Earnie Stewart’s Departure Adds to Uncertain Times at U.S. Soccer


“On Wednesday night, the U.S. men’s national team and its interim coaching staff kicked off the 2026 World Cup cycle in administrative limbo. On Thursday morning, they awoke in Los Angeles to what U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Cindy Parlow Cone called ‘a clean canvas.’ Already without a full-time manager for the foreseeable future thanks to the review and investigation into Gregg Berhalter’s on-field performance and off-field conduct, the USSF now finds itself without a sporting director and a men’s general manager. …”
SI

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‘Barca pulling ‘levers’? Real did it first’ — Jaume Roures, the man who crosses Spain’s conflicting football worlds

“On the 16th floor of an office complex in downtown Barcelona, we’re inside a meeting room that’s surrounded by glass walls and filled with trophies. This is the main headquarters of Mediapro, a Spanish communication group founded by Jaume Roures in 1994. Maybe you haven’t heard of Roures, but there are plenty of reasons The Athletic has come to meet him. …”
The Athletic

A player taking a short corner then finishing off the move — could it catch on?


“Imagine this situation: you’re playing in a game of football and your side have won a corner kick. The planned routine is a short corner and your task is to get on the end of the eventual ball into the box. What if you could 100 per cent guarantee you would have several yards of space at the start of this move and you could be relatively sure that no one would track your run? …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

Manchester City are winning, but have problems in possession

“The problem for A-grade students all over the world is that a B on any test raises eyebrows. Despite their recent victories, Manchester City’s performance on the ball has not been as convincing as it was early in the season, or recent years. The movement and the dynamics against Wolverhampton Wanderers last Sunday felt like City were picking up their rhythm, but against Arsenal it was off the pace again. …”
The Athletic

Preston ready to bring the noise for Spurs visit tinged with Cup history

“More than 13 years have passed since the 68th and previous staging of a fixture which is 123 years old but on Saturday has only a fourth edition since 1972: Preston North End v Tottenham Hotspur. The last time the northern and southern Lilywhites clashed came on 23 September 2009 at Deepdale when Alan Irvine’s Preston suffered a 5-1 loss to the Spurs of Harry Redknapp in a League Cup tie decorated by Peter Crouch’s hat-trick and strikes from Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, the visitors also fielding Jermaine Jenas, Wilson Palacios and a youthful Gareth Bale. …”
Guardian

How Wilfried Gnonto Became Leeds United’s Unexpected Star Attraction

“It was 19 August 2022 – a day before Leeds were set to host Chelsea – with Jesse Marsch doing his usual pre-match press conference. The defining days of the transfer window were fast approaching, and an interest in Wilfried Gnonto, an 18-year-old forward at FC Zürich, had been circulating in the days leading up to the match. With Marsch rarely one to return an abrupt answer, it was always worth asking him to shed some light. …”
The Analyst

Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool slump explained – a team failure, not an individual one


“When Mohamed Salah finished joint top of the Premier League’s scoring charts with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min in May, it earned the Liverpool attacker his third Golden Boot in five seasons. In the absence of a major international tournament, Salah then had an extended summer break and his contract saga was resolved when he signed a new three-year contract worth more than £350,000 per week — making him the highest-paid player in the club’s history. …”
The Athletic

Arsenal’s clever corners and their importance in the Premier League title race

“On April 10, 1993, Manchester United needed a win to regain top spot in the inaugural Premier League season. A draw against Sheffield Wednesday would not have been enough to return to the summit with only five games remaining afterwards. The final minutes of that game played a major role in United’s first Premier League title. …”
The Athletic

Diogo Dalot and the role of the modern fullback


Positions are constantly evolving in modern football. Or rather, there are no new ideas in football. Just new contexts in which old ideas seem revitalised. None more so than the role of the full back. Liverpool’s Robertson and Alexander-Arnold appeared to have redefined the modern full back, but more recently we are seeing ‘inverted’ full backs. And some full backs, like Diogo Dalot can be like Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, and invert. Jon Mackenzie explains how. Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.
YouTube

Why Man United’s poor organisation out of possession was likely to end in tears


“If Arsenal’s 3-2 victory over Manchester United on Sunday afternoon felt particularly momentous, it’s because it was essentially two types of big win combined. On one hand, it was about Arsenal completely outplaying United, dominating possession and territory, and creating far more chances. On the other, there was the drama of a late winner providing a definitive, exhilarating moment. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox
The Athletic – Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United analysed: Are Arteta’s men really going to win this title?

Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea analysed: An attempt to tell you that was interesting


We knew it was going to be 0-0, it was 0-0, and we still committed to 16 Conclusions on Liverpool v Chelsea. Only ourselves to blame.
“Well, that wasn’t thrilling, was it? Last season, Liverpool and Chelsea played each other on the way to finishing second and third in the Premier League and contested both domestic cup finals. These clubs have won half of the past four Champions League finals. But their 2022-23 reality is a bit bleaker and they look very unlikely to compete for top-four places over the season’s remaining four months. …”
The Athletic
Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea: 16 Conclusions on a game that showed why ninth v tenth doesn’t usually get 16 Conclusions
Guardian: Mykhailo Mudryk cameo livens up Chelsea’s goalless draw at Liverpool (Video)

Kieran Trippier has it all: Set-piece specialist, overlapping runs and perfect vision

Newcastle’s 1-0 victory over Fulham last weekend solidified their place in the top four and marked a fifth consecutive Premier League clean sheet. The winning goal came in the 89th minute after an attack down the right saw Kieran Trippier set up Sean Longstaff, whose cross into the box was eventually headed home by Alexander Isak. …”
The Athletic

Arteta and Ten Hag take inspiration from Cruyff in their full-back fluidity Luke Shaw and Ben White

“It was in the heat of summer that Mikel Arteta finally decided to press the button on a strategy he had been brewing for almost a year. For much of the previous season he had become convinced that Ben White was a right-back in the making: quick, calm on the ball and blessed with sound positional sense and a high level of tactical intelligence. The problem was everyone else. None of the squad, he decided, was capable of replacing White in the centre of defence. …”
Guardian

Pep Guardiola’s extraordinary criticisms of Man City’s players and fans explained

“‘Of course I’m going to defend you until the last day of my life at the press conference,’ Pep Guardiola once memorably told his Manchester City players. Just how concerned must he be, then, to have come out with all of this? On Thursday night, after his side produced a stirring comeback from 2-0 down at half-time to beat visitors Tottenham Hotspur 4-2, he spoke at length about their lack of desire. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Fixing Klopp’s Liverpool: Five quick changes that would help

“Jurgen Klopp said he could not recall a worse performance in his career as a manager than Liverpool’s defeat to Brighton on Saturday, adding on Monday that it “shouldn’t be that difficult” to play better against Wolves in the FA Cup replay on Tuesday evening, but how can he improve his team quickly? Klopp said they need to ‘go back to basics’, putting an emphasis on improving their defending. Having lost only twice in the league in the whole of 2021-22, Liverpool have already been beaten six times this season. …”
The Athletic

Niclas Füllkrug: Germany’s New ‘Old’ Striker Continues His Ascent


“Niclas Füllkrug isn’t your archetypal modern German striker. When the Germans warmed up for their 2022 World Cup campaign with a friendly against Oman in mid-November, Füllkrug came off the bench at half-time. In doing so, he became the oldest outfielder to make his debut for Germany in 20 years (29 years, 280 days). Did he make an impact? You could say that. He scored the only goal of the game within 35 minutes of his international introduction with what was only his second shot for the national team. …”
The Analyst

Why introducing temporary concussion substitutes in football would be the right move

“In a World Cup full of notable moments, there was one early in the tournament that grabbed the attention more than most. Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, in his team’s opening game with England, suffered a violent and high-speed clash of heads with a team-mate. Sitting on the turf with his swollen nose heavily bleeding onto his kit, Beiranvand was treated for several minutes on the pitch by medical staff. Despite clearly being in serious discomfort, he was allowed to continue. …”
The Athletic

