Introduction of Cavani a tactical masterstroke

Edinson Cavani

Diego Forlán is the poster boy for Uruguay’s successful campaign in the World Cup, and perhaps justifiably so. On the march to the second round, the former Manchester United striker has steered La Celeste to seven points, four goals, and none conceded.

Yet had coach Óscar Tabárez not implemented adjustments in the wake of that 0-0 with France, Uruguay would likely be on the plane home.

In that game, Uruguay looked empty down the right, and Patrice Evra attacked at will. With Ignacio González as trequartista, and Forlán and Luis Suárez high and horizontal, the South Americans floundered.

Realising his tactics were wrong (but saved from defeat by French incompetence), the former Milan manager identified and addressed the issue.

For the encounter with hosts South Africa, Tabárez included Edinson Cavani, the Palermo marksman, part of a partnership with Fabrizio Miccoli at club level, put out on the right of midfield. Continue reading

What to expect from Algeria

Algeria with the ball. They utilise the left flank mainly, with Nadir Belhadj offering width, and Ziani cutting inside

In the second game to be contested in Group C, Slovenia overcame the much-dismissed North Africans by a single goal. The match-deciding strike was late, and came courtesy of a goalkeeping blunder.

The goal was a cruel blow to one man in particular, as although Algerian ‘keeper Faouzi Chaouchi made a meal of holding on to Robert Koren’s tame strike, the 25-year-old stopper had looked distinguishably sturdy during the rest of the game.

The Slovenians went at him from set-pieces from the off – Boštjan Cesar attacked whip-ins with the air of Bruce Lee. One vertical punch aside, Chaouchi’s fisting was decisive from all Slovenia’s deliveries. Likewise, the rest of the Algerian side defended Slovenian set-plays with a steely discipline, and didn’t give their opponents an inch.

England and USA fans should note that Les Fennecs are as content off the ball as they are on it. Their goal kicks tend to be played short, though expect the occasional (central) punt. For the latter scenario, Karim Ziani shifts inside to flick the ball on.

England’s defence should also note that Rafik Djebbour works hard up top despite a paucity of service or numerical support. Continue reading

Playmaking defenders characterise the losers

Japan vs Cameroon

Despite neglecting to play a recognised striker against Cameroon, Japan still managed to score the game’s only goal. Their African opponents, on the other hand, started with with a striking-trident, but lacked an incision.

The trio of attacking midfielders instead utilised by Okada were wonderfully dynamic and fluid.

Japan’s tactics dithered little from first whistle to last. If anything, Keisuke Honda’s goal was incidental, but unsurprisingly, it resulted from a rare occasion of Japan’s attackers venturing into Cameroon’s box. Continue reading

Attackers abound at Zenit

ohhhh Danny Boy, I love you so...

Danny

After 11 rounds of a 34-game season, the Russian Premier League is having a breather. The campaign continues later this month, and top of the perch, with a game to spare, are Zenit St Petersburg.

Life’s going well in Eastern Europe for Luciano Spalletti right now, with seven wins, three draws, three goals against and a Russian Cup victory to his name.

Taking to the Italian’s 4-2-3-1 like the proverbial water-finding duck, St. Petersburg are blessed with some of Europe’s most mesmerising midfielders.

Chief among them is €30m man Danny. Exceptional technique, poise, pace, composed finishing and killer through-passes make the Portuguese international Zenit’s key player.

Alas, the long-haired superstar will miss several games when the league resumes due to World Cup selection. Currently one of the continent’s most in-form players, Portugal’s gain is his club’s side loss. Continue reading

The joys of Heracles Almelo and SC Freiburg

Unsurprisingly, the candidates for the side most pleasing on the eye in Europe generally include Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Werder Bremen.

But scan the Bundesliga in depth, delve inside the Eredivisie, and two more hats are tossed into that ring.

Continue reading

Things looking up for Hertha BSC

Andriy Voronin, 2008/09

Andriy Voronin, 2008/09

Christopher Towers wrote a piece on the Berliners for When Saturday Comes recently. In it, he refers to the team’s relegation in May as “remarkable”. In reality, it was anything but.

Die Alte Dame may have mounted a quasi-title challenge in 2008/09, but the foundations were hollow, the bid a bit of an anomaly.

Lucien Favre’s gameplan was built on a sit/suck/surge/shoot (repeat) style that made for 1-0 wins and frustrated football fans.

As Rangers, Greece, Fulham, Schalke and so on have shown in recent seasons, short-term spurts of success are easy to attain via these kind of tactics.

Inevitably, such flavours are played by *smaller* clubs, or, in the case of Schalke, Rangers, and Hertha, those with finances preventing extravagance. In the case of the latter, the capital-city side’s cobweb-ridden vaults meant that their personnel-crown jewels were sold over the summer – occasionally talismanic heroes such as Marko Pantelic, Andriy Voronin and Josip Šimunić. In spite of this, the club were still €35m in debt, and thus had no way of plugging the gaps.

Things got worse on and off the pitch as the season went on – perhaps worst of all, yobs rioting in the stadium after another home defeat. The relegation was prolonged until the penultimate weekend, but nigh-on certain from about September. Continue reading