Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Poland's asymmetric defensive shape exposed the half-spaces

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.

Cody Gakpo was the forward who looked the most alive for the Netherlands. It makes sense why Poland would want to slow his progress immediately when he received the ball, but they were left vulnerable when the rest of their four defenders shifted far away from Frankowski.

It meant their midfielders had to compensate for the lack of presence in the half-space behind Frankowski. It is no surprise why Ake provided two assists in the match because he had a lot of room ahead of Poland’s defense and midfield to carry into the half-space and distribute into the box.

When Cody Gakpo received the ball, the pass was always ahead into the half-space, giving Gakpo the option to follow his pass or break behind Frankowski into the box.

Figure 2.1 - 28th minute: The ball is cleared high and Przemysław Frankowski is caught out high, giving Cody Gakpo in the left half-space.

Frankowski was used to positioning himself far ahead of the nearest center-back, close to Gakpo. When Poland lost the ball on their left side, in their own half, Frankowski was caught out wide, allowing Gakpo to slip in and score from the left half-space.

Shifting right center-back Jan Bednarek over to make the distance between himself, Przemysław Frankowski, and center-back Bartosz Salamon, more equidistant, would have given the midfielders on the ballside, closest to Gakpo, more freedom to challenge either the midfielder in the half-space or Nathan Ake out wide. That would have provided more balance to the separation between each defender, and they would not have had to chase the open spaces as much as the ball was passed about.

The Netherlands lack pace in midfield and will always find it easier to move the ball if the opponent is forced into chasing the play.

Match: Poland 1-2 Netherlands, 16 June 2024

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