Why Xavi swapped Pedri for Gavi on Barcelona’s left – and how it was key to beating Real Madrid

“It was a good week for Barcelona. Seven days after beating Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, they defeated Real Madrid 3-1 to win the Super Cup, bringing Xavi Hernandez his first trophy as Barcelona manager. The performances were, in many ways, very similar. In another way, there was a crucial difference. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

Aleksandar Mitrovic exclusive: ‘I felt I wasn’t wanted but I knew my time would come’


“As Aleksandar Mitrovic pulls up his seat, a black and white cat appears at his feet and starts nuzzling its head against some of the more valuable legs in English football. It is clear we are not going to be alone for this interview. Any introductions? Well, yes, it turns out this cat wanders into Fulham’s training ground every day and miaows outside until someone opens the door. It has been christened Miaow Palhinha (to clarify: not Joao, but Miaow) and Mitrovic is stretching out one of those big, powerful arms to give his furry friend a bit of love. …”
The Athletic

Why Juventus are in crisis

In November 2022, Andrea Agnelli, the Chairman of Juventus, and the rest of the board announced they were resigning. Agnelli had been the Chairman for 12 years. They had decided to leave following an investigation into Juventus’ finances. Why were Juventus’ finances being investigated? What did the investigators find? Why did it cause the board to resign? What happens to Juventus now? James Horncastle explains. Philippe Fenner illustrates.”
YouTube

Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona: Xavi’s first trophy, brilliant Gavi and lacklustre Real


Barcelona won their first piece of silverware under Xavi as they comfortably beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the Supercopa de Espana final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Gavi put Barca ahead in the 33rd minute after a slide-rule pass from Robert Lewandowski before returning the favour for the striker, who put his side in full control when he scored himself in the 45th minute. Pedri put the finishing touches on the rout when he turned home another fine pass from Gavi in the 69th minute. Karim Benzema scored a consolation goal in stoppage time, but it was nowhere near enough for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Barcelona vs Real Madrid – an alternative guide to the first Clasico of 2023
Guardian: Villarreal find their level after Setién ‘shock’ to see off Real Madrid

When is the best time to sack a manager?


“‘Stability must be the key to progression,’ wrote Everton owner Farhad Moshiri this week in his response to an open letter from the club’s fans’ forum that voiced their concerns over the direction of the club. His words offered a measure of support to Everton manager Frank Lampard, who heads into this weekend’s Premier League game against Southampton under considerable pressure. Everton haven’t won a league game since October and sunk into the relegation zone after their most recent defeat against Brighton. Lampard is not alone. …”
The Athletic

Ange Postecoglou’s VAR complaints feed familiar Old Firm biases

“Boredom will reach Ange Postecoglou eventually. Any manager or player with aspiration of competing in a challenging environment, where there are more than two horses – at most – sees life beyond Celtic. Had Postecoglou not arrived in Glasgow with a reputation for occasionally taking issue with the sporting world, onlookers would be entitled to sense the Australian is already chasing self-created excitement. …”
Guardian

Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez analysed by Alan Shearer: the pace, the power, the misses

“Strikers dwell on misses, but the time you worry and the time that sleep deserts you is the time chances don’t come. Big moments can linger and you replay them in your mind — nothing stays with you like a penalty gone awry — but they’re rarely symptoms of sickness in your game. That’s why I have few concerns about Darwin Nunez and his form for Liverpool because his ability is obvious and the rest he can learn. If he wants to improve, he will. …”
The Athletic

Where will Sebastien Haller fit in at Borussia Dortmund?

