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World Cup 2022 – A Tactical Analysis

How do teams set up? Is their System Successful?

World Cup 2022 – A Tactical Analysis
How do teams set up? Is their System Successful?

After an exciting start to the World Cup, we now head into the Quarter Finals. There’s been ups and downs for all teams, but most importantly for fans, it has been an exciting tournament with some shock results.

In the group stages, we saw an 8-goal thriller with England vs Iran (6-2), Saudi Arabia with the win of a lifetime vs Argentina (2-1) and Germany get knocked out on goal difference with only 4 points. Heading into the Round of 16, we saw Morocco beat Spain with the first game of the tournament to go to penalties, Portugal thrash Switzerland (6-1) with Ronaldo starting substitute and England win convincingly again a high press Senegal team (3-0).

While we haven’t any winners yet, it has been a fantastic tournament for players setting records. Jude Bellingham, for example, has scored and provided an assist being the first player to do under the age of 20 since Messi in 2006. Mbappe has scored 5 goals and surpassed Pele for most World Cup goals before turning 24 (8). Goncalo Ramous, aged 21 years, played 74 minutes in the Round of 16 and scores a hattrick.

With 148 goals scored so far (excluding penalty shoot outs), England and Portugal have scored the joint most at 12 whilst Morocco have been defensively strong conceding just 1 goal as they head into the Quarter finals. With this being said, it’s interesting to see exactly how teams set up against their opposition to gain a tactical advantage.

As it stands England have played 4 games, won 3 and drawn 1 with a goal difference of +10. They set up against Senegal with a 4-3-3. In possession, they look to play thru the thirds, Saka and Foden tuck in slightly to allow space in wide areas for the two advanced full backs Walker and Shaw. Both Bellingham and Henderson play box to box and will move into advanced areas while Rice mainly holds his position. Out of possession, England look to press high, particularly from goal kicks and when the two centre backs Koulibaly and Diallo receive the ball.

Look at figure 1 below to see England’s press. You can see here Saka moving into the passing lane (Diallo to Jakobs) and start to press the ball. Now this pass is blocked Diallo comes to play in field. Bellingham is closest to the Senegal defensive midfielder so starts to get tight, Henderson keeps his position to protect the centre of the pitch but is close enough to Jakobs to press should the ball be played there. Kane is ready to jump to GK if the ball be passed there. With no option for Diallo, he tries to turn back to play wide but gets caught on the ball. There were similar occurrences whereby either Senegal centre half would look to play long, however Stones and Maguire could easily win and keep possession.

Figure 1. England’s Press

Figure 2 shows how England utilise passing in tight areas to create space on the opposite flank. Maguire has the ball in defence and steps into midfield, he is initiating positive penetrating play. Shaw has moved into a wide area, positioning himself behind the defender with an open body position. This position allows a positive first touch upon receiving and he can now attack the space ahead of him. Eventually after linking up with Foden, the ball is passed to Kane in space. At this point, the Senegal players have been attracted to the ball (8 in total) and Kane plays a diagonal ball to Saka on the other flank for a 1v1.


Figure 2. Exploiting Wide Areas

Morocco have won 2 and drawn 2 games, they have only scored 4 goals however they have been defensively disciplined only conceding 1 goal. In the Round of 16, they only had 23% possession against Spain but drew 0-0 and won on penalties. They set up as a 4-1-4-1 playing with a highly compact mid-block, the defensive line sits very narrow and squeezes up the pitch to limit space in between the lines. As Spain, and particularly Busquets pushes higher up the pitch, it forces Morocco into a low block. In possession, they look to break immediately committing attacking players to the counterattack, if the ball is won in the defensive zone a long ball is played into either channel as soon as possible.

Figure 3 details a totally different, but effective defensive set up to England. They are happy to allow Spain to have possession but remain disciplined in their marking to manipulate Spain’s passing to be negative and avoid dangerous areas. To illustrate, below you can see En-Nesyri (19) marks the pivot player Busquets (5). Therefore, pressing comes as a trigger from the 2nd line. On this occasion, as the ball goes to Pedri (26), Ounahi (8) jumps to press the ball. Amrabat (4) is key here as he must cover the pressing man’s space or man. This continuously occurred throughout the game whether this was from low- or mid- block defending.


Figure 3. Low – and Mid – Block Defending

Overall, whilst England and Morocco both have different systems to defend, they both execute it in a very disciplined manner. It’s interesting to see how different opponents can change a team’s system in order to nullify their key targets while playing to the team’s overall strengths. Next World Cup game you watch, can you notice their tactical systems? Keep an eye out for our regular blogs.