Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics


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Italy play out of Spain's counter-press

Similar to Austria’s counter-press against France, which left Antoine Griezmann free, Italy demonstrated how to play out to the free man on the far side, Nicolo Barella, when Spain pressured them in their own half.

Figure 1.1 - Di Lorenzo chips a pass over to the free man, Nicolo Barella.

The ball is passed wide right by goalkeeper Donnarumma to right-back Di Lorenzo, and he is immediately put under pressure. Federico Chiesa does something smart. He drops very deep to pin left-back Marc Cucurella and provides the passing option for Di Lorenzo.

Notice that Spain has committed numbers to the ball-side. When you commit numbers to the ball, someone should be open on the far side. Nicolo Barella, Italy’s best creator, is left open central.

Chiesa plays it back to Di Lorenzo, and then Di Lorenzo plays it vertically to Barella. Now Italy has the advantage. Davide Frattesi peals off from Rodri, and Barella plays Frattesi down the wing. Frattesi would be quickly closed down and pinched by Cucurella and Rodri if Chiesa did not pin Cucurella higher up the pitch.

The three Spain defenders are forced to retreat, and if the attack is succinct, this type of play should result in a shot. It did not result in a shot because Frattesi’s touch wasn’t good and he is quite slow, but this is one way to play out of that suffocating counter-press.

Italy was not sharp throughout the match. When they weren’t misplacing a pass or botching a touch, Spain were doing a good job hunting down the ball. Spain defends by keeping the ball and maintaining possession, but they are sneaky good at defending transitions, pressing, and winning back the ball.

Match: Spain 1-0 Italy, 20 June 2024

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