“… 4-2-3-1 – Terzic employed this formation the most during the Hinrunde, and it appears ideally suited for a centre-forward like Haller. When Haller’s diagnosis was made, Dortmund brought in Anthony Modeste — a similar type of player to the Cote d’Ivoire international — as cover. The Frenchman didn’t shine, scoring just two Bundesliga goals, but Youssoufa Moukoko did better. …”
Bundesliga (Video)

The USMNT Scandal Reflects the Incestuous Nature of American Soccer


“For a federation that governs more than 12 million participants across a vast expanse of land, U.S. Soccer is a very small outfit. While the governing body for the sport in the country currently has more than 100 employees, it has been dominated for decades by a tiny elite. You have to go back a long way to find a men’s national team head coach who didn’t split off from the same coaching tree—with the notable exception of Jurgen Klinsmann. …”
The Ringer

‘Craziness’ at Crawley – NFTs, YouTubers and five managers in 10 months


‘There’s a sigh at the other end of the phone. That seems to happen quite a lot when you ask people about Crawley Town. ‘It’s a mess,’ said more than one person. They’re referring to the club’s situation since it was taken over by WAGMI United — a group of American NFT investors — in April 2022, with the new owners promising to take Crawley up the divisions using innovation. … Regardless, the basic facts aren’t great. Crawley are 21st in League Two and now look more likely to leave the division from the bottom rather than the top. …”
The Athletic (Video)

“It’s Not a Jürgen Klopp Team”: Analysing Liverpool’s Struggles in Midfield

“‘It’s not a Jürgen Klopp team.’ Jamie Carragher isn’t the first person to say something like that about Liverpool this season and we can’t imagine he will be the last. The Reds saw their four-game Premier League winning streak come to an end against Brentford last week, with the Bees winning 3-1, and are now seven points off a top-four spot. There is a real danger that the 2022 Champions League finalists will have to settle for a Europa League berth next campaign. …”
The Analyst

How Brentford’s corners bamboozled Liverpool – changing targets and masterful movement


“If you open the Oxford English Dictionary and search for “set piece”, there is a chance there will soon be a picture of Brentford’s badge alongside the explanation. This is because the London club are becoming increasingly lethal from them. For a couple of years, Brentford have focused on set pieces to give them an edge in an era of football where marginal advantages make the difference. The fact their previous set-piece coaches, Gianni Vio and Nicolas Jover, have gone on to transform Tottenham and Arsenal’s set pieces in the past two years is an indication of how progressive Brentford’s thinking is in this area. …”
The Athletic

Scottish officials push for change to handball rule as VAR has intensified abuse


“St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson has called for the handball rule to be changed, Celtic are still fuming over it five days after the latest Old Firm game — and now the Scottish FA is set to establish the views of its Professional Game Board (PGB) members before sharing them with the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body which writes the game’s laws. It is understood the SFA has put the subject of handball on the agenda for the next PGB meeting. Clubs will be asked to share their complaints and possible solutions so the association’s representative can feed those findings into IFAB’s discussion. …”
The Athletic (Video)

How to organize the defensive line as a goalkeeper

“As part of this site, I allow for questions to be thrown my way pertaining to performance problems on the pitch, and how players can solve complex issues. I received a great question a few days ago from a goalkeeper, looking to understand how they can organize the defensive line. With a wonderful view of the action, goalkeepers must be more than just shot stoppers, and participate actively and vocally in communicating with their mates. They should not be solely responsible for organizing the entire team, but have the ability to do so through the vantage point they have on the field, and often the fearless nature they behold. …”
The Mastermindsite

A single step that cost Kepa Arrizabalaga and Chelsea the only goal against Manchester City


“… There has been a big improvement in Kepa Arrizabalaga’s performances since Graham Potter and his staff took over at Chelsea but he was at fault for Riyad Mahrez’s winner for Manchester City. He failed to cut out Jack Grealish’s cross and Mahrez snuck in at the back post ahead of Marc Cucurella to finish. Where did it all go wrong? Arrizabalaga’s initial positioning was good. He was facing the ball but slightly angled with his body open to see the play in front of him. He was almost in the sweet spot of being aggressive off his line to cut out the cross, yet close enough to his near post should Grealish try and sneak one past him. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Man City’s Plan A looked doomed to fail at Chelsea – it was Plan C that worked in the end – Michael Cox
The Athletic: Manchester City were far from fluent against Chelsea but did what champions do – won (Video)

