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.

-
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 »

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 »