Tactics Bored: Seven incredible moments, one incredible pass

The Rio Report

View gallery


On Sunday evening, it will all come to an end. The World Cup final. The World Cup final.

It is quite literally the last game of the World Cup - hence the name: it’s the final match.

The final match of the World Cup.

A game of such magnitude after a tournament of such magnitude deserves the utmost respect, respect that can only be properly given with a 1,000 word dissection through the prism of tactical analysis.

But all that will have to wait. For now, there’s work to be done on how the finalists made their way to the World Cup final. Germany annihilated Brazil, in an almost incredible 7-1 victory. The second finalist is yet to be decided. The match between Holland and Argentina finished 0-0 last night, and will have to be settled with a replay at a later date.

Brazil 1-7 Germany - Seven incredible moments

Seven times. Those seven times defined the match. This match was one of the games that will go down in World Cup history. To manage this seven times, in just a single match, says many things, tactically speaking.

First, seven times in any single match is anomalous, as most will only have a few.

Second, for them to come from just one side is even rarer. Germany were well drilled, organised and playing to a plan. They were focused, made sure that they just focused on getting as many as they could, and helping their star player to manage it. They had been practising this for years, with trademark ruthless efficiency.

Of course, Brazil made it easier. They were sloppy in defence, marked by David Luiz’s buffoonery, but the problems in midfield were also made ever clearer.

Felipe Luiz Scolari had the chance to fix this before the World Cup and failed. He was not helped by his striker, Fred, being unable to hold up play, and failing to stretch the game and take advantage. But still, seven times is an amazing achievement, and what better way to mark this than in a chalkboard. So here it is, drink it in. All seven of Sami Khedira’s interceptions:

View gallery


Arjen Robben - Brutally efficient use of resources

England are often criticised for their gung-ho approach to matches. It’s well established, and not without merit. England start brightly, and without their cleverer Premier League colleagues who tend to know how to actually win games, they run themselves into the ground.

For the first few moments, that gives them the advantage, as they swamp the opposition, and can often score in that early period. Then, from about 25 minutes, they begin to tire as the opposition keeps the ball, and use their reserves of energy in a more measured way.

This means that by half-time, or the hour mark at the latest, the opposition have far more energy, and are not only able to pass their way around an exhausted England, huffing and puffing, but can jog past them at half-pace too.

Arjen Robben is a wonderful example of this, and indeed he might be able to use this conserved energy to good effect in the replay against Argentina later this week. In the first half, he was a model of efficiency and conservative play, refusing to expend any more energy than absolutely necessary. That the game finished 0-0 shows that he was right to do so, as his team was still capable of keeping a clean sheet and remaining in the game. Just take a look at his involvement in the first half.

View gallery



Early on in the match, Javier Mascherano was buffeted in the head. He collapsed to the floor and looked like he may have momentarily lost consciousness. He certainly appeared woozy, but was allowed to quickly get back to the match. In such a short space of time, it would not have been possible to do a proper check to make sure if Mascherano had concussion, or to properly ascertain if it was even a possibility. In the same week, a federal judge in the US approved a settlement between the NFL and 4,500 former players, which may result in payments that exceed two-thirds of a billion dollars.

In football, regarding concussion, Jeff Astle’s family have hinted that the FA failed to properly address their concerns on concussion. Astle’s death was linked to concussion suffered by repetitive heading of the ball - even if the link is not causal, the possibility of players suffering from similar activities has long been established. Earlier in the season, Andre Villas Boas allowed Hugo Lloris to keep playing despite taking a knee to the head, and allowed Andros Townsend to come back on the pitch after piling into an advertising hoarding. There are more examples from other clubs, too.

In the US, participation at young levels in NFL has fallen as concerns over concussion become more rooted and widespread. In football, there is also no interest from authorities despite the evidence growing that they have a duty of care to act. There may be one reason for this. If you check the diagram below, you can see in the pie chart the split between compensation established in the NFL for concussion, and how much for concussion suffered by those who play in FIFA, and draw your own conclusions as to why FIFA are slow to act.

View gallery


View comments (10)