The Lowest Points Totals in Premier League History

“Southampton may be bottom of the league on 12 points after 18 games of the 2022-23 Premier League season, but one ounce of comfort is that they have already surpassed the worst points tally in a single Premier League campaign, set by Derby County in 2007-08. We look at the lowest points tallies in a single Premier League season. …”
The Analyst

Arsenal’s expert counter-pressing nullified Newcastle and is key to their title fight


“… At times, football games can be looked at from different angles to provide different perspectives. Arsenal’s goalless draw with Newcastle United on Tuesday meant that their five-game winning streak in the league came to an end. After an exciting 10 minutes in which Arsenal looked threatening, Newcastle’s solid defensive organisation limited the host’s chances in open play. A view from this angle gives the impression that Arsenal might have had a poor game, but football isn’t black and white. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Why Arsenal need Mudryk: Stalemate shows attacking reinforcements crucial to title charge (Video)
Guardian: Newcastle thrive off Big Dan Burn energy to wrestle point from Arsenal

Dutch Eredivisie Stats Recap: The State of Play

“Feyenoord currently lead the Eredivisie over pre-season favourites Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. Their strong 2022-23 campaign so far confirms that their European exploits last season were no flash in the pan. Despite only having four players that started last season’s UEFA Europa Conference League final defeat to Roma still at the club, Feyenoord’s aspirations of topping the Dutch league this season felt questionable. Even more so when you consider that the pair held 10-point (PSV) and 12-point (Ajax) advantages over the Rotterdam club in the 2021-22 table. …”
The Analyst

Unpredictable Mbeumo and Wissa show Brentford can survive without Toney


“It turns out there was no need to panic. The build-up to Brentford’s incredible 3-1 victory over Liverpool was dominated by fitness concerns around Ivan Toney. The forward had to be taken off on a stretcher in the final minutes of Brentford’s 2-0 win over West Ham United just four days earlier with a nasty-looking leg injury. He fell awkwardly trying to clear the ball from a corner and the initial fear was that he could be out for months. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: New year, same problems for disjointed Liverpool

Serie A 2022-23 Predictions: Rest of the Season

“Napoli are bossing things in Italy, right now. The Naples side are eight points clear of second-place Milan as the Italian top-flight returns to action following the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and our supercomputer is struggling to see past a third Serie A title for them in 2022-23. Their chances of winning their first scudetto since 1989-90 thanks to the brilliance of Diego Maradona are rated at 88.7%, while Napoli fans are almost certain to enjoy UEFA Champions League football again in 2023-34, with the supercomputer rating their chance of finishing outside the top four places in Serie A at just 0.06%. …”
The Analyst

Bruno Guimaraes’ clever use of his body makes Newcastle midfielder so hard to stop


“… Those were the thoughts of a young Bruno Guimaraes as he started his football career back home in Brazil. It’s a journey that has taken him to the league he regularly followed as a kid — the Premier League. Less than a year after his arrival from French club Lyon, Guimaraes is proving to be exactly what head coach Eddie Howe and Newcastle United wanted in their midfield — an off-ball battler who also has the necessary technical skills on the ball to help the team progress up the field. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Ange Postecoglou calls for Old Firm match to be free of big VAR delays

“The Celtic manager, Ange Postecoglou, has called on the match officials for the first Old Firm game of 2023 to ensure VAR delays do not disrupt the marquee fixture. VAR’s arrival in the Scottish Premiership – it was first used at matches in October – has, perhaps unsurprisingly, proved controversial. Postecoglou was unperturbed about the introduction of the technology but, like umpteen managers, has since grown frustrated at the time taken to reach decisions. Monday’s Glasgow derby at Ibrox will bring with it intense focus on every refereeing decision. …”
Guardian

How Good is Enzo Fernandez?

