Brazil 2-0 Mexico: Brazil start strongly but fade

June 20, 2013
Brazil 2-0 Mexico: Brazil start strongly but fade

The opening suggested Brazil would win comfortably – but they spent the majority of the second half clinging onto a one-goal lead.

Luiz Felipe Scolari kept the same XI that defeated Japan in the opening game.

On the right flank, Jose Manuel de la Torre stuck with the duo that ended the defeat to Italy – Gerardo Flores on the wing and Hiram Mier at full-back, with winger Javier Aquino on the bench. Carlos Salcido switched from left-back to the centre of midfield, with Jorge Nilo coming into the side.

Brazil started ferociously and pinned Mexico back into their own half, but their overall performance was disappointing. Read more »

Spain 2-1 Uruguay: Del Bosque changes his midfield structure, Uruguay are disorganised

June 18, 2013
Spain 2-1 Uruguay: Del Bosque changes his midfield structure, Uruguay are disorganised

Spain’s level of dominance should have resulted in a much more emphatic victory.

Xabi Alonso is unavailable for the Confederations Cup because of injury, and in his absence Vicente del Bosque changed the structure of his side, using Sergio Busquets as the sole holder, moving Xavi Hernandez into the role he plays at Barcelona, and introducing Cesc Fabregas as a number ten who could drive forward at the opposition defence. Roberto Soldado played upfront.

Oscar Tabarez left Diego Forlan on the bench, with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez upfront. Gaston Ramirez and Cristian Rodriguez were the attacking midfielders, with Walter Gargano in the middle.

Spain’s possession dominance was astonishing in the first period, as Uruguay struggled to get out of their own half. Read more »

Italy 2-1 Mexico: Italy excel down the left flank

June 18, 2013
Italy 2-1 Mexico: Italy excel down the left flank

Italy dominated for the majority of the match, and Mario Balotelli was a fitting matchwinner.

Cesare Prandelli selected a 4-3-2-1 system, using Juventus duo Claudio Marchisio and Emanuele Giaccherini behind lone striker Balotelli.

Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre used a standard 4-2-3-1 system, playing Giovani dos Santos behind Javier Hernandez.

Mexico had some bright moments, particularly through the lively Dos Santos – but Italy were the better side, and created more goalscoring opportunities. Read more »

Brazil 3-0 Japan: Brazil start the Confederations Cup with an encouraging performance

June 16, 2013
Brazil 3-0 Japan: Brazil start the Confederations Cup with an encouraging performance

Brazil scored at the start of the first half, at the start of the second half, and in the final minute.

Luiz Felipe Scolari named his expected side, unchanged from the XI that defeated France 3-0 last week.

Alberto Zaccheroni left out Ryoichi Maeda, using Shinji Okazaki as the lone striker, with Hiroshi Kiyotake playing on the right of midfield.

Brazil got off to a tremendous start through Neymar’s brilliant strike from the edge of the box and controlled the majority of the game. Read more »

European Team of the Season, 2012/13

June 12, 2013
European Team of the Season, 2012/13

That time of the year again.

Minimal explanation needed, although the list places a strong emphasis upon performances in big matches: key domestic games, and European Cup knockout games.

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Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich
Neuer played behind an excellent defence, and in a side that retained possession brilliantly for the majority of the campaign. That certainly helped the German record some incredible statistics in 2012/13 – he conceded just 18 goals in 31 league appearances, and kept clean sheets twice against Juventus, the Italian champions, twice against Barcelona, the Spanish champions. Whenever called upon he made fine saves, while his distribution was consistently impressive too. Read more »

DraftStreet promotion

June 11, 2013
DraftStreet promotion

ZM has teamed up with Draft Street for the World Cup.

Draft Street offers a twist on the usual Fantasy Team games – this is a one-day contest. You have a $100,000 salary cap, and select a goalkeeper, two defenders, two midfielders, two forward and a ‘flex’, who can be from any position.

The entry fee is just $2, with the top 150 teams ensuring a return. There’s a $2,000 total prize pool and a top prize of $320.

