2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


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


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

September 8, 2021


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


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

September 6, 2021


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


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


Were these the best games at UEFA EURO 2020?

July 10, 2021


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


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

July 8, 2021


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


Italy suffer for shootout win in emotional and authentic tournament tussle

July 7, 2021


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


No Semifinalist Is an Island

July 6, 2021


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


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

July 5, 2021


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


Will striker shortcomings cost Spain when it matters most?

July 5, 2021


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


Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. Denmark

July 4, 2021


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


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


Euro 2020: Spain ride their luck, Switzerland’s runs out after tense, tiring quarterfinal

July 2, 2021


“It was the game that had everything, followed by a penalty shootout that lurched one way and then another. By the end of an energy-sapping and psychologically draining 120 minutes, Spain rode their luck — and Switzerland saw theirs run out — to claim a place in the Euro 2020 semifinals after a 3-1 win on penalties following a 1-1 draw. … While the nerves affected both sets of players, the prize of a semifinal (and maybe yet a place in the final) ended up with Spain thanks to two shootout saves by goalkeeper Unai Simon and a wayward attempt by Swiss substitute Ruben Vargas, who sent his shot over the crossbar. …”
ESPN (Video)
Guardian: Unai Simón and Spain complete redemption tale in shootout
BBC: Switzerland 1 – 1 Spain, Spain win 3-1 on penalties


Croatia 3-5 Spain (AET): Alvaro Morata scores in extra-time to book Euro 2020 quarter-final place

June 28, 2021


“Alvaro Morata’s extra-time goal helped Spain secure an extraordinary 5-3 victory over Croatia in a pulsating Euro 2020 last-16 tie in Copenhagen. In a game full of twists and turns, Luis Enrique’s side dominated the early stages but fell behind in bizarre circumstances when goalkeeper Unai Simon’s miscontrol caused Pedri’s 49-yard backpass to bounce into his own net (20). Spain fought back, scoring three goals without reply through Pablo Sarabia (38), Cesar Azpilicueta (57) and Ferran Torres (76), but Croatia, who appeared out of it at that point, staged a remarkable comeback to send the game into extra-time. …”
Sky Sports
Guardian: Luis Enrique’s Spanish revolution takes nerve-shredding step forward – Jonathan Wilson
ESPN – Euro 2020: Spain show character in spades again, as Morata, Simon inspire extra-time win vs. Croatia (Video)


EURO 2020: tactical trends

June 27, 2021


No team has pressed or had the ball as much as Spain but that did not help them beat Sweden in their opening game
“Thirty-six matches played, with 94 goals scored at an average of 2.61 per game. It is a ratio lower than the 2.93 recorded in last season’s UEFA Champions League, yet this is no surprise for the UEFA technical observers analysing the action at UEFA EURO 2020. Their reflections on the opening fortnight of action point to less risk-taking than in the European club competitions with a tendency towards three centre-backs and low blocks – arguably motivated by the wish to avoid early elimination. …”
UEFA (Video)
Tactical trends from the Euro 2020 group stages: What we’ve learned


The Case for a 32-Team Euros

June 26, 2021


Portugal found a way through to the round of 16.
“Thomas Vermaelen’s header hit the ground first and then rose before colliding with the post near the corner where it meets the crossbar. As the ball spun out, sideways toward the middle of the goal, Lukas Hradecky, the Finland goalkeeper, was still turning around. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Instinctively, Hradecky reached out a hand to try to swat the ball away. In that instant, on his fingertips, a substantial portion of Euro 2020 hung. Had Hradecky been able to claw the ball away from his goal, away from danger, Finland might have been able to hang on, to keep a vaguely interested Belgium at bay, to qualify for the knockout stages of the first major tournament it has ever reached. Denmark, playing simultaneously in Copenhagen, might have been sent home. …”
NY Times


Euro 2020’s flying full-backs show risk-free football is not the only path to victory

June 25, 2021


Lukaku & De Bruyne
“… Which is perhaps a polite way of saying a little bit boring. But then most successful international sides are, based on the construction of a solid base and a couple of gifted creators who can extemporise upon that – or at least they have been. The sophisticated models that dominate at elite club level take time to instil. To press effectively in the modern game takes weeks of repetitions on the training ground so that players know instinctively when to hunt the ball and when to ease off. And pressing is pointless if it isn’t coherent: it’s just players running about. It works only if conducted in packs: one or two men to the man in possession, a wave of others blocking off his options, either by closing down opponents or the passing lanes. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The tactical trends you’ve not noticed at Euro 2020