“On 2 August 2022, 21-year-old Enzo Fernández made his Benfica debut in a UEFA Champions League third-round qualifier against FC Midtjylland. He was uncapped at senior international level for Argentina and his move to Portugal was his first foray into European football. 138 days later, the young midfield maestro is a world champion with Argentina, was named the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament in Qatar, is an integral part of a Benfica side that is top of the Primeira Liga, has gained passage into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages helping As Águias top their group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, and he has yet to lose a single match for his new club. It’s fair to say that Enzo Fernández’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. …”
The Analyst

‘We respect the scientists’ – how new heading rules affect Scottish football

“Early this month and within days of the Scottish Football Association introducing groundbreaking guidelines on the heading of balls at training, the Partick Thistle goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon nodded home a stoppage-time equaliser at Cove Rangers. Was the association’s bid to protect players, after links were established between head injuries and neurodegenerative disease, destined to be in vain? …”
Guardian

The half-spaces as a key chance creation channel


“It has long been hypothesized that ‘Zone 14’ is the holy grail of chance creation. The ideas around this concept were built around a study from the late 1990s that specified that successful teams had a higher frequency of getting into this zone when compared against their peers. Since opposition clubs often compact central channels out of possession, it’s logical to reason that teams who are more successful in advancing into one of the most congested areas of the pitch are more successful overall. …”
The Mastermindsite

Why World Cup transfers are problematic

The World Cup can be like a shop window. A chance to see a snapshot of hundreds of different players in less than a month. Stars will emerge, and legends will be made. But transfers shouldn’t happen. But why? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains why signing a player based on a World Cup performance is a bad idea. Illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.”
YouTube

The football clubs that came back to life


“The lights going out is nothing new for Darlington supporters. Twice in the past 20 years the club has had to abandon its home in the town, while there were three spells in administration that eventually culminated in a drop of four divisions. A little over a decade has passed since those dark, dark days. On the field, things are looking up with Darlington going top of National League North on the cold December night The Athletic pays a visit. …”
The Athletic

How much money can Tottenham’s stadium make?

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is widely regarded as one of the best sporting arenas in the world. The build was completed in 2019 at a staggering cost of £1.3 billion. But will it ever be able to recoup those costs? Abhishek Raj looks at the four main ways Spurs’ home ground can make its money back. Philippe Fenner illustrates.”
YouTube

Ligue 1 Rest of Season Predictions 2022-23

“All eyes will be on Ligue 1 when football returns after the World Cup. Ah, wait. Hold on a second. All eyes on Ligue 1? More precisely, all eyes will be on Paris Saint-Germain. The club’s two biggest stars headlined possibly the best World Cup final ever. Given the stakes and the drama, it might have been the greatest game of football ever but soon Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé will turn their attention away from each other and onto their French league opponents as they look to torture them into submission during the club’s quest for honours in 2023. …”
The Analyst

La Liga Rest of Season Predictions 2022-23

“Who knows what to expect upon La Liga’s return? Spanish teams waved 83 players off to the World Cup – second only to the Premier League’s 126. How will that affect the players moving into the second half of the season? No fallible human could possibly know. But luckily, we’ve put the supercomputer to work, giving it one last push before it powers down for the Christmas holidays. And just like always, the machine was only too happy to oblige. We’ve got title numbers to give you, predictions for the top four and a sense of who will be spending next summer gearing up for a season in the Segunda division. …”
The Analyst

World champions but second: Why Argentina are below Brazil in FIFA’s world rankings

Argentina will not go into 2023 as FIFA’s number one ranked team. Fresh off lifting the World Cup, you might expect Lionel Scaloni’s side to move top of the leaderboard but they have had to settle for second. It is Brazil — one of the sides knocked out in the quarter-final in Qatar – who have retained top spot, their only consolation from a rather forgettable fortnight. …”
The Athletic

Cutbacks were more popular than ever at the World Cup – here’s why


“One goal that will always be remembered from this World Cup is Argentina’s third against Croatia in the semi-final. The way Lionel Messi bamboozled Josko Gvardiol down the right, before playing the ball back into Julian Alvarez was just marvellous. Messi’s dribbling didn’t only get him past Gvardiol, it also forced Dejan Lovren and Josip Juranovic (both dark blue) to drop deeper to close the shooting and passing angles to the onrushing Nicolas Tagliafico… ”
The Athletic

