Team-by-team previews are on their way later today. But, to save repetition in many articles, here are some general themes based upon recent international tournaments:
1. For underdogs, being defensive and organised, then playing on the break is the best bet
Fans of outsiders in this competition have often complained that they’re not passing the ball well enough and that they want to see a more expansive game. That might be personal preference in terms of aesthetics, but the current success as Spain shouldn’t be seen as the template for more minor football nations in this competition.
Recent underdogs who have proved successful have generally been very defensive, have allowed themselves to be dominated, then relied on counter-attacking and set-pieces. Continental champions Greece in 2004 and Zambia in 2012 had the lowest pass completion rate of any side in the tournament. Uruguay weren’t quite so extreme in World cup 2010 and Copa America 2011, but were very reactive. For the likes of Ireland, Czech Republic and Ukraine, playing ‘good football’ is not on the agenda.
Being a knockout tournament, you can get far simply by being hard to beat – Paraguay reached last year’s Copa America final with five consecutive draws. Read more »