June 25, 2021


“After 36 games condensed into less than two weeks, the group stage of Euro 2020 is over. Sadly for us football fanatics, it means there are just 15 more games remaining to get your European international football fix for the summer. There have already been some interesting tactical battles, some records broken, and plenty of drama but we have picked out a few interesting trends that feel worthy of discussion in a little bit more detail. Is this the year of the three-man defence? Just how much do some players have to adapt between club and country? And is everyone just a bit… shattered? …”
The Athletic (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Sweden vs. Poland

June 24, 2021


“After yet another miserable international tournament display at Euro 2016 in France, the Swedish national team decided it was time to gamble. Back home, a recently promoted side, IFK Norrköping, had just won the Allsvenskan for the first time in 26 years. Their manager, Janne Andersson, had only coached two sides before that unprecedented title win, but that was enough to convince his country to come calling. … Yet, fast-forward four years, and Sweden are gearing up for their second Round-of-16 tie in as many tournaments. Competing in two major competitions under Janne Andersson, Blagult have finished top of their group in both, outranking both Germany and Spain along the way. And, with seven points from nine this time, they’ve even now gone unbeaten. It’s a managerial success story that perhaps doesn’t get as much credit as it should. …”
Breaking The Lines
[PDF] Sweden vs Poland
Breaking The Lines – Tactical Analysis: Spain vs. Poland


The Euro 2020 Group Stage Is Over: Here’s What We Learned

June 24, 2021


“With a couple of minutes to play in Budapest, the French midfielder Adrien Rabiot looked squarely at Sergio Oliveira, his Portuguese opponent, and advised him to back away. Like everyone else in the stadium, Rabiot had heard the news. The group stage of Euro 2020 was effectively over. Both France and Portugal were through to the knockout rounds. There was no need to run or to chase or to press. Now was the time for watching the clock. It had not, for either team, been a straightforward evening. The game had oscillated — Portugal led, then France, then Portugal struck back — and so had their fates, dependent to some extent on the outcome of the group’s other game, between Germany and Hungary in Munich. At one point or another, each of the four teams had believed they were going through. …”
NY Times


Analysed: Which Euro 2020 country matches which club side’s style?

June 24, 2021


“How are you finding the European Championship so far? Not missing club football at all? Or are you sitting on your couch lamenting the inferior standard of these international games, in between scrolling Twitter and replying to football journalists tweeting about Germany’s defensive system with ‘(insert name of sexy transfer target here) update?!?’ If you are, don’t worry. Major international tournaments are very different creatures from the European club season, for better and worse, and they’re not for everyone. Just ask Maurizio Sarri, who shocked journalists in January 2019 while Chelsea head coach when he admitted he didn’t watch a single minute of the previous summer’s World Cup because ‘there is not anything to learn from them’. …”
The Athletic


Euro 2020 power rankings: Italy lead the way after impressive group stage

June 24, 2021


“France and Belgium have been impressive but Italy are unbeaten in 30 and with a comfortable-looking last-16 tie. 1) Italy. The Roberto Mancini juggernaut rolls on. Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and none conceded in the group stage. Italy are unbeaten in 30 games, have not let in a goal for more than 1,000 minutes and beat Wales in their last group game having made eight changes. The introduction of Marco Verratti in that match added another layer to their game – he had been injured – and they are huge favourites against Austria. 2) France. The main question before the tournament was whether the reintroduction of Karim Benzema would destabilise the squad, but they won the group of death and the Real Madrid striker scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Portugal. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Euro 2020: the standout players from the 16 teams left in the tournament


