FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup key lessons from Saudi Arabia and Japan’s surprising upsets, as well as England, France, and Spain’s crushing victories.
The FIFA World Cup has gotten off to a hectic start, with the opening round of matches bringing more excitement than any previous international football competition in recent memory. There have been stunning shocks, crushing victories, individual brilliance, and great drama.
Here are a few key points:
The intense press
One of the most noticeable characteristics of the World Cup has been the desire of the so-called lesser teams to move farther up the field in order to win the ball in enemy territory.
Before the commencement of the Globe Cup, FIFA World Cup’s head of global football development, Arsene Wenger, said that pressing had become “totally ubiquitous” throughout the world. And it has shown to be an effective method for teams who have modified their approach to push the issue off the ball when they lack the individual skill to compete on the ball.
The focus is on gaining the ball back in parts of the field where teams may threaten offensively and make most of the limited possession they have, rather than winning the ball back in defensive zones and then facing relentless onslaught.
The incredibly high defensive line, which not only terrified the opponents but also caught them offside ten times, resulted in three disallowed goals in Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 triumph against Argentina. Japan’s second-half comeback against Germany was based on a similar heavy push. Tunisia’s well-earned draw against FIFA World Cup Denmark came from the same hazardous strategy, in one of the more under-the-radar games.
Iran, Costa Rica, and Serbia all suffered crushing losses after opting to sit back and wait for counter-attacking possibilities on their own.
The emphasis is on breadth
In this tournament, the bulk of foreign teams have depended on producing chances from broad areas rather than core channels.
Both Morocco and South Korea’s strategy centered on generating overloads on the flanks with their wing-backs pressing extremely high and isolating defenders. Canada were magnificent against a lacklustre Belgium, and their wing-backs were a constant menace. Both England and France looked much more dangerous when they were able to pull defenders in by moving their wide players and attackers into the openings.
Width was also important for Saudi Arabia, who pulled off the greatest statistical shock in World Cup history. While defending the lead, their wingers not only pushed higher to drive opponent wide players deeper, but they also assisted their full-backs by trailing back to create two-on-ones and leaving little space behind their defensive line for Argentina to utilise from wide areas.
Sticking to wide spaces in the buildup may be a safe but repetitive kind of play, with teams spraying passes from end to end, cautiously seeking for an opening at the FIFA World Cup. They have added an edge to that strategy by exploiting the wide areas incisively – more and more teams now play with three at the back to be able to utilise the attacking potential of their wing-backs.
Wing-backs have been the most important component of many teams. After observing each other’s initial games, it will be interesting to observe how others respond defensively to this.
Argentina and Germany were not the only elite teams to fall behind in the first round. Belgium overcame Canada 1-0, although they were clearly the weaker side; Uruguay generated almost nothing in their 0-0 draw with South Korea. Portugal needed a controversial penalty and some late luck to win 3-2 against Ghana, the tournament’s lowest-ranked squad. Morocco held 2018 finalists Croatia to a 0-0 draw.
The inaugural winter FIFA World Cup has an air of exhaustion about it, with teams arriving in Qatar after a grueling start to the season. Countries with the bulk of their players participating in Europe’s top leagues are impacted not just by injuries, but also by weariness. These teams also had less than a week to practice and prepare for the World Cup, and they were unable to establish patterns of play together.
The majority of Asian countries, on the other hand, have been together for three to four weeks prior to the start of the tournament. Leagues in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran all concluded in October at the FIFA World Cup.
So far, the big teams that got it right have won 6-2 and 7-0, respectively, while France and Brazil won 4-1 and 2-0 but could have scored a lot more. Expect the usual suspects, particularly Argentina and Germany, who both created chances and had above-average xG and other stats in their favor, to have their act together in the games to come.