Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Switzerland's long and short cover-shadow to deny Germany time central

The entire match I watched Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler to see how Switzerland denied Germany time central. There was always at least one cover-shadow for the longer pass, and depending on where the ball was, one cover-shadow for the shorter pass.

Figure 1.1 - Granit Xhaka provides the long cover-shadow, and Remo Freuler provides the short cover-shadow.

Being that Xhaka and Freuler were at the base of their midfield, they were the ones most responsible for finding the pass no one else was looking for. As holding midfielders, they know best how to read Toni Kroos, Robert Andrich, and the rest of the German defenders when they look to play forward into Kai Havertz, İlkay Gündoğan, Jamal Musiala, and Florian Wirtz.

Figure 2.1 - Granit Xhaka provides the long cover-shadow, and Remo Freuler provides the short cover-shadow.

The short cover-shadow covered the progressive pass, into feet, to the closest German central player, the player that could turn to play in one of the forwards on the front-line.

The long cover-shadow covered the pass to feet for the German forward on the front line. The most threatening pass that could be played. This pass must always be covered.

Each German forward had their own zone of attack. They would swap between zones, but they rarely encroach on each other’s zone for long, if at all.

Switzerland’s backline stays flat in a line across the pitch.

Figure 2.2 - Switzerland press and Remo Freuler stay back to provide the long cover-shadow.

The pressing trigger when the ball was with Germany’s backline was often a pass to one of the wide players. Switzerland’s backline now steps out to mold their defense around the movement of the German forwards.

Once Switzerland commits to pressing the ball, each player follows their closest man, except for one, the long cover-shadow. This was usually Freuler’s responsibility. He doesn’t join the press; he blocks off the pass, and that forces Germany to pass around the permitter. If they tried to pass centrally, Switzerland collapsed on the ball.

It was almost as if Switzerland were baiting this pass because each player in and around the ball was waiting to collapse centrally. They put pressure on the backline but always had an eye behind them to anticipate and surround the pass forward.

Figure 3.1 - Remo Freuler provides the long cover-shadow as Germany transitions into the final third.

When Germany broke into the final third, all of the Switzerland midfielders and forwards plucked away at the ball, but Freuler was always responsible for manning the long cover-shadow.

Switzerland were well organized to stop Germany from having multiple touches in the midfield. All this made it hard for Germany to break into the box in the normal way they would like to, and was a major contributing factor to why Germany only had two shots on target in the first ninety-one minutes. A match in which Switzerland nearly won, had it not been for Niclas Füllkrug’s equalizer in the 92nd minute.

Match: Switzerland 1-1 Germany, 23 June 2024

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