Tactical Analysis: Spain vs. Poland

June 20, 2021


“As the final whistle pierced the drone of chatter inside the Estadio de la Cartuja, the Spanish players looked to the sky and puffed out their cheeks once again. Another uninspiring draw in Seville means that it’s the first time since 1996 that the national side haven’t won either of their opening two group games at the European Championships. They haven’t lost any, either, but something just doesn’t feel right in the Spanish camp. Off the pitch, Luis Enrique always seems to be a man under fire. Constantly having to defend his decisions from a barrage of disgruntled journalists, none more so than his unwavering faith in Álvaro Morata, there seems to be national disagreement as to how to best utilise this talented Spanish squad. And, while his vote of confidence in the on-loan Juventus striker was rewarded with the opening goal tonight, the lack of national harmony and trust in their set-up has never been so clear. …”
Breaking The Lines
YouTube: Spain vs. Poland – Tactical Analysis – Spain Continue Their Problems


At Euro 2020, a Reminder That Good Can Be Great

June 19, 2021


Italy: unbeaten, but not unbeatable.
“Let’s start with a little intellectual exercise. A purely hypothetical, entirely subjective, ultimately inconclusive one, admittedly, but still: Now that each of the presumed contenders to win the European Championship has shown at least some of its hand, how competitive would any of them be if they were to be parachuted, as they are, into the Champions League? Instinctively, it feels as if France, at least, would do pretty well. A front line of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé bears comparison to any attacking trident in the club game. …”
NY Times


Euro 2020 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


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


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


France’s Benchwarmers Are Worth More Than Most Starting Lineups

July 10, 2018

“France enters today’s semifinal match against neighboring Belgium as the favorite to win the 2018 World Cup. At least on paper, though, France has been the least remarkable team of the four that remain: Les Bleus have scored fewer goals than each of the other semifinalists, they’ve possessed less of the ball than two of the other semifinalists, and they’ve taken the fewest shots.” FiveThirtyEight


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt

July 5, 2018

“No side, perhaps, is ever so much itself as when it is going out of the World Cup. When teams – or at least those with aspirations to the title – fail, they tend to fail in their own way, and become too much of themselves: self-parody is a perennial danger. And so Spain and Germany went out of the World Cup after anaemic performances in which they seemed to fetishise possession rather than it being a means to an end. That doesn’t mean juego de posicion football is over, as some of the more excitable voices on social media have claimed; it just means that two teams who played football infected by Pep Guardiola had bad tournaments. Sides who play post-Cruyffian football won the league in Spain, England and Germany, while Napoli came second in Serie A.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Russia stun Spain with penalty shootout win to reach quarter finals, Iago Aspas and Koke miss from the spot

July 1, 2018


“It started as one of Spain’s typical grand passing rondos, it grew over 90 minutes and then 120 into one of the biggest mountains of possession amassed since World Cup records began, and by the end it felt like this great generation of players had run out of fresh ideas. This was the remnants of the great world champions of 2010 passing the ball 1,114 times in a match but unable to score more goals than a Russia team who refused to be passed to death in the way that so many opponents have in the past. By the end Andres Iniesta looked close to tears, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos had been beaten again and the masterplan that had seen Spain dominate the first decade of the century looked more than a little tired.” Telegraph

Tiki-taxi for Spain as style becomes vice against Russia’s rearguard
“Tiki-taxi for Spain. On a slow-burn, increasingly wild afternoon at the Luzhniki Stadium the outstanding team of the age produced a quietly extraordinary performance, exiting the World Cup with surely the most statistically dominant losing game ever mustered up. At the end Spain’s players sat drained in the centre circle, ranged like red pegs in the same static formation that had seen them pass and move and pass and pass their way through the previous 120 minutes.” Guardian


Fernando Hierro – Spain’s emergency manager with a pastoral touch

June 30, 2018


“The message arrived very late on the night Spain played their opening match against Portugal, so Miguel Linares did not see it until the following morning. When he looked at his phone, he says he could hardly believe it: it was from the national team manager, Fernando Hierro. The day before Linares had announced that, out of contract at 35, he was leaving second division Real Oviedo, where he had played for four seasons. During one of them – and not an especially successful one in 2016-17 – his manager had been Hierro, who now wrote from Russia to wish him well and offer thanks for everything he had done.” Guardian


World Cup Knockout Stage Statistical Primer

June 29, 2018


“The World Cup enters its knockout stage this weekend, which means we’ll see heartbreak and joy in every game. From multigoal thrillers to dour defensive battles that lead to anxiety-inducing penalty shootouts, the emotional roller coaster is about to ramp up a notch. Here are some statistical primers derived from the World Cup data collected by StatsBomb during the group stages.” The Ringer