If you sign up from ZM and are a first time depositor, you’ll receive a 100% bonus, up to $200.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund take control with good pressing, but Robben moves upfront to make the difference

May 26, 2013
Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund take control with good pressing, but Robben moves upfront to make the difference

Bayern initially struggled to get into the game, but eventually emerged victorious after a strong second half performance.

Jupp Heynckes selected Jerome Boateng rather than Daniel van Buyten at the back – the only real selection decision either manager had to make.

Jurgen Klopp named his expected XI.

Dortmund started the game excellently, pinning Bayern back and attempting six shots before Bayern had managed one – but eventually their pressing dropped, and Bayern continually exploited the space in behind the Dortmund defence. Read more »

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich: European Cup final tactical preview

May 25, 2013
Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich: European Cup final tactical preview

This will be the tenth time Dortmund and Bayern have met in the last three seasons.

It’s relatively rare for two sides from the same country to meet in the final – and rarely has a European Cup final been contested by two sides who know each others’ systems so well.

The head-to-head record between these two sides is interesting – for a while Dortmund had an impressive hold over Bayern, winning five consecutive matches, culminating in an astonishing 5-2 victory in last year’s German Cup final. That was a great demonstration of Dortmund’s strategy – they tracked opposition runners before springing past on the counter-attack, exposing the gaps Bayern left when pushing men forward. Read more »

Freiburg 1-2 Schalke: Schalke advance to the Champions League qualifiers

May 21, 2013
Freiburg 1-2 Schalke: Schalke advance to the Champions League qualifiers

This was a direct play-off for fourth place in the Bundesliga – Freiburg dominated, but Schalke were more dangerous in the final third.

Freiburg had left-winger Daniel Caligiuri suspended, so Christian Streich handed a debut to 19-year-old Sebastian Kerk.

Jens Keller brought back Julian Draxler on the left in place of Michel Bastos, and also recalled Roman Neustadter and Sead Kolasinac.

Freiburg dominated possession throughout – but what looked like a nervous Schalke start was actually evidence of a well-judged and efficient counter-attacking system. Read more »

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid: Atletico win the Copa del Rey in extra-time

May 19, 2013
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid: Atletico win the Copa del Rey in extra-time

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid triumphed at the Bernabeu in a hard-fought, scrappy contest.

Simeone brought Diego Costa back into the Atletico side and turned to a three-man central midfield, with Falcao upfront alone.

Jose Mourinho used Mesut Ozil out on the right flank and Luka Modric in a three-man midfield, while Karim Benzema got the nod over Gonzalo Higuain upfront.

Atletico rode their luck – with Real hitting the woodwork three times. Read more »

Chelsea 2-1 Benfica: Chelsea outplayed in the first half, but improve after the break

May 16, 2013
Chelsea 2-1 Benfica: Chelsea outplayed in the first half, but improve after the break

Chelsea won the Europa League thanks to Branislav Ivanovic’s stoppage time header.

From the side that lost to Porto at the weekend, Jorge Jesus left out Lima and Ola John, bringing back Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo to the starting line-up. Lorenzo Malgarejo replaced for the suspended Maxi Pereira, with Andre Almeida switching flanks.

Rafael Benitez was without Eden Hazard, so used Ramires in a wide position, with Frank Lampard and David Luiz in the centre of midfield.

Benfica were better in terms of pressing and passing, outplaying Chelsea for long periods – but they wasted some excellent first-half opportunities. Read more »

Porto 2-1 Benfica: late Kelvin winner puts Porto on the verge of the title

May 14, 2013
Porto 2-1 Benfica: late Kelvin winner puts Porto on the verge of the title

A draw would have kept Benfica at the top – but a dramatic goal from substitute Kelvin means Porto go into the final day as favourites for the title.

Vitor Pereira used his expected starting XI, although midfielders Joao Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez often played the other way around to their normal format.

Jorge Jesus used Andre Almeida instead of Lorenzo Malgarejo at left-back, while Ola John returned with Oscar Cardozo on the bench.

This was a very scrappy game with relatively little technical quality or tactical surprises. Read more »

Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

May 13, 2013
Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

Ben Watson headed a stoppage time winner as Wigan lifted the FA Cup for the first time.

