Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Poland’s asymmetric shape in defense meant that the half-spaces were open for the Netherlands, with right wing-back Przemysław Frankowski tasked with tightly marking Cody Gakpo.

Figure 1.1 - Poland's asymmetric back line with Przemysław Frankowski out to challenge Cody Gakpo.

Switzerland has one of Italy’s best goalkeepers, Yann Sommer from Inter, and outfield players from Manchester City, Newcastle, Torino, Bologna, Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen, Augsburg, and more. Starting players from the top teams in the European leagues. It is great to put each player on a chalkboard and plot out the movement and spot the weaknesses, but you have to factor in the gap in ability.

Hungary’s only win since 1994 against Switzerland was in 1998. Their 3-1 loss in the group stage this year makes it their fourth consecutive loss since 2002.

When Scotland lost to Germany, I knew they could play better than they did. When Croatia lost to Spain, that’s football, it’s two top teams competing and one had a better day. When Italy plays Albania, you would not expect Albania to win. It doesn’t matter how they move or their structure, they don’t have the quality. Maybe one day they will, or they’ll get lucky, but not today.

Before picking apart how they play, you should set the correct expectations for the result first and not allow the result to cloud your thinking. Critique the idea when you expect them to win, but if they aren’t expected to win, then the idea becomes more palatable.

Relational play has a way of elevating the performance of the individual players to a level you would not expect them to reach, especially the creatives. The opponent sits at a standstill as the team constantly moves. They’re tactically interesting for that reason and others, but they are an underdog, not a dark horse. Tactically interesting in the same way Brighton were under Roberto De Zerbi. You want them to win but they were not favorites to win the Premier League, lower your expectations.

Hungary should keep playing like they did in the second half. Dynamism, non-zonal attack, with dummy runs to open spaces, pass-and-move quick tight passes out through the wings to attack the box vertically. Yes, Hungary were porous defensively, but it’s the difference in quality between the two teams. Just play their game against Germany and Scotland, like Fluminese did against Manchester City in the Club World Cup.

That’s why I said I would like to see Hungary advance past the group stage. These ideas need results before they are taken seriously by the positional laggards. The laggards will benefit more in an international competition compared to club football because the teams are much less rigid and more free-flowing with fewer instructions. Less of an edge for a team like Hungary.

Match: Hungary 1-3 Switzerland, 15 June 2024

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