Melilla, Morocco vs. Spain and the World Cup’s Unique Football Rivalry

June 27, 2018

“On Monday night in Russia’s Kaliningrad Stadium, Morocco played Spain in another thrilling FIFA World Cup match. It was the first time the two countries—which have had a love-hate relationship for over a millennium—met since a two-legged 1962 World Cup playoffs tie. Nowhere on earth—with the exception of Ceuta—had the match such political resonances than in Melilla, which is, along with Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on Moroccan soil. Melilla, with its wide boulevards, modernist buildings and tapas bars, has a distinctly Spanish feel. Palm trees abound.” Bleacher Report


Brazil, Spain, Germany, France failing to find attacking balance

June 25, 2018


Brazil – Neymar
“Football tactics are generally considered a mere necessary evil in football, discussed purely in terms of hampering individual freedom and disrupting opposition play. But tactical planning is also about attacking, about creating the right balance between different concepts to create a cohesive, harmonious but varied threat in the final third. Finding the balance in attack, combining different concepts and formulating how they come together smoothly is the most fascinating element of football strategy. An all-round attacking force offers various qualities: runs in behind, width to stretch play, movement to create gaps in the opposition, late runs from midfield, a target in the middle, a player between the lines to link play, and some degree of long-range, goal-scoring threat to ensure you don’t actually need to penetrate the defence. Limited to only three or four attacking individuals, however, coaches have a tricky balancing act. So far, none of the four favourites for World Cup 2018 — Brazil, Spain, Germany and France — have found the right balance.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Spain, Portugal Survive Simultaneous Madness; Uruguay Roughs Up Russia at World Cup

June 25, 2018

“Day 12 of World Cup 2018 is done, and the drama reached a peak level. In Group B, favorites Spain and Portugal couldn’t manage three points against their game foes (Spain 2, Morocco 2 and Portugal 1, Iran 1) but still advanced to the knockout rounds, even though Iran made it heartbreakingly close late against the Portuguese. Earlier in the day in Group A, things were considerably less dramatic, as Uruguay beat Russia 3-0 to win the group and leave the Russians in a we’ll-take-it second-place spot.” SI


World Cup 2018: How the likes of Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller helped industrialise youth coaching

June 25, 2018

“Back in the 2010 World Cup, before Andres Iniesta had scored the winner in the final but while he was still suffering the injury problems that would make that moment more wondrous, one leading figure in European youth football spotted something so specifically special about the playmaker’s game. The Barcelona star would always position himself so that he was an equal distance from all the opposition players around him. It meant that even if he was not at his physical maximum, as was the case for much of that World Cup, he still had the maximum space and opportunity to escape.” Independent


World Cup 2018: Diego Costa strikes lucky to down Iran and help Spain keep pace with Portugal

June 21, 2018

“Of course it was Diego Costa who broke the deadlock. He is a forward who bursts dreams as casually as others pop bubble-wrap, a player who, when his mood is right, gives the impression of being able to muster a goal from almost any circumstance. Half-chances, penalty box ricochets and opportunities wrestled from opposing centre-backs are his meat and drink. For 55 minutes, Spain had been held at arm’s length.” Independent – Jonathan Wilson


Spain, Portugal, Uruguay Restore Order With Narrow World Cup Wins

June 20, 2018

“MOSCOW — Day 7 of World Cup 2018 was defined by 1-0 scorelines and winners from established soccer countries that never really seemed like they were in danger of squandering those slim advantages. Portugal 1, Morocco 0; Uruguay 1, Saudi Arabia 0; and Spain 1, Iran 0 kept the tournament from having its first scoreless tie, and after a run of surprises in recent days, order was (at least temporarily) restored. Uruguay’s win ensured that La Celeste and host Russia will go through to the last 16 from Group A, while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco were all eliminated from contention after two matches.” SI


The race for the Golden Ball is not all about Ronaldo, despite his matchday one heroics

June 20, 2018

“WORLD CUP 2018 was widely hyped as the tournament where Leo Messi might finally taste success at international level, after several disappointments in an Argentina shirt. After one complete round of the World Cup, however, it’s his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo who is the competition’s outstanding performer so far, after his hattrick in Portugal’s electrifying 3-3 draw with Spain. A World Cup hattrick is, in itself, a very rare occurrence. There were none in 2006, one in 2010 and two in 2014, so Ronaldo’s treble was clearly a significant achievement. It was also an unusual hattrick comprised of a penalty, a free-kick and a goal from open play.” UniBet – Michael Cox


