Tactical battle: where the Euro 2020 final will be won and lost | Euro 2020

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There’s a tide in men’s affairs

Before each game, the bigger question was whether Gareth Southgate should go with a back three or a back four. Block opposing wingers / full-backs or give them a defensive problem? There is no definitive answer.

Against Germany, Southgate went for the more cautious option and, after about an hour of work, was justified. Against Ukraine, it was about defending the wingers, a plan that worked perfectly. Against Denmark it was all four defenders again and, despite a wobbly 15 minutes in the first half, Southgate was rewarded. But very few problems in football are quiet; the answer to the flanks is often found in midfield.

It’s not good to play chicken on the flanks if you don’t dominate the center, or the wingers will end up spending most of their time following. Against Germany, both Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka and Ilkay Gündogan played, as well as Thomas Müller and Kai Havertz falling deep, had the potential to deprive England of the ball. Against Ukraine and Denmark, he was confident England could overpower the midfield. There were moments of anxiety, but in the second half it was clear that the bet had worked.

Against Italy the question is slightly different given that they will be playing a back four rather than a back three like Germany, Denmark and Ukraine did. Spain may have controlled possession against three Italian midfielder Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolò Barella, but England, despite all of their recent progress, cannot pass like Luis Enrique’s Spain. The knockout game that could offer more of a model is the round of 16 game in which Italy struggled to win over Austria, who played against them three-way.

… his left hand, which caught fire and burned like 20 joined torches …

In the first part of the tournament, Italy’s main offensive threat came on the left with Leonardo Spinazzola and Lorenzo Insigne coming together. Even after Spinazzola’s injury against Belgium and his replacement by Emerson Palmieri, that continues to be the case, even though Emerson’s relationship with Insigne – which is natural given the lack of time spent together on the pitch – is not that smooth.

Italy attack 24% more often on the left than on the right, so there has to be some sort of control over Emerson, not just to stop his own forays (and he hit the woods against Spain in the semifinals) but to prevent binding which in turn makes Insigne more dangerous.

Lorenzo Insigne escapes on the left flank against Spain. Photograph: Bagu Blanco / Pressinphoto / Rex / Shutterstock

It could be Bukayo Saka, who after a nervous start played well against Denmark. Or, if the preference is for a 3-4-3, it could be Mason Mount, who played the role to perfection in the Nations League win over Belgium last year. A three-way fullback would also put Kyle Walker in a position from which he could recover Insignia’s drifts on the inside, much more naturally than any player in the 4-2-3-1 / 4-3. -3 used against Denmark.

Why all these hovering ghosts?

There was a lot of talk in the first week of the tournament about Harry Kane’s habit of going deep down and whether that was good for England or just causing congestion in the middle. After his performance against Denmark, this debate is surely settled. As long as there is at least one wide player to overtake him, Kane’s mobility is a big plus and his rapprochement with Saka and Sterling has been a major weapon (which may be a 4-3-3 argument. ).

But it should be noted that Spain’s use of Dani Olmo as a false 9 destabilized Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, while Kane’s move troubled a Juventus defense, including Chiellini, in the Champions League in 2018.

If it is a 3-4-3, Kane may also have a role to play in trying to stop Jorginho from functioning as a metronome at the back of the Italian midfielder – with, presumably, Kalvin Phillips moving forward. With a 92.9% success rate, the highest of any midfielder to have started more than three games in this Euro, Jorginho is the key to setting the pace for Italy and England will need to find a way to disrupt it. If it’s a back four, that job will likely go to Mount.

The sound of battle swept through the air

The last two games have seen a huge improvement for England in terms of set-piece danger, with Harry Maguire a major threat. Even against Denmark’s three defenders, he won three straight headers from set pieces, the second of which saw Kasper Schmeichel achieve a superb stretch save.

No player from a team that has reached the last eight has won more aerial duels per game than Maguire and, while Bonucci and Chiellini have the experience and the means to cope, Italy has won a lower percentage. of their air battles in this tournament than any other team. than Finland and Hungary.

As a team they are not physically imposing and that can provide an opportunity for England, who have created more chances on set pieces than any other Euro team. Mount and Luke Shaw are both in the top 10 for chance creation from set pieces, with Trippier not far behind.

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