey-segments is the excellent site Historical Football Kits (historicalkits.co.uk). Note on the location-dots…a black dot shows the location of the club’s home ground in 1920-21; grey dots show future grounds the club would go on to play in. Listed next to each location-dot is the date that the club played at each of their grounds (in tiny 10-point type). …”
BillSportsMaps


How English football responded to the second world war

April 24, 2020

“When the 1939-40 Football League season kicked off on Saturday 26 August 1939, players were wearing numbered shirts for the first time. Bigger changes were to come. Germany invaded Poland the following Friday and the four divisions and FA Cup were halted once war was declared on 3 September. The action stopped after three rounds of fixtures, with Blackpool boasting the only 100% record in the top flight and Leeds bottom of the table having failed to score a goal. …”
Guardian


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


The Player Kylian Mbappe Really Plays Like

August 2, 2018


“Breakout performances seemed to be everywhere at the 2018 World Cup — young talents were launched to international fame, and established players had their names crystallized on the world stage. The world’s biggest soccer tournament gives players a chance to shine outside the club-level paradigm of consistency and — apart from the English Premier League — a largely domestic audience. On the back of a few impressive performances, players like CSKA Moscow’s Aleksandr Golovin, one of the key players in Russia’s run to the quarterfinals, can earn themselves the chance to move to one of Europe’s top clubs, even if this recruitment trend is less common than it once was.” FiveThirtyEight


Tactical Analysis: Croatia 2-1 England AET | Tenacious Croatia punish England’s complacency

August 2, 2018

“Croatia reached their first ever World Cup final after a two-goal fightback against England. Goals in the second halves of normal & extra time from Ivan Perišić and Mario Mandžukić respectively cancelled out the Three Lions‘ initial advantage courtesy of a Kieran Trippier free kick in what proved to be a very intense game.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Sweden 0-2 England | Patient England seal a win over cagey Sweden

August 2, 2018

“Charles Onwuakpa writes a tactical analysis of the World Cup quarter final that ended Sweden 0-2 England. Sweden v England was certainly one of the unexpected quarter-finals at this World Cup considering both team’s performances so far at this tournament. England, who have showcased a very positive & proactive possession-based football under Gareth Southgate, finished second behind Belgium in group G and put to an end a 22-year jinx with penalty shootouts as they defeated Colombia in the Round of 16.” Outside of the Boot


World Cup 2018 Best XI: France’s Champions Lead the Top Players in Russia

July 17, 2018


“After 64 games and more drama than any World Cup in at least 20 years, there’s one piece of business left to do: Pick a team of the tournament. It’s been picked as a team that might function together rather than just the 11 best players, and to avoid the temptation of packing it with France’s champions, a limit of four players per country has been self-imposed. In a 4-3-3 formation fit for the world stage, here is our 2018 World Cup Best XI.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


For all the ills of the world, World Cup 2018 showed that a bit of football done right can make the planet smile

July 17, 2018

“Monday morning dawns with a grim and crushing inevitability. Unless you’re peeling yourself off a Paris pavement, or drowning your sorrows in a Dubrovnik dive bar, the 2018 World Cup is over. As a month of sporting hedonism slips from present tense to past, real life and its hard borders re-sharpen their focus, bringing with them a cruel reckoning. It was only football, after all. It felt like more than that when Kylian Mbappe was burning through opposition defenders, or Lionel Messi was fighting back the tide, or Russia and South Korea were pulling off the unfeasible, or when England’s town squares throbbed with rasping songs and nervous tension and the prickly spines of a faint dream. But no: ultimately, it was only football, no more and no less.” Independent


World Cup 2018 goal celebrations: A statistical analysis of unbridled joy

July 17, 2018


“How would you celebrate if you scored at a World Cup? A jig by the corner flag, an emphatic sprint, jump and punch of the air, an emotional tussle with the goalnet, or just run as fast and far as you can until someone finally, gleefully leaps on you? Whether you’re a Milla, a Josimar or a Tardelli kind of guy, there are plenty of ways with which to physically revel in what, for most players, is the once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime act of scoring on the world’s biggest stage. Goal celebrations – often just as complex, slow-motion-worthy and memorable as the goals themselves – are an art form. But, just like everything else, they’re moulded by cultural trends, context and just pure momentary instinct.” Telegraph


World Cup 2018: How Gareth Southgate’s tactical immaturity cost England their shot at the final

July 13, 2018


“For all the celebration of this new-look England side, Wednesday night’s 2-1 semi-final defeat by Croatia was characterised by an old failing: a refusal to adjust tactics to nullify the strength of the opposition and, more specifically, an insistence upon leaving two men upfront while being overrun in midfield. England started excellently, but their tactical inflexibility cost them a place in Sunday’s final. Gareth Southgate’s highly unusual 3-3-2-2 formation is essentially defined by two major features, which both contributed to England’s impressive first half performance.” Independent – Michael Cox


Whose World Cup Is This?

July 13, 2018

“Football might not be coming home, but this should be Harry Kane’s World Cup. After a few years dominating the Premier League, the 24-year-old showed the wider world why we’re all freaking about a guy who looks like an apprentice magistrate from Bleak House and speaks like his mouth is filled with marbles covered in peanut butter. Kane’s six goals are two more than anyone else in the tournament, and even if you add assists to everyone else’s tallies, Kane has still produced more than all of his competitors. The reemergence of the England national team as something close to a world soccer power will likely go down as one of the defining stories of the 2018 World Cup, and it’s Kane who got them there: He wore the captain’s armband for all five games he played in, and he won the Man of the Match award in three.” The Ringer