The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is just round the corner and, at KlipDraw, we’re continuing to analyse some of the biggest teams in the competition.
In this article, we turn our attention to Group E, where Spanish coach and analyst Fernando Nuñez takes a look at Spain’s opposition, talking us through the tactical prowess of Japan, Costa Rica and, of course, Germany.
The Germans and Spaniards start as favourites in this group and, in theory, they are a shoo-in for qualification. With that being said, Japan and Costa Rica will be no pushover. These are two teams which are tactically sound, with clear ideas on how to win a game.
So, let’s hand over to Fernando…
Japan are one of the great unknowns for Spain in Group E. One of the most powerful national teams in Asian football, they’ve been playing attractive football for years, and their players are becoming ever more present in the European domestic leagues. Dynamic and quick, the Japanese team bases its game on speed coupled with high pressure.
Their preferred formation is 4-4-2 with:
The Japanese like to defend as high as possible, getting the whole team behind the ball. As much as possible, they try to drive the opposition attack towards the wings where they press hard and fast to try and recover the ball, with up to four players covering the passing lines of the opposition, shutting down any means of support.
They do exactly the same if their opposition wins the ball in their half, surrounding the player with the ball, smothering all passing options and forcing the opposition back towards their own area.
In addition to the above, one of the noteworthy characteristics of Japan is the accumulation of players in the area, defending both deep crosses and runs from the edge of the box.
There’s usually up to 5 players in the box: one at the near post, one in the middle, one at the far post, one on the penalty and a fifth placed between the centre and wing to close any remaining space.
Japan often play the short ball out to pull the opposition towards them, creating space which they attack with speed. They also minimise risk with minimal but fast passes. They position themselves with the central defender in the open, deep wing backs and a close midfield line. A few quick passes and they are in the opposition's half.
The main idea here is to counterattack at high speed, with players driving inside, looking for a forward pass. They are supported by two players out on the wing.
This phase of the game is fundamental to their main offensive philosophy…the counterattack. As we have mentioned above, the placement of the forwards during the defensive stage is aimed at being able to run with spaces and with players in front.
Two players spread out to the wing and the first pass is normally forward so that the receiving player can drive fast. The rest push ahead.
After losing the ball, the team applies very high pressure to prevent the opposition from advancing. The objective is to recover as high as possible and launch a counter. If this tactic fails, they fall back and reorganise to push the opposition wide so that they can, again, apply the high pressure that characterises them as a team.
After a successful period with Joachim Löw at the helm, Germany had to reset themselves. Following the departure of Löw, Germany came under new management in the form of Hansi Flick, who previously led Bayern to domestic glory.
Hanis Flick has transplanted the same formation with which he won multiple titles at Bayern to the national team. A 4-4-2 with highly mobile players willing to attack.
For Flick, long range full backs and strikers with mobility and speed are of the paramount importance. The other players in the squad play interchangeably in the centre of the field.
On a defensive level, this is a team that defends with four at the back and two midfielders floating on the edge of the defensive line. These midfielders may have to assist in defensive often. In addition, they may be needed out wide when the wings have been left unguarded due to the forward momentum of the full backs.
When defending the goal area, the Germans accumulate up to five players in the centre: one at the near post, one at the far post and the remaining three on the front line.
Another covers the space left by the wingers and another two players on the edge of the area.
Germany starts from the back with short combative balls with the aim of pulling the opposition forward, creating space behind their backs. Although content to play the passing game in defensive, they generally tend to push the ball forward quickly and vertically.
Players are placed as follows: centre backs in the open on both sides of the area, Wing backs and two midfielders fall back, close to the area. The other four are positioned in the opposite field in order to create space for their teammates. One of the midfielders mixes it up with the opposite central defenders in order to generate numerical superiority at all times.
Germany looks to disarm the opposition with great passing combinations. The mobility of the strikers and midfielders favours vertical football, alternating between long and short passes, but always with patience.
When they go beyond the midfield line, Germany tries to get every possible player involved in the attack, providing support in order to keep possession. They often change wings, pull the opposition this way and that, opening and finding the needed space to push forward.
An essential characteristic of the German game is that they move the ball quickly to create space behind the opposition. Once they have achieved their objective, they attack those spaces, creating verticality, allowing them to reach the box in dangerous positions.
When they enter the box, they do so fully loaded with three players in the front row and another on the edge waiting for the rebound.
When recovering the ball, the first objective is to keep possession, and this is done slowly and deliberately. The first pass always has safety in mind, backwards to a teammate, who will then start the push forward.
Germany’s defensive transition is based on high pressure. After losing the ball, the German players rush to recover the ball as soon as possible to prevent the opposition from advancing. Up to three players attack the ball at the same time.
After a few years of good performances, Costa Rica have once again qualified for the World Cup. But it took a somewhat convoluted path, seeing off New Zealand in the play offs, a game in which they got in front quickly and defended their lead until the end of the match.
Perhaps the weakest team in Group E, Costa Rica do bring a team with a great mix of youth and experience. Enthusiasm is certainly not lacking.
With a 4-4-2, the Costa Ricans base their game on:
Costa Rica defends with very close lines. Two lines of four players who work overtime to cover all the passing lanes. On the inside, their defensive strength is in the air.
When it comes to defending inside, they accumulate a lot of players behind the ball so that it’s difficult for the opposition to find space to penetrate between the lines.
When defending crosses and through balls, Costa Rica first send one of the wing backs out to pressure the player who holds the ball. Three other defenders divide themselves between the near and far posts, while two others hang around the penalty spot to provide support.
When defending, Costa Rica push the opposition out the to wing, applying high pressure and, at the same time, cover the passing lines so they can steal possession.
Costa Rica’s favourite line up when starting an attack from behind involves an open placement of the full backs in the middle of the field with the full backs and midfield line a bit more advanced. To stretch the team, a line of four players sets up camp in the opposition’s half with the two wingers and the strikers in the centre.
They start the game short and, after no more than three or four passes, they look to play the long ball over the heads of their opponents into the spaces that have been created.
They try to finish the play in a fast way, reaching the rival area in quick time. The mobility of the strikers is key here, as it facilitates the work of the rest of the team. Once they reach the area, they do so with few players, but attack the spaces well and often manage to finish effectively. They arrive in the area with up to three players, attacking the far and near posts and the penalty spot in turn.
After the steal, the first pass goes forward as they try to push with two or three players. This tactic has a very low success rate, so offensive transitions are no one of their favourite tools.
The team usually falls back as quickly as possible, accumulating many players behind the ball. The closest player applies pressure whilst the rest get into defensive positions.
This is a well coordinated team that produces very few errors and, on a good day, is capable of mixing it up with the best in the world. This makes them a relatively unknown and dangerous team to play against.
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