This was the Angel Di Maria final — then he came off and Argentina very nearly fell apart


“For one hour, three minutes and 52 seconds, Angel Di Maria was the best player in the world. This was the same day that 35-year-old Lionel Messi would kiss the World Cup trophy to seal his place as the greatest footballer of all time, and his historic performance would deserve it. Kylian Mbappe, the outstanding player of the tournament, would score three goals after the 80th minute and leave not even a baguette crumb of doubt who will take over when Messi is gone. …”
The Athletic (Video)

World Cup tactical trends: Lots of width, set-piece goals down, and who needs possession?


“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Thirty-two teams, 28 days, 64 games and they saved the best one until last. Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina lifted the trophy last night after a pulsating penalty shootout victory against France. Across the whole tournament, we had on-field drama, off-field controversy and even a half-time cameo from Chesney Hawkes. There is barely enough time to reflect and take stock of the past month before we swiftly pivot back to domestic football, but let’s take all take a minute to indulge ourselves in some numbers, shall we? Allow The Athletic to walk you through some of the data trends we have spotted in Qatar. …”
The Athletic

Emiliano Martinez’s starring role for Argentina: The spread saves, the penalties, the mind games


“In psychology, the butterfly effect describes how small, seemingly insignificant moments can have huge, unforeseen long-term effects. A butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon on the other side of the world is an example. As is Brighton striker Neal Maupay accidentally inflicting a season-ending injury on Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in June 2020 as the Premier League played out Project Restart after three months of pandemic lockdown. That paved the way for Emiliano Martinez, who had been at Arsenal for a decade but made only six league appearances for them before moving to Aston Villa, to become part of their starting XI and end up, 911 days later, lifting the World Cup with Argentina last night. …”
The Athletic

Argentina beat France on penalties to win World Cup: Messi’s legacy, Mbappe’s hat-trick


“One of the most exciting World Cup finals of all time was won on penalties by Argentina after Kylian Mbappe had scored a hat-trick to force the shootout. Argentina were coasting to victory with an hour gone with the score at 2-0 thanks to goals by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria. But when Di Maria came off in the 64th minute the game changed, and France and Mbappe’s confidence grew and grew. … Argentina went ahead through Messi’s close-range finish but Gonzalo Montiel’s handball gave Mbappe the chance to complete his hat-trick. He went the same way with his second penalty, hard to Emiliano Martinez’s right. Martinez was Argentina’s hero in the shootout, saving a spot kick from Kingsley Coman before Aurelien Tchouameni put his effort wide. Montiel, who had given away the penalty in the 117th minute, scored the one that sealed the victory. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Argentina are the most tactically flexible World Cup winners we have ever seen – Michael Cox
The Analyst – Argentina 3-3 France: Debate Over as Lionel Messi Finally Wins The World Cup
SI: Argentina, Messi Win Epic World Cup Final in PKs, Overcoming Mbappe’s Hat-Trick Heroics (Video)
Guardian – Argentina 3-3 France (aet, 4-2 on pens): World Cup final player ratings
CNN: Stepping out of Maradona’s shadow. How Lionel Messi won over the hearts of all of Argentina
The Athletic: Lionel Messi doesn’t need the ball to hurt you (Video)

Ousmane Dembele – a guide to France’s incompletely brilliant winger


“In Paris, somewhere in the Louvre, in halls packed with tourists snapping selfies in front of all things beautiful and gift shop-worthy, there’s a sculpture that gets largely overlooked. Unlike the gods around it, this one is incomplete. ‘We cannot know his legendary head / with eyes like ripening fruit,’ Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of the decapitated marble torso. But the poet was fascinated by this broken, perfect body that seemed ‘suffused with brilliance from within’. He lingered on the ‘placid hips’, the shoulders, the way the stone itself ‘burst like a star’. The poem ends abruptly, with a command to the reader that is akin to a slap in the face: ‘You must change your life.’ …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Ousmane Dembélé

France’s 2018 vs France 2022 – how have Deschamps’ side evolved tactically?


