Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Austria left Griezmann open when they counter-pressed France

When the ball was in France’s half, Austria aggressively counter-pressed, but when you press like they did, you have to leave someone open. They left Griezmann free on the right, and it could have cost them a goal if France found the pass into Griezmann.

Figure 1.1 - France play through the Austria counter-press high to Antoine Grizemann, marked by left center-back Maximilian Wöber.

Austria manager Ralf Rangnick said after the match:

We left everything on the pitch. They were tested until the last second. I spoke to (Dayot) Upamecano at full-time and he said he was happy it was over. It shows our performance.

They hounded France for as much of the match as they could, a testament to Upamecano’s ‘happy it was over’ remark. The intensity of their pressure trailed off in the second half, but they left energy for specific periods to keep France on their toes.

France has three forwards, and Austria has four defenders. When they counter-press, they commit all of their forwards and midfielders to shift pressure man-to-man to the ball-side. That leaves Grizemann free, unless left center-back Maximilian Wöber jumps out to mark him.

Figure 2.1 - Austria counter-press France in their own half, with right-back Stefan Posch advanced forward, which forced the rest of Austria's defense to shift over to mark Kylian Mbappe. Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé outnumber Philipp Mwene.

Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Thuram both switched positions throughout the match. You can’t leave Mbappe alone. Because you can’t leave him alone, when right-back Stefan Posch moves forward to help pressure left-back Theo Hernandez, then left center-back Maximilian Wöber has to move over to mark Mbappe.

Wöber was marking Griezmann, Austria continued to commit everyone to the ball, so they left Griezmann unmarked. If France could have found a way to play a quick, driven pass ahead of Griezmann, they would have been in. Their best creator is open, with Dembélé on his right and Mbappe running down the middle.

It’s a tough call on Austria’s part for who to give that free space to. Maybe you could leave Dembele alone, but you can’t leave Thuram or Mbappe open. Maybe you don’t need to mark right-back Jules Kounde, but that leaves the safe switch to the right side open, so that would make it easier for France to retain possession. The goal is to pinch France to force them forward.

Figure 3.1 - France win back the ball near the half-way line, play the ball to Antoine Griezmann, and Griezmann passes the ball over the top to Kylian Mbappe.

Unfortunately for France, they never found that pass to Griezmann once in the match. They did create a situation in which Griezmann received the ball in similar conditions, not originating from a pass out the back but as a result of France doing the pressing when Austria had the ball. They won back the ball, quickly got it to Grizemann on the ground, and he played the ball over the top to Mbappe resulting in one of their clearest goal-scoring chances. He should have scored.

This open space for one of the advanced midfielders or forwards is a feature of Austria’s counter-press that could be exploited by someone like Xavi Simmons for the Netherlands or Sebastian Szyzmański for Poland. Whoever is the free man in the half-space behind the forwards should be targeted as the outlet.

Match: Austria 0-1 France, 17 June 2024

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