July 31, 2021

selections obliged more than ever to adapt their game to win

There is no doubt that Denmark are one of the most attractive teams in this Euro. Before facing the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals (victory 2 goals to 1 for the Danes), on July 3, Kasper Hjulmand, coach of the Red and White, revealed the secrets of his recipe: “We have a framework and a philosophy to which we are faithful, but we retain a certain freedom of tactics, of placement, and can also count on the individual technique of the players. “

Principles that we could quickly observe during this match: a three-way defense, active central relaunching and followers of overtaking, pistons on the sides triggering offensives and a freedom granted to the local nugget , Mikkel Damsgaard. During the match, Hjulmand makes changes after his opponent’s changes and Patrik Schick’s goal, taking out a striker and strengthening his midfield. A choice that pays off since the Czechs will be neutralized.

If he adapted to the circumstances of the meeting, the Danish coach did not renounce his principles. A rare event in this Euro where tactical uncertainty (France against Switzerland or Portugal during the majority of its matches, for example) has sometimes taken precedence over the identity of the game.

A heterogeneous culture of winning

The eternal debate around how to win will not end after this Euro. Simply because the ideal of victory is not the same everywhere. Markus Kaufmann, specialist in tactics, writes in the preface of the book written by the editors of So Foot entitled Tactics, schools of play, precepts and origins (So ​​Lonely editions, 288 pages, 22.90 euros): “The tactic begins with understanding a cultural mission, an ideal based on local values, which defines what success represents for each team. “ And to continue:

“The English spectacle does not make the Spaniards get up. […] And the Italians play football without the ball in their own penalty area with the same pleasure the Brazilians take in inventing dribbles along the touchline. The common point of all these particularisms: the collective expression of a certain idea of ​​football, and sometimes of life. “

Fabien Mercadal, coach past Paris FC, Caen or Dunkirk confirms: “It’s almost philosophical since we are talking about identity. When Guardiola arrives at Bayern, he does not give up his Barcelona principles, he adjusts them and reinvents himself because he knows that the culture of German football does not allow him to play like in Spain. “ He pursues :

“In this Euro, I find that it is this quality which emerges in the teams of the last four: of course the principles of play are perfectly identified, but there is a certain tactical flexibility. We do not forbid ourselves to change depending on the opponent. “

Passive adaptation or the failure of the Blues

Didier Deschamps during the round of 16 of the France team against Switzerland.

Master of this elasticity, England coach Gareth Southgate used three systems in five games during this Euro (4-3-3 against Croatia and Scotland, 4-2-3-1 against the Czechs, 3-4-3 against Germany before reverting to 4-2-3-1 against Ukraine). Fabien Mercadal sees this as pragmatism: “He has several plans and they are all under control. The goal is simply to freeze the opposing forces and enhance their own. “

After a lackluster first phase despite two wins, a whole country scolded when the Sunday Times revealed that the English federation advocated a cautious approach during the group stage, in a document distributed to all England coaches (men’s and women’s teams in all age categories). For Southgate, it doesn’t matter if observers highlight his aversion to risk and his wait-and-see attitude: his selection is on the way to add a second title to his record. “This national game identity is no longer a stereotypical plan: it is an idea that we accept to develop when it is no longer valid”, Fabien Mercadal advances.

According to him, there are two ways to adapt his game: “It can be done actively, with a plan that you want to impose on your opponent. And in a more passive way, by tracing its device on that of the opponent. “ As Didier Deschamps did, adapting to Swiss tactics, with the setbacks that followed. Mercadal concludes:

“This Euro will not be that of individuals. Collective projects are very well put forward in this tournament. We feel the difference between exceptional generational peaks – Belgium for example – and the construction of a squad without stars but with players who adhere to the same principles since they were young as with Italy or La Roja. “

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