England v Italy preview

June 24, 2012
England v Italy preview

After three one-sided quarter-finals, this should be a much tighter, tenser tactical battle.

Roy Hodgson will name a standard 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 formation, and although there’s a chance that a more direct winger could start on the flanks, it’s probable that he’ll stick with the starting XI that overcame Ukraine in the final group game.

Cesare Prandelli’s formation is much less clear. Having used a 3-5-2 for Italy’s opening two games against Spain and Croatia, he switched to a 4-4-2 diamond for the win over Ireland. Read more »

Spain 2-0 France: Blanc’s double right-back plan fails and Alonso deservedly scores both goals

June 24, 2012
Spain 2-0 France: Blanc’s double right-back plan fails and Alonso deservedly scores both goals

Laurent Blanc named an extremely reactive team – but France neither stifled Spain’s threat down the left, nor played their own game effectively.

Vicente del Bosque had hinted he would make changes from the team that beat Croatia, though it was still a surprise to see Cesc Fabregas return to the side in a false nine role, meaning Spain played the XI that started against Italy in the opening game – an experiment that didn’t go well.

Blanc’s XI was a huge surprise. He named Mathieu Debuchy on the right side of midfield, practically given a man-marking job on Jordi Alba. That meant Anthony Reveillere made his first start of the tournament at right-back. Florent Malouda was given a role in the centre of midfield, while Samir Nasri was only on the bench. France had come to contain rather than to attack.

But their performance was remarkably feeble. Their gameplan from the outset failed, and Blanc then found himself unable to react effectively at 1-0 down. Spain weren’t spectacular, but they were clearly the better side. Read more »

Spain v France preview

June 23, 2012
Spain v France preview

Spain have never beaten France in a competitive fixture – can they put that record straight tonight?

Spain approach

Spain are clearly the favourites here, and as the side less likely to change their shape or spring a tactical surprise, it makes sense to consider them first.

Vicente del Bosque hinted yesterday that he’d consider changing his side slightly, and while it’s almost unthinkable that he’d change the ‘first’ nine players (ie Iker Casillas through to Andres Iniesta), the other two positions, occupied by David Silva and Fernando Torres, are less secure.

Torres remains the favourite to start, despite competition from Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo. There’s certainly an argument that Llorente would be better suited to this game, to test the aerial ability of the French centre-backs, and one could also argue that Negredo is now better at playing Torres’ old game than the Torres of 2012. Del Bosque places loyalty and familiarity before tactical concerns, though, and seems more likely to stick with the Chelsea striker. Read more »