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Attacking intent delights the experts

There are just two games remaining at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, giving the Technical Study Group (TSG) the perfect opportunity to gather together and assess the tournament’s most notable trends.

Headed up by Marco van Basten, FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development, the members of the TSG, which has been analysing FIFA tournaments since 1966, expressed their delight at the attacking football played by the teams taking part at Russia 2017. Also catching their eye have been the impressive number of goals scored per match so far (2.8 after the semi-finals) and the tactical astuteness of teams such as Chile. picks out the highlights of a fascinating discussion involving Van Basten, Gabriel Calderon of Argentina, Rodrigo Kenton of Costa Rica and Wynton Rufer of New Zealand.

Marco van Basten: What tactical innovations have you seen at the tournament?
Gabriel Calderon: There’s a clear trend, with the attacking philosophy seen in the last few tournaments being continued here. That’s why we’ve seen so many goals scored here to date (39 in 14 matches). The match average is really good! Teams have been playing the ball out from the back and then passing their way up the pitch towards the opposition goal. That’s something that needs to be pointed out.

Rodrigo Kenton: We’ve seen a couple of very clearly defined types of formations, such as the ones used by Russia and Germany, who’ve switched between a three-man and a five-man defence, depending on whether they’re attacking or defending. Chile have been tactically aggressive too. They’re a hungry side who play a dynamic game for the whole 90 minutes.

Van Basten: You can tell that they’ve come here with the very definite intention of winning the tournament.
Kenton: Absolutely. Germany and Mexico have also played with a lot of intensity, but they’ve not been as consistent. Chile have got some big-game players in (Arturo) Vidal, (Alexis) Sanchez and (Eduardo) Vargas. They’re match-winners.

Wynton Rufer: The forwards press a lot, that’s for sure. And that’s good because it forces the midfielders and defenders to push further up the pitch to support that pressure. Look at New Zealand, for example, who made up for the technical gap between them and the rest by playing a high-intensity game. Every team’s got some very good players and you can’t afford to give them anything.

Van Basten: Talking of which, the average number of goals scored from set-pieces has been pretty low. What can we read into that?
Kenton: That coaches and defenders have really done their homework because they don’t want to get caught out. A case in point is Mexico, who are very good at dead-ball situations. They’ve only scored one goal from them here (Hector Moreno against Portugal), and that’s a clear indication that all the teams have put an emphasis on the passing game as an attacking weapon.

Van Basten: The VAR has been another topic of interest. What do you make of its introduction here?
Calderon: I think it’s been a very good first step. We all have to get used to it, and it’s only natural that there’s going to be a bit of confusion at the start. It was hardly used in the semi-finals, though, and we saw some dynamic football.

Van Basten: So we’re heading in the right direction then?
Rufer: Obviously it’s going to take time. It’s one thing to plan it all, hold meetings and training sessions, but quite another to take it all out to the pitch, which is the moment of truth. You have to be patient, but it’s looking positive to me. It has a vital role to play when big mistakes are made.

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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