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Jul 2014
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Brazil 2014

Rafa Benítez

Despite the equality of the tournament, the successive extensions, penalty shootout’s, the teams disclosure and feelings of the championship at the end are four of the most popular selections in the two semifinals of the World of Brazil '2014. Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and Argentina. These are the pairings in the light of the results from the quarterfinals. Two South American and two European teams facing each other. The rest does not count, well beyond the set that a competition like this should always have. Now see, step-by-step, how this reality came about.

One goal is enough for Germany

Germany was the first to stamp their passport to the semifinals. Winning the all-European match against France. Hummels's goal was enough to keep his candidacy, while, as one of the revelations of the tournament and one of the candidates eligible to win in the final.

As a usual rule, an afternoon match does not have the pace of games that are usually played in the evening. Still, I thought the ball was circulated with more speed than in other games that we have seen so far in this tournament. Both teams wanted to play and tried to do so, successfully more so by German - based on a 1-4-2-3-1 trying to play between the lines on the side of Cabaye, sometimes looking for a change of orientation behind Debuchy on the right side. France was justified in the playing of a 1-4-3-3, with Griezmann on the left as more offensive option. Basically because they were often behind Lahm and these were the most dangerous moves from France - although there were not many.Perhaps the clearest chance was for Griezmann whose own movement to the back of the rear - this time on the other side and when he had swapped places with his teammate Valbuena.

Germany seemed more solid, with a clear idea of moving the ball to find Müller, marked by Evra, or Kroos and Özil with even Khedira very far between the lines, to immediately seek continuity going forward. From the defensive point of view, they retreated and Klose was near Cabaye, so could not get the ball from behind. A missed shot allowed Hummels to physically beat Varane and the ball went to the back of the net which meant that in the end, this would be the only and decisive goal of the game.

It was now the turn of the Gallic side to try and come back from the disadvantaged score line. There seemed to be an argument in their favor: the main weakness of the German setup was the back of their defense, always something ahead, although it is true that with Neuer, as we note throughout the tournament is always attentive to those balls.

Thus started the second period with France looking more determined to score, but with Germany being very defensive The French tried to get behind Lahm and hence some sense of danger, but Geermany continued with its control of the game, moving the ball safely and with some occasional moments of danger. After 68 minutes, enter Schürrle and with his appearance, we noticed more speed in the attack by his team. Deschamps had to change something and changed first Konscielny for Shako, and then Remy for Cabaye - looking for something different in an effort to level the game.

Müller remained a threat to the opposing rear, now from a more forward position after the entrance of Schürrle, who was placed on the right, but trying to change the pace of the French team. After a proliferation of arrivals and the presence of elements above and after a couple of minutes came the first shot and a further shot forcing Neuer to intervene and giving the feeling that the score could still change.

In these, Remy opened up the right, allowing Valbuena move more freely throughout the pitch, like Griezmann and as a central midfielder Pogba. But this was not a big threat to the Germans and they had a clear chance to counterattack with Schürrle missing in the 82nd-minute. More changes, with Goetze for Özil (m. 83) and a minute later Giroud for Valbuena. Not much time and you have to rush all the options.

Schurrle returns to have a chance, after a ball that leaves Müller to counter and Germany seems to have the game now in their control. Making a late change, Kramer for Kroos, with the game drawing to a close, Lloris risks losing the ball. But on the next play, Benzema has a great opportunity that the German keeper Neuer clears to secure their goal of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup Brazil 2014.

Brasil - by the minimum

Brazil had to suffer to get rid of Colombia, although they opened the scoring and set up a lead of two goals, a penalty converted by James Rodríguez leveled much more the game. Finally Brasil safeguarded a victory that serves to move them forward, leading to much joy for their fans.
As it could not be otherwise, the atmosphere in the stands and the importance of the game meant that it began with lots of rhythm. We talked about the possible influence of the schedule and the 'canarinha' fans, but I have to say that the FIFA official numbers reveals that there were more meters traveled by both teams in Germany against France that in the Brazil-Colombia game. However, they do not reflect the intensity and speed with which how they ran those meters. They also suggest more passes between the European teams than in the game of the South American sides. A fact that Colombia has complained about is the number of fouls in this second game,: 54 against the 33 of the first clash. Could this have influence the development of the commitment? For Colombians, it´s clear, although Brazilians wouldn´t think the same. A curious fact to add, the goals from these first two games have been in set-pieces - two of them from fouls conceded.