“‘You know that I don’t like comparing teams between the years,’ said France head coach Didier Deschamps after their quarter-final victory over England. But on Wednesday night they became just the fifth defending champions to reach the World Cup final and the first European side to do so since Italy in 1938. If they beat Argentina on Sunday they will become the first team in 60 years (Brazil in 1962) to retain the world crown. Deschamps might not like the comparison but, given their injuries and poor form coming into the tournament, how have they adapted their tactics to reach another final? …”
The Athletic (Video)
Slate: Nobody Can Stay in Front of These Frenchmen Forever (Video)

World Cup final tactical preview: Messi loves to exploit the exact spaces Mbappe leaves open


“Four years ago, France defeated Argentina 4-3 in a genuine epic of a World Cup second-round game. It was the day Kylian Mbappe transformed from a future great into one of the world’s best — his stunning 70-yard sprint to win a penalty ended up being the defining image of his World Cup, France’s World Cup, and World Cup 2018 overall. Lionel Messi, part of a shambolic Argentina side, was peripheral. It seemed Messi’s dominance was over. After 11 years in the top three, he didn’t finish on the Ballon d’Or podium that year. Neither, in fairness, did Mbappe — although he was obviously the coming force, set to become better and better. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022: Vittorio Pozzo’s legacy and a record that is finally under threat


“When Didier Deschamps leads his France side out to face Argentina in Sunday’s World Cup final, he will be hoping to take a further big step towards becoming only the second manager to retain the trophy. Just two nations have managed to win back-to-back men’s World Cups, Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962, but with the Selecao job changing hands between successes, former Azzurri coach stands alone. Nicknamed Il Vecchio Maestro (the Old Master) in coaching circles, Pozzo was considered a visionary of the time and is credited as one of the minds behind the Metodo formation, the earliest example of the 4-3-3 we recognise today. …”
BBC
W – Vittorio Pozzo

Argentina succeeded by doing what few have tried at this World Cup


Argentina’s 3-0 victory over Croatia was a curious contest. Nothing much happened for the opening half hour and you were left waiting for the game to get going. Then, suddenly, it felt like game over. Two goals in a five-minute spell put Argentina in command and while Croatia have a habit of coming from behind at World Cups, they never appeared to have the necessary attacking threat to get back into this one. The tactical battle was fairly typical of this World Cup. Both sides concentrated on keeping it tight between defence and attack, conceding space both behind their defence and in front of the midfield, but never between the lines. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox
The Athletic: Lionel Messi winning World Cup would define him but he’s already among the greatest of all (Video)

Morocco starting in a 5-4-1 system cost them their shot at the World Cup final


“Before Morocco’s semi-final with France, Walid Regragui made a surprise decision. Having guided Morocco further than any other African side in World Cup history with a 4-5-1 formation, he decided to start this contest with a 5-4-1. It owed much to the fitness problems of his defenders. Nayef Aguerd pulled out shortly before kick-off, Romain Saiss lasted 20 minutes, and Noussair Mazraoui didn’t make it to the second half. With concerns about the mobility of those defenders, and up against France’s speedy wingers, Regragui opted to load up on another defender. On paper, it made sense. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

France beat Morocco to reach final: Mbappe v Messi, Amrabat’s tackle and a rare fast start


W – Antoine Griezmann
France withstood an impressive Morocco display to set up a World Cup final with Argentina on Sunday that pits Kylian Mbappe against his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi. Theo Hernandez, who came into the France side in the first game when his brother Lucas suffered a tournament-ending knee injury, scored the opening goal after just five minutes, acrobatically steering the ball past goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Why Antoine Griezmann Is France’s Most Important Player
Guardian: France bring Morocco’s adventure to an end and reach World Cup final
Guardian: Antoine Griezmann’s devilment gives France the edge when it matters
The Analyst: France 2-0 Morocco: France Through to Fourth Final in Last Seven World Cups