Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Tijjani Reijnders was my favorite player at Euro 2024

My favorite player to watch at Euro 2024 was Tijjani Reijnders of the Netherlands because he dictates the pace of play so well, uses calm feints under pressure, and while carrying, always looks to pass forward first and passes and moves with ease.

Figure 1.1 - Virgil van Dijk passes to Tijjani Reijnders, and Reijnders passes to Nathan Ake, who then moves wide when Ake dribbles inside.
Figure 1.2 - Nathan Ake passes forward to the man dropping into the pocket of space Tijjani Reijnders vacated.

He never waits in the pocket after receiving. He is always looking for the next pass forward, either through him or through a teammate, by moving out of the space after passing. There is no hesitation in the movement.

Passes forward like this are not necessary, but they are helpful to help break England’s shape by forcing them to collapse on the ball carrier. Force England to collapse, play it back from where it originally came, and then switch.

Figure 1.3 - Tijjani Reijnders receives and then passes forward to Xavi Simmons.

Once the Netherlands switch to the right side, Tijjani Reijnders moves and then finds the pocket again to receive.

He receives, looks upfield as he receives, takes two or three touches, then plays the forward pass, breaking England’s first line. He didn’t receive, turn to face open to the play, take an unnecessary touch, and then play sideways to the center-back on the opposite side.

He always looks forward first. The moment the pass is open in the pocket for the midfielder or forward to receive, he plays the pass. And the pass is perfectly weighted to roll past in front of Xavi Simmons, anticipating the pressure ahead from Declan Rice.

Figure 1.4 - Tijjani Reijnders continues his run after the pass, and then Xavi Simmons passes back to Reijnders.

I can’t quite explain the way he runs off the ball. It is not a sprint, and it is not a jog, he looks like he is floating across the pitch. He immediately makes the run forward after playing that pass to Xavi Simmons, as England slowly retreats.

Look at the distance he covered within 30 seconds of playing. The space on the left in the pocket, created by him; the space on the right, created by him; the line-breaking pass; and then the run to finish the move, locking the English block back in their own half.

Figure 1.1 - Tijjani Reijnders receives with his back to play in the left half-space, carries wide, passes to Cody Gakpo, and then continues his run to receive down the left wing.

If he is not playing two or three touch, pass, and move, he is not afraid to carry the ball forward, and then he goes right back to passing and moving. He has the temperament and consistency of a central controller to know when to slow the game down and when to punch through the space.

Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden need to be played to feet central without any hesitation from the passer. If England had someone like that in holding midfield, they’d always attack like they did in the first half, all match, every match. They didn’t have that in the second half. It is simple when done correctly, and it is relentless.

Match: England 2-1 Netherlands, 10 July 2024

Players: Tijjani Reijnders

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