Focusing on the analysis of the game, the early goal of Thiago Silva, who found the ball in the second post on a corner kick putting his team ahead on the scoreboard and thus changing the rest of the game. If they had already started with intensity, the goal still accelerated the pace even more.

The highlight of the first half without fear of being wrong - was not precisely the tactics, but the passion, momentum and the aggressiveness of both teams especially from Brazil and with close attention to James Rodríguez who was very controlled at all times by the pair in midfield - Fernandinho and Paulinho. For me, that was what kept my attention and the reason for the difficulty that Colombia encountered.

From the point of view of the game, we can highlight an occasion from Hulk (20 m) and another after (m 27). Perhaps we should analyse the Colombian counterattack, with a situation of four against two that ended up being three against one when David Luiz attempted to retrieve the ball from James Rodríguez. A clear chance that Colombia wasted by choosing a poor alternative. Instead of facing the single center back who had the ball and with attackers accompanying the play behind the ball, the first tried to pass to his companions, who could even be offside, leaving the Brazilian defender who easily intercepted the pass.

There is little more to focus on from the first half, if anything, a fault from Neymar coming out with much anxiety and intensity, with Brazil trying to impose physically in defence and in midfield, although showing flashes of quality in attack.

The second half began even more complicated for the referee than the first. Too many fouls, too much tension and a loss of nerves by some of the players did not help with keeping control of the game. The detail of the foul to the goalkeeper from Thiago Silva, resulted in him receiving a yellow card which means a suspension for the semifinal, is another example of the tension shown by the players - thinking about nothing else but to win the game.

The great goal by David Luiz - a great signing for PSG, led to more advantage to Brazil, forcing changes in the Colombian setup and, at the same time, their reaction with Bacca entering the field. Their speed near the area creates problems for the Brazilian defence and after a pass from James Rodríguez, Julio Cesar, the Brazilian goalkeeper concedes a penalty, which makes the top scorer of the tournament so far James Rodríguez, encouraging the duel in the final minutes.

More passion, more pressure, less tactical and more responsibility was the theme until the game ended, with changes by both coaches and with the way to 'manage' the ball by the Brazilian side.

As a negative point, we have to highlight the injury to Neymar, which leaves him out of the World Cup, which is a great loss for his team and to the sports and entertainment in general in this tournament. Brazil moves into semifinals and guarantees us at least another match of tension, anxiety and emotion that will again 'stop' the country.

Argentina pass the round

Another clash in the afternoon and again we felt that the pace was lower than in other commitments. We have seen this since the beginning of the tournament, the time, heat, the style of play..., the reality was that the ball and players did not move with the speed of those other evening fixtures.
Belgium introduced some changes, Mirallas for Mertens, and Argentina changed two defenders and a midfielder, in addition playing with Lavezzi on the left and Messi playing with freedom behind Higuaín. A different interpretation of the system, we could say that the two came out with a more or less profiling 1-4-2-3-1.

Messi not did contain Witsel when they had the ball, and however, Fellaini came out in many occasions to look for Mascherano when Argentina had the ball. That move left a space in the back trying to take advantage of the Argentinian offensive players. Messi moving where he wanted while Fellaini reached the opposing area as soon as he could, holding De Bruyne in his position in midfield.

In the eight minute, a great goal of our Gonzalo Higuaín, whose shot, a ball deflected by a defender went into the back of the net. From there, enough control of the match by the South American team while Belgium, for their part, seemed to be a different team to that we watched in the other commitments. Just some individual plays and some crosses to Fellaini, so he could take advantage of his power in the air and therefore not much more to highlight.

Di Maria, the most important player in the first few minutes, was injured (m. 29) and ended the match leaving the field at minute 33. Instead of him, entering and occupying his position in right, on came Enzo Pérez. Nothing changes, except that Argentina was without the pace and speed of Di Maria, usually carrying so much danger. A fault in the front, a shot by Messi, left nothing more to outline before reaching half time.

Immediately, a surprising start of the second half by Belgium, without really going for the victory with the intensity that was expected . Only after the changes, with the entrance of Lukaku and Mertens, was more power and speed shown in any attacking moves, but often making the mistake of crossing balls looking for the tall men (Lukaku and above all, Fellaini), what normally conditioned their game and Belgium from the style: the speed of their game, the depth of their attack and the feeling of constant danger.

