Yuki Abe

The team and formation used in every World Cup 2010 game by coach Takeshi Okada.

Having recently tied Portuguese compatriot João Miguel (‘Moreno’) to a three-year contract, Leicester City coach Paulo Sousa is already seeking a rival for him in the defensive-midfield position.

Perhaps Sousa scored a free lunch courtesy of stadium sponsor Walkers – an afternoon spent tongue-tackling the remnants of Japanese Teriyaki crisps lodged in his gnashers then providing the idea of raiding the J-League.

The Japanese market has been neglected by Europe’s more powerful leagues, with suitors presumably deterred by the notoriously brittle East Asian physique, and a general paucity of individuality.

Yet with the worldwide tactical tenor of deploying a sitting-midfielder beginning to engulf England’s lower-league sides, homogeneity as an attribute has burgeoned in attractiveness. Continue reading

Schalke and Magath back for more

How Bayern Munich and Schalke lined-up in the former's 2-0 Super Cup victory recently. Schalke's reticence and aversion to the ball was as rigidly operated as you'd expect from a Magath team. Schalke's walls narrowed the angles, the forwards and Joel Matip penned Bastian Schweinsteiger in a triangular prison.

Schalke’s tactics of score few, concede fewer have led to third and second place domestic finishes in two of the last three seasons, with current coach Felix Magath achieving the latter.

The ruthless disciplinarian is impossible to second-guess, as he’ll relentlessly tinkers tactics and personnel between or during matches, and last season, even removed poor Christoph Moritz 22 minutes after bringing him on in the derby!

Money issues dog the club, affecting transfer policy, budgets, wage payments and the general aura. The club’s Champions League participation this season will bolster the kitty, especially if Schalke progress beyond the group stage.

Balancing Bundesliga and European battles will be tough for the Gelsenkirchen side, regardless of their hefty, youthful squad which has been endowed by the quite astounding acquisition of Raúl.

Save for the ageing Real Madrid legend, strikers are only conspicuous by their absence at the club right now. With Kevin Kurányi lured to Russia, Edu Gonçalves is as senior as the back-up comes. Nevertheless, expect that situation to be remedied imminently. Continue reading

Thirty-two tastes of tactics

Marcelo Bielsa, Chile coach at World Cup 2010

Listing catch-all formations runs the risk of disengaging the context in which they were used.

Nevertheless, this is generally more applicable to the club game, but international managers must foist an unconditional style upon their sides.

Infrequent contact and matches mean training camps focus upon reacclimatising to the coach’s methods: there’s just too little time before games to adequately prepare new, finicky masterplans.

The World Cup, where opponents are often discovered several days before the encounter itself, illustrates the difference between the international and club game.

Based on World Cup 2010, I’ve captured the essence of each national team’s current tactics and formation. Here are my attempts to encapsulate the findings in browser-friendly pen profiles. 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