The first round of fixtures at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup 2013 in Turkey have now been completed and Sam Thompson, from TTTFootball, discusses five of the big tactical points from the tournament so far…
1. Spain use a false nine
Julen Lopetegui could have settled for just winning the European under-21 Championships this summer, but rather than take the next few months off, he was back in the dugout with the Spanish under-20s who recorded an emphatic 4-1 victory over the United States.
The USA were a decent outfit but simply couldn’t deal with Spain’s superior movement and swift counter attacking. The senior Spanish side caused a stir this time last year when Cesc Fabregas was chosen to lead the line for their European Championships group stage encounter with Italy, ahead of an out-and-out striker. Fabregas acted as a false nine, moving deep towards the ball, and Suso was tasked with playing this role against the United States.
The Liverpool winger did very well, with the Americans unsure of who should pick him up when he drifted away from goal. Wingers Jese Rodriguez and Gerard Deulofeu were required to stretch the play in behind as a result, and both got on the scoresheet twice, with the latter particularly impressing. Oliver Torres provided plenty of creativity and vision in midfield and another notable feature were the marauding runs of Spain’s right back Javier Manquillo, who constantly surged up and down the right flank.
2. Colombia forced to miss out Quintero
Colombia, go into this campaign as one of the sides considered likely to go far, after winning January’s South American Youth Championships, but they could only manage a draw against a very impressive Australia side. The Colombians set-up in a 4-2-3-1, consisting of six defensive players and then four very attacking ones – including highly talented attacking midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero.
However, it was Australia’s playmaker, 16 year old Daniel De Silva, who stole the show and grabbed his side’s goal in the 1-1 draw. Australia were a high pressing 4-1-4-1 with the superb Jackson Irvine sitting in midfield. As the diagram shows, lone striker Adam Taggart split the Colombian centre backs with Australia’s midfield four then closing down Colombia’s full backs and holding midfielders – forcing the South Americans to constantly look long for powerful target man Jhon Cordoba and miss out key man Quintero altogether.
Colombia’s attacks were far more cohesive after half-time, as both full backs started pushing up and the two holding midfielders played ten yards further forward. It was powerful target man Cordoba who got his side’s equaliser on 78 minutes with an instinctive finish, but Australia highlighted how, when pressing fast and high, you can force more talented opponents into changing their game plan.
3. France opt for power over precision
French Under-20 coach Pierre Mankowski made a bold decision with his team selection for his sides’ opener with Ghana, in that he opted to use Paul Pogba and Jordan Veretout as his double pivot in a 4-2-3-1, with defensive midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia instructed to play higher up in an unfamiliar number 10 role.
France were frustrated for large parts of the first half with Pogba failing to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and struggling to deal with the creative burden on his shoulders – the a result of a defensive midfielder playing in an attacking position ahead of him. Given Kondogbia lacks the technical skills of a more natural playmaker, he didn’t look to play killer passes on the edge of the box, but instead tried to utilise his power by bursting past lone striker Yaya Sanogo – similar to when Kevin Prince Boateng or Fredy Guarin play in that role for their respective clubs.
The French were much improved after the break and it was Kondogbia who gave them a deserved lead on 65 minutes. The impressive Sanogo and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck also got on the scoresheet before Yiadom Boakye got a consolation for Ghana.
4. Egypt’s five man defence
Chile were forced to battle hard and come back from a goal down to beat Egypt 2-1 in Group F. Part of the reason for this was Egypt’s solidity in defence mixed with incredible speed and directness in attack.
The Egyptians defended in a relatively deep 5-4-1 formation – their wide midfielders picked up the Chilean full backs and the two Egyptian central midfielders closed down Chile’s double pivot as shown in the diagram. Chile’s wingers were therefore marked by Egypt’s two wing backs, with Egypt’s three centre backs then responsible for marking both Chile’s number 10 and lone striker.
Once Egypt won the ball back, they exploded into attack at great speed. Wing backs Mohamed Samir and Ibrahim Osama pushed up becoming wide midfielders, leaving Egypt with a back three.
Further ahead, Egypt’s two initial wide midfielders, Mahmoud Kahraba and Refat Ahmed pushed higher up, becoming wingers and changing Egypt very quickly from a 5-4-1 to a 3-4-3 – Kahraba on the right tended to play slight higher than Refat and it was his run and finish through the middle that gave Egypt an early lead before Chile composed themselves and turned the scoreline around.
5. England fail to hold on
Having seen Chile take all three points against an organised Egypt, Peter Taylor’s England knew that three points against Iraq were a must. After taking a two-goal lead through a Conor Coady header and then Luke Williams after a text book counter attack, England should have moved level with Chile in their group.
Instead they conceded twice, with the equaliser coming in the 93rd minute. England dominated the ball, with 60% of possession in the first half and played patient, probing football against well drilled Iraqi side. Particularly encouraging was England’s fluid midfield, something the Under-21 side never came close to in Israel earlier this month.
With Coady holding in midfield, James Ward-Prowse and Ross Barkley provided plenty of passing and vision alongside him. Luke Williams doubled up as both a left winger and second striker and England looked particularly dangerous when he drifted inside, often rotating with Barkley and allowing left back Daniel Potts forward.
After doubling their lead early in the second half, England sat deep and invited Iraq onto them. As a result, the Iraqis came out of their defensive shell and scored with an Ali Faez penalty on 75 minutes before Ali Adnan equalised in injury time, after a fantastic run from left back.