Portugal vs Spain: Cristiano Ronaldo shows new side to his game in classic clash of World Cup styles

June 16, 2018

“Formulate a checklist for the ideal World Cup encounter, and Portugal 3-3 Spain would tick every box: a historic rivalry, an early goal, a high tempo throughout, tremendous technical quality, both sides leading at various stages, a couple of stunning strikes, and a late twist. It was an aesthetically remarkable game, a consistently entertaining game, and also a strategically fascinating game, not because of formations or substitutions, but because Spain and Portugal attacked in entirely different ways.” Independent (Video)


Portugal 3 – 3 Spain

June 15, 2018


“Cristiano Ronaldo produced one of the great World Cup performances as his dramatic late free-kick earned Portugal a draw with Spain in a classic encounter in Sochi. The Real Madrid forward’s 88th minute swerving set-piece soared into the top corner to deny the Spanish a much-needed victory at the end of what has been a painful week for them in the south of Russia.” BBC (Video), The Ringer: Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Spain Was the Wake-up Call the World Cup Needed


World Cup Scouting: David Silva

June 15, 2018

“The first marquee match of the 2018 World Cup is Spain against Portugal. The match had enough drama to stand on its own merits, one of the favorites to win the tournament playing against the current champions of Europe, and that was before a chaotic 48 hour whirlwind laid waste to Spain’s camp. In the space of two days Spain’s manager Julen Lopetegui was hired to manage Real Madrid, announced the news suddenly before it leaked, and then was fired over how it all went down.” StatsBomb


World Cup 2018: How the likes of Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller helped industrialise youth coaching

June 13, 2018


“Back in the 2010 World Cup, before Andres Iniesta had scored the winner in the final but while he was still suffering the injury problems that would make that moment more wondrous, one leading figure in European youth football spotted something so specifically special about the playmaker’s game. The Barcelona star would always position himself so that he was an equal distance from all the opposition players around him. It meant that even if he was not at his physical maximum, as was the case for much of that World Cup, he still had the maximum space and opportunity to escape.” Independent (Video)


World Cup favourites choosing defensive-minded midfielders over deep-lying playmakers

June 11, 2018


“The most fascinating tactical development over the past few World Cups has been the increased popularity of the deep playmaker. Having nearly become extinct around the turn of the century, it’s notable that recent World Cup winners have generally depended upon a great creative influence from deep.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


World Cup Preview 2018: Messi vs. Ronaldo, Magic Cats, Iceland!!, and the Entire Emotional Context in Which Much of Human Life Transpires

June 10, 2018

“Ladies and gentlemen, start your psychic octopuses. The biggest and strangest sporting event in human history resumes next week in Russia, where thirty-two men’s national soccer teams will begin the monthlong competition for the strangely un-cup-like trophy given to the winners of the FIFA World Cup. For many of the world’s best soccer players, the tournament offers a chance to become legends in their home countries and icons in the history of the game. For billions of soccer fans, the tournament offers a chance to participate in modernity’s most sweeping collective frenzy, a spectacle that will shape the emotional context in which much of human life transpires for the next few weeks. For the United States men’s national team, which did not qualify, the tournament offers a chance to feel gloomy while eating Cheetos on the couch.” New Yorker – Brian Phillips


Who’s the Best No. 10 at the World Cup?

June 9, 2018


“In Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics, Jonathan Wilson describes the symbolism of the no. 10 as “the ‘free-spirited epitome of the artistry of soccer.’ And while free-spirits have become fewer and farther between as more money’s been poured into the game and managers have systematized their tactics, the no. 10 is still typically given to the most creative player on the team. Or, in Poland or Nigeria’s case, it’s given to a defensive midfielder best known for his ability to make tackles and pass the ball sideways. But each team has its reasons, and so with all of the World Cup squad lists now officially released, we each ranked all the nos. 10 set to play in Russia this summer, tallied the results, and came out with the following list. No. 1 is obvious, but that’s about the only spot we came close to agreeing on. Yes, someone, who shall remain nameless out of our sheer fear for his safety, didn’t put Lionel Messi first.” The Ringer