Roberto Martinez was able to call upon Antolin Alcaraz in the centre of his three-man defence, and he used James McArthur as a right-wing-back and Jordi Gomez in central midfield.

Roberto Mancini picked Joe Hart despite having used Costel Pantilimon as his FA Cup goalkeeper throughout the competition. James Milner was only on the bench, as Mancini went with two ‘interiors’ and two forwards.

The nature of the result might suggest a ’smash and grab’ – but Martinez’s tactics outfoxed Mancini, and Wigan fully deserved their victory. Read more »

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

May 9, 2013
Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

Tottenham twice came back from behind in an exciting, open game at Stamford Bridge.

Rafael Benitez selected Fernando Torres upfront, and David Luiz as a deep-lying midfielder, so Branislav Ivanovic partnered Gary Cahill in the centre.

Andre Villas-Boas was without Mousa Dembele, so Scott Parker played alongside Tom Huddlestone. Upfront, Emmanuel Adebayor got the nod over Jermain Defoe.

Tottenham dominated possession, but in terms of creativity Chelsea had the upper hand in midfield, and Tottenham needed Villas-Boas’ substitutions to snatch a point. Read more »

Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

May 1, 2013
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

Bayern produced another highly impressive performance to qualify for the Champions League final with ease.

Tito Vilanova decided not to risk the half-fit Lionel Messi, so Cesc Fabregas played as the false nine. David Villa replaced Alexis Sanchez, while Alex Song was in for the injured Sergio Busquets, and Adriano for the suspended Jordi Alba.

Jupp Heynckes brought back Mario Mandzukic for Mario Gomez, and Daniel van Buyten played rather than Dante.

Bayern replicated last week’s second half performance – they pressed before retreating into a solid defensive shape, then counter-attacked expertly.

Read more »

Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

May 1, 2013
Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

Real Madrid created enough chances to get back in the tie, but Dortmund progress to the final.

Jose Mourinho left out Sami Khedira to field a very technical midfield trio, while Angel Di Maria and Michael Essien returned, and Sergio Ramos was back in the centre of defence.

Jurgen Klopp unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, although was forced to replace the injured Mario Gotze with Kevin Grosskreutz early on, with Marco Reus moving to a central role.

Real’s starting shape resulted in an early spell of pressure – and their Plan B caused problems too. Read more »

Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

April 30, 2013
Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

Real Sociedad opened up a five-point gap in the race for fourth place.

Philippe Montanier brought in Alberto de la Bella for the injured Liassine Cadamuro at left-back, Asier Illarramendi returned after suspension, but Antoine Griezmann was banned so Gonzalo Castro played on the left.

From the side that thrashed Malaga 5-1, Ernesto Valverde brought Ricardo Costa back into the centre of his defence, while Sofiane Feghouli started on the right, as Canales was injured again. Jonas switched to the left.

The key feature of this game was not about formations, individual positioning or possession dominance – but instead about Real Sociedad’s brilliant quick counter-attacks that repeatedly carved Valencia open. Read more »

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United: Arsenal start strongly but are unable to maintain early tempo

April 29, 2013
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United: Arsenal start strongly but are unable to maintain early tempo

Despite having little to play for, Manchester United collected a point at the Emirates.

Without Olivier Giroud, Arsene Wenger used Lukas Podolski as his main forward. Jack Wilshere was only on the bench.

Sir Alex Ferguson named a strong starting line-up, with Rio Ferdinand returning to the defence alongside Jonny Evans.

This was all about Arsenal’s strategy – Manchester United weren’t as uninterested as some predicted, but one suspects Ferguson didn’t spend too long working on specific tactics for a relatively meaningless game. Read more »

Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund enforce high-tempo spells at the start of both halves

April 25, 2013
Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund enforce high-tempo spells at the start of both halves

Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals as Dortmund thrashed Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp used right-winger Jakub Blaszczykowski rather than left-winger Kevin Grosskreutz, so Marco Reus started from the left.