Argentina controlled the 'tempo' and just was waiting for their move to sentence the game. After a counter-attack from a corner kick, Belgium lost the ball and again Gonzalo Higuaín who ran quickly to attack about to make it 2-0 with a shot that finally comes back out after hitting in the crossbar.

Upon reaching the final fifteen minutes, Belgium chose to play the long ball towards the forwards, Van Buyten enter also as forward, and all the players searched for the second ball. This resulted in some situations of real confusion, a dangerous corner from a mistake of Argentine defence and some dizzy play, with fumbles and offsides. The game wasn´t clear as it had been anymore and with the unbalanced Belgian team - Messi has the chance in a one on one with the goalkeeper, although Courtois, who knows Leo very well, rejected the ball that Messi tryed to pass over him. Football it´s football, just one minute later, Mertens, rather than put the ball up, played an inside pass to Lukaku and created a chance of danger for the goal of Romero, which could obviously have changed everything. It was not and, finally, Argentina is qualified for the semifinal after many years (1990) and Belgium, already out after having renounced of what led them there – their positive and always offensive football.

Holland on penalties

Selected directing by Van Gaal played them into the semifinals of the World Brazil 2014 after beating Costa Rica and undo the 'tico' dream at an intersection that required extra time after a goalless draw in the game and even shooting from the penalty spot. This certainly seemed to be the key decision of the Dutch coach to change keepers in the closing minutes of extra time. The performance of Krul ended up being absolutely crucial.
And now, let's discuss the systems of the Netherlands and Costa Rica, I think both teams setup was basically the same, 1-5-4-1, with the hue, if any, of an evolution as 1-3-4-3 depending on who had possession. I f you go ahead to the side when you have the ball and do the same with the exterior, which is what made Holland become a 1-3-4-3, as logically they have more possession than the opponent that you're playing, normally making that system and your opponent the same- but more defensive.

As Holland employ a man to man defence, the game is closed and only opens up when a mistake is committed on from one of the defensive players.. At least that's what happened in the first part of the game at hand; the most dangerous times of the Dutch counterattacks came as they took the line of three defenders and forward. When Costa Rica had time to retreat, the Dutch just arrived in the area, always moved the ball from one side to another, but not finding the hole for the final pass.

A review merits a free kick by Sneijder and little more we can highlight as to the game before the intermission.

Overcoming this, Costa Rica started tightening up the Dutch defense to not let them get the ball played from behind. Following the same vein from the first half, more commitment and conviction from Costa Rica and the feeling that there was until the error of any player, from any of the two teams, either an action piece would only then change something.

Just in case, Van Gaal decided to change to Depay and gives access to Lens and from the first moment he can be seen appearing with the idea of using his speed - looking for the back of the defense. A new free-kick launched by Sneijder, who hit the post (83 m) was the most dangerous attempt of the Netherlands in this half followed by other occasion with a shot from Van Persie that except Keylor Navas, confirming once again its good level in this world. Another clear chance for Van Persie, who incredibly did not contact the ball, and the last for Holland with a shot that cleared a defender on the line and hit the crossbar, were the last attractions of the game that brought us once again to extra time time. Holland were imposing and extra time would suit them well.

The ‘orange’ tightened, they move the ball from one side to another with a sense, but it remains difficult to find the hole ranked Costa Rican defense. This brings us to the second part that follows the same trend, with Costa Rica believing, Bolaños scares behind their rival and no one knows who the favorite is. Ureña kicks only to save Cillessen ,Holland with a great stop and the minutes pass with anxiety for both teams. Sneijder kicked the bar of Costa Rica and does not continue because of Ureña. To complete this thrilling final, Van Gaal decides to change his keeper Krul and off comes Cillessen. A risky decision, but no one can ever say how he would have done it all without that change. With him, two standing penalties by the substitute, who guessed the area of the five penalties.

On this basis, we have the conclusion of this match, the Dutch classification and certification from a very intense game. The end result gives validation to Van Gaal and also Krul, both will be recognized as the heroes of the tie and the next game will tell us the importance and significance that this decision may have been.

Now we expect a semifinal with individual clashes between South Americans and Europeans combined which will lead to the two finalists of this year's Football World Championship that takes place in Brazil.

09/07/14 at 18:55:05 #1
Josip Nicotera
Hi Rafa,

Great article!

I am an aspiring coach and was wondering what I should do to build up my knowledge and what directions I should go.

Thank you
15/11/15 at 12:18:10 #2
diego di bologna
Rafa the best, as usual....