World Cup groups A-D preview – Football Weekly

June 9, 2018

“Max Rushden is joined by voices from around the world to preview World Cup groups A-D, including Danish royalty, Peruvian vigour and the prospect of a tournament without a French meltdown.” Guardian (Audio)


Your complete guide to all 736 players at the 2018 World Cup

June 7, 2018

“Biographies of every player in all 32 squads in Russia, including caps, goals, nicknames, hobbies and, once the tournament starts, ratings for every performance. We strive to give you an unbiased, trustworthy and in-depth view of the world’s most prestigious football tournament. If you think that’s worth something, then you can support The Guardian from as little as £1 – and it only takes a minute.” Guardian


Can Morocco Squeeze Past Spain Or Portugal?

June 7, 2018

“Group B features what could have been one of the World Cup’s unexpected teams to watch in Morocco, whose 72.3 rating in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index places the Lions of the Atlas as the 18th best in the world, tops among all teams from Africa and ahead of more touted underdogs like Iceland and Peru. In Group A, Morocco would be the story. But an unfortunate draw matched it with defending Euro champion Portugal and perennial power Spain.” FiveThirtyEight


Who Will Win the 2018 World Cup? SI’s Expert Predictions and Knockout Brackets

June 4, 2018


“The World Cup kicks off June 14 in Moscow with a meeting between the two lowest-ranked teams in the field, which, in some ways, is quite appropriate. The competition is meant to be a crescendo, one whose drama and defining moments don’t occur until the very end. With the way the draw and schedule worked out, that’s precisely how Russia 2018 is shaping up to play out. Russia vs. Saudi Arabia will be a massive 90 minutes for the host nation, which can set its tone for the tournament in front of its partisan crowd. But once it’s over, the focus will shift to the traditional powers and the individual superstars who figure to have plenty of say in determining the 2018 world champion. …” SI


Russia 2018: Group B

June 4, 2018

“The defence is arguably the best in the competition. Even if Dani Carvajal isn’t fit, Cesar Azpilicueta is a fine replacement, with left-back Jordi Alba crucial for offering thrust and speed from the left. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique aren’t friends off the pitch, but remain reliable as a defensive partnership, and David De Gea is surely the best goalkeeper at the tournament. There’s a slight question over Sergio Busquets, who is more isolated in this system and is increasingly lacking mobility. Nevertheless, Spain are rightly strong favourites for this group and probably overpriced to win the World Cup overall. …” oddschecker – Michael Cox


World Cup 2018 team previews: what you need to know about all 32 teams (ESPN)

May 25, 2018


“The 2018 World Cup might be missing some big nations, but that’s what makes this tournament the best in sports. Brazil are looking to bounce back from a travesty in 2014, while Spain, Argentina and France are hoping to dethrone defending champions Germany and their typically deep squad. Can Belgium or Portugal make a splash? Do England have what it takes to challenge too? ESPN FC is previewing every team ahead of the opening game on June 14 in English, Spanish and Portuguese to give a truly global feel to our team profiles. Here’s what you need to know about the 32 teams set to do battle in Russia beginning on June 14. …”
ESPN


2018 FIFA World Cup

May 25, 2018

“The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be the 21st FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men’s national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It is scheduled to take place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018, after the country was awarded the hosting rights on 2 December 2010. This will be the first World Cup held in Europe since the 2006 tournament in Germany, and the first ever to be held in Eastern Europe. All of the stadium venues are in European Russia, to keep travel time manageable. The final tournament will involve 32 national teams, which include 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team. Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup. A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 venues located in 11 cities. The final will take place on 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. …” Wikipedia


World Cup 2018 squad guide: Latest news and updates ahead of Russia (Independent)

May 25, 2018

“The 2018 World Cup is now only weeks away. The 32 countries have until the May 14 deadline to name their provisional squads for Russia with managers all over the globe currently scratching their heads as they bid to whittle down their long list of possibles and probables in time for the final June 4 cut off, just 10 days before the opener in Moscow. However, many teams – England included, – have already pledged to name their lucky few earlier with Gareth Southgate set to pick his 23 before the final pre-tournament friendlies with Nigeria and Costa Rica. …” Independent (Video)