Jose Mourinho decided to play Luka Modric, with Angel Di Maria on the bench. The birth of Di Maria’s baby girl was supposedly a factor, but considering how Real lost last year’s semi-final to Bayernwhich was part of the reason for recruiting Modric – the selection made sense tactically too. Mesut Ozil moved right.

Dortmund were dominant for the majority of the game, constantly winning the ball quickly and putting pressure upon the Real back four. Read more »

Dortmund v Real Madrid: tactical preview

April 24, 2013
Dortmund v Real Madrid: tactical preview

Dortmund have already defeated Real Madrid in this season’s Champions League – the problem is that Jose Mourinho so often learns lessons from these setbacks, and doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

Most obviously, there was Inter’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in 2010, when Mourinho’s side were thoroughly outplayed but had the last laugh in that season’s semi-final. The previous performance should give Dortmund great confidence, but the history might play into Real’s hands ahead of this clash. Read more »

Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Bayern produce an astonishingly dominant performance

April 24, 2013
Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Bayern produce an astonishingly dominant performance

Bayern Munich didn’t try to outpass Barcelona, and instead ruthlessly exposed their traditional weaknesses.

Jupp Heynckes selected Mario Gomez rather than Claudio Pizarro as Mario Mandzukic’s replacement, and decided Jerome Boateng was a better option than Daniel van Buyten because of his extra speed.

Tito Vilanova’s side was as expected: Lionel Messi was fit, and Alexis Sanchez started as wide forward on the left, with Pedro Rodriguez on the right.

Barcelona enjoyed a decent opening ten minutes, but Bayern were strategically perfect and fully deserved to win by such a convincing scoreline. Read more »

Bayern Munich v Barcelona: tactical preview

April 23, 2013
Bayern Munich v Barcelona: tactical preview

The draw for the Champions League semi-finals produced two fascinating ties.

Germany and Spain are the leading two nations in European football at the moment – Italian football is going through a transition period, while the Premier League has declined suddenly, but not irreversibly, from the latter part of the last decade.

The ties are perfectly set up – one based around transitions, the other based around possession. 2011/12 champions against each other, and 2012/13 champions against each other. Read more »

Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea: Rodgers cautious from start, but Sturridge provides second half impact

April 22, 2013
Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea: Rodgers cautious from start, but Sturridge provides second half impact

Liverpool trailed for long periods, but Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez combined very effectively in the second half.

Brendan Rodgers left out Sturridge, favouring Stewart Downing in the only change from last week’s 0-0 draw at Reading.

Rafael Benitez’s side was fairly predictable, although he selected Fernando Torres upfront against his former club, despite the fact Demba Ba is cup-tied for Thursday’s Europa League game in Basel, meaning Torres will have to start in Switzerland too.

Chelsea dominated – and were ahead – for long periods, but eventually Liverpool clawed them back. Read more »

Juventus 1-0 Milan: Milan press Pirlo at goal-kicks, but not in midfield

April 22, 2013
Juventus 1-0 Milan: Milan press Pirlo at goal-kicks, but not in midfield

A reverse of the previous meeting between the sides – the only goal came from the penalty spot in another disappointing contest.

Antonio Conte continued with the 3-5-1-1 that worked excellently away at Lazio, with Giorgio Chiellini returningin place of Federico Peluso.

Max Allegri was still without Mario Balotelli, and Mathieu Flamini was also banned. Massimo Ambrosini played the deep midfield role, with Riccardo Montolivo to the right and Kevin-Prince Boateng to the left.

This was a slow-paced, attritional contest with little technical quality – most shots were from long-range. Read more »

Tottenham 3-1 Manchester City: Villas-Boas’ second half formation switch changes the game

April 21, 2013
Tottenham 3-1 Manchester City: Villas-Boas’ second half formation switch changes the game

Manchester City dominated the first half, but some clever substitutions from Andre Villas-Boas meant Tottenham had a storming final 20 minutes.

Villas-Boas was able to select Gareth Bale from the start, although Aaron Lennon is still unavailable. Emmanuel Adebayor was favoured over Jermain Defoe.

Roberto Mancini was without David Silva and Sergio Aguero wasn’t 100% fit, so Edin Dzeko started upfront.

