France 5-2 Iceland: Griezmann & Giroud together helps wins the game before half-time

July 5, 2016
France 5-2 Iceland: Griezmann & Giroud together helps wins the game before half-time

A completely one-sided game in Paris, as France progressed to the semi-final with ease.

Didier Deschamps had two players suspended. Adil Rami was replaced by left-footed Samuel Umtiti, who was making his international debut, which meant Laurent Koscielny moved to the right of the centre-back duo. The other decision was more important, however. With N’Golo Kante out, Deschamps selected right-sided midfielder Moussa Sissoko rather than Yohan Cabaye, who would have been a direct replacement for Kante. This meant the system changed from 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, featuring Antoine Griezmann just behind Olivier Giroud.

Iceland joint-managers Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson named the same team for the fifth consecutive game, in the usual 4-4-2 shape.

Iceland’s journey to this stage has been remarkable, but their limitations were exposed here. France were 4-0 up by half-time, and switched off for the second half.

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Germany 1-1 Italy: Low matches Conte’s back three, and playmaking starts from defence

July 4, 2016
Germany 1-1 Italy: Low matches Conte’s back three, and playmaking starts from defence

Germany squeezed past Italy on penalties, after Jogi Low changed his formation to match Italy’s three-man defence.

That change involved dropping Julian Draxler and bringing Benedikt Howedes back into the side. Sami Khedira started alongside Toni Kroos, but lasted just 15 minutes because of injury, and was replaced by Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Antonio Conte was without the injured Daniele De Rossi and the suspended Thiago Motta, with Marco Parolo playing that deep midfield role and Stefano Sturaro coming into the side on his right.

The tactical interest here was mainly about Low’s formation decision – and while this created an interesting pattern, neither manager did much to change the situation.

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Wales 3-1 Belgium: positioning of Ramsey, Bale, Taylor & Gunter pulls Belgium out of shape

July 4, 2016
Wales 3-1 Belgium: positioning of Ramsey, Bale, Taylor & Gunter pulls Belgium out of shape

Wales went behind – but nevertheless produced a brilliant all-round team display to eliminate Belgium.

Chris Coleman made one change to his side, reintroducing Hal Robson-Kanu, who was deemed more likely to stretch the Belgian defence than Sam Vokes, a more traditional centre-forward. In a game where Wales expected to play on the break, that key selection decision made sense.

Marc Wilmots was forced to completely change the left of his defence, with Thomas Vermaelen suspended and Jan Vertonghen injured. Jordan Lukaku played at left-back, with Jason Denayer at centre-back.

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Portugal 1-1 Poland: Portugal forced to press higher, but game fades badly

July 2, 2016
Portugal 1-1 Poland: Portugal forced to press higher, but game fades badly

Portugal qualify for the semi-finals, despite failing to win any of their five matches in 90 minutes.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos made two changes. The most important decision was handing Renato Sanches his first start of the competition, while Eliseu returned at left-back. Andre Gomes and Raphael Guerreiro dropped out.

Poland manager Adam Nawalka named an unchanged side for the first time at Euro 2016

This game started off excellently – an early goal forced Portugal to come out and play more proactively than they had intended – but faded quite disastrously after half-time, in terms of intensity, technical quality and tactical interest. The first half, though, had been entertaining.
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Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Real victorious on penalties

May 30, 2016
Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Real victorious on penalties

Atletico Madrid started poorly – but Diego Simeone’s half-time switch put them in charge.

Zinedine Zidane named his expected starting XI. There were few selection decisions to make – Cristiano Ronaldo was doubtful but assured of his starting place, even if not 100% fit. Indeed, the more the match continued, the more it became obvious Ronaldo wasn’t playing at his physical peak.

Simeone made one selection decision of note, preferring Stefan Savic at centre-back in place of Jose Gimenez. Although Savic has played only half as much as Gimenez this season, he’s generally looked more commanding and authoritative – and, significantly, less error-prone.

Real played roughly as expected, but Atletico were surprisingly sloppy in the early stages. Read more »

Atletico Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich (agg): Atletico progress on away goals

May 5, 2016
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich (agg): Atletico progress on away goals

Atletico narrowly progressed from a tight and extremely entertaining two-legged tie, as Bayern struggled to find the most suitable system for breaking down their opponents.

First leg

Diego Simeone was without star centre-back Diego Godin at the Vicente Calderon, so Stefan Savic started instead. Fernando Torres returned having served his suspension in the second leg of the quarter-final against Barcelona, and partnered Antoine Griezmann in Atletico’s compact 4-4-2 system.

Pep Guardiola surprisingly omitted Thomas Muller from his starting XI. He fielded two out-and-out wingers, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, on their natural flanks to help Bayern stretch the play. Read more »

Bayern 4-2 Juventus: flexible system puts Juve in charge, but Bayern subs prompt comeback

March 18, 2016
Bayern 4-2 Juventus: flexible system puts Juve in charge, but Bayern subs prompt comeback

Bayern achieved a brilliant comeback in one of the best Champions League knockout games for many years.

Pep Guardiola was without Arjen Robben, so Douglas Costa switched to the right flank with Franck Ribery playing on the left. Xabi Alonso started in the holding role rather than Thiago, while Mehdi Benatia was at centre-back, with David Alaba on the left and Juan Bernat on the bench.

Max Allegri had major injury problems, without Claudio Marchisio and Paulo Dybala from the XI which started the first leg, and Giorgio Chiellini still out too. Alvaro Morata played upfront instead of Dybala, and Hernanes started in place of Marchisio – but the real point of interest was Juve’s overall system.

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Manchester City 1-3 Leicester: early goal allows Leicester to play on the break

February 10, 2016
Manchester City 1-3 Leicester: early goal allows Leicester to play on the break

Leicester’s incredible season continues – they’re now five points clear at the top of the Premier League after this convincing victory.

Manuel Pellegrini’s most interesting selections were down his left flank. Fabian Delph was fielded in a narrow left-sided role, as he was for the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal shortly before Christmas, while Pellegrini also selected his more attack-minded left-back, Aleksandar Kolarov. This was likely to be a key zone considering Riyad Mahrez plays on that side and Jamie Vardy often drifts towards the inside-right channel. Pablo Zabaleta started over Bacary Sagna on the opposite side.

Claudio Ranieri rarely rotates his side – this was the fourth consecutive game he’d deployed this XI from the start.

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Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid: Busquets drops back to help Barcelona gain control

February 3, 2016
Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid: Busquets drops back to help Barcelona gain control

Atletico started strongly, but a tactical switch helped Barcelona exert their authority.

Luis Enrique named his expected line-up – essentially his strongest starting XI. Arda Turan was on the bench, for his first meeting against his former side.

Diego Simeone named Yannick Carrasco in a support striker role, close to Antoine Griezmann, while Jose Giminez was recalled alongside compatriot Diego Godin. Read more »