This was a game of two halves – Spurs eventually recorded a fine victory, but City had been very impressive before half-time. Read more »

Valencia 5-1 Malaga: Jonas and Canales’ narrowness allows Banega freedom to dominate

April 21, 2013
Valencia 5-1 Malaga: Jonas and Canales’ narrowness allows Banega freedom to dominate

Valencia thrashed Malaga thanks to four goals in an amazing eight-minute first half period.

Ernesto Valverde brought in Adil Rami and David Albelda for the two Costas, Ricardo and Tino.

Manuel Pellegrini was still without Jeremy Toulalan, so named an unchanged side from the 1-0 win over Osasuna.

The eight-minute spell was a freak period of play that decided the game – but it was an exaggerated reflection of Valencia’s dominance, rather than a false one. Read more »

PSV 2-3 Ajax: Eriksen’s influence helps Ajax attack down the wings

April 16, 2013
PSV 2-3 Ajax: Eriksen’s influence helps Ajax attack down the wings

Ajax recorded a crucial victory over their major rivals for the league title.

Frank De Boer brought Christian Poulsen into the side in the holding role, meaning Lasse Schone moved out to the right in place of Derk Boerrigter, who was on the bench.

Dick Advocaat left out Tim Matavz, with Dries Mertens returning to the side on the left flank, and Jeremain Lens playing as the primary striker.

In terms of quality, this match was underwhelming – neither played their best football. Read more »

Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea: City start brightly but Chelsea rally late on

April 15, 2013
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea: City start brightly but Chelsea rally late on

Manchester City won a surprisingly attack-minded game at Wembley.

Roberto Mancini was without David Silva, so started Sergio Aguero after his excellent goal at Old Trafford on Monday. Costel Pantilimon continued as City’s dedicated FA Cup goalkeeper.

Rafael Benitez used his three creators behind Demba Ba – Frank Lampard and John Terry continue to be left out.

City played better football over the 90 minutes, although frequently made the wrong decisions in the final third. Read more »

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich: Bayern initially struggle with the tempo, then close out the tie

April 12, 2013
Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich: Bayern initially struggle with the tempo, then close out the tie

This was expected to be the closest tie of the Champions League quarter-final stage, but was actually won by the biggest margin.

Antonio Conte was without the suspended duo of Arturo Vidal and Stephane Lichtsteiner, so he played Paul Pogba and Federico Peluso. Mirko Vucinic returned to the side upfront.

Jupp Heynckes welcomed back Javi Martinez from suspension, but otherwise continued with the side that played the majority of the first leg, after Toni Kroos’ injury.

Juventus started the game brightly, but Bayern eventually took command and calmed the tempo of the game. Read more »

Barcelona 1-1 PSG: Ancelotti replicates first leg tactics, but Messi fit enough to have an impact

April 11, 2013
Barcelona 1-1 PSG: Ancelotti replicates first leg tactics, but Messi fit enough to have an impact

PSG were elimintated on the away goals rule following a good counter-attacking display.

Tito Vilanova named Lionel Messi on the bench, with Cesc Fabregas deployed upfront after his weekend hattrick. Adriano played alongside Gerard Pique at the back.

Carlo Ancelotti was without the suspended Blaise Matudi, so used Marco Verratti alongside Thiago Motta, with David Beckham on the bench.

This was similar to the first leg – both sides used broadly the same strategy, and while Barcelona dominated possession, PSG threatened on the break. Read more »

Galatasaray 3-2 Real Madrid: Terim’s half-time switch gives Galatasaray hope

April 10, 2013
Galatasaray 3-2 Real Madrid: Terim’s half-time switch gives Galatasaray hope

Cristiano Ronaldo’s early strike left Galatasaray needing five – and they created enough chances to give Real a fright.

Without Burak Yilmaz, Fatih Terim brought in Umut Bulut and stuck to his diamond system, rather than switching to a 4-4-1-1, as rumoured.

Jose Mourinho was without Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos – he named the expected outfield side with Gonzalo Higuain upfront. Diego Lopez continued in goal.

Real’s early goal suggested the tie was over – but Galatasaray stormed back. Read more »