Wing battles of the international break

September 19, 2012
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There were many high profile matches during the international break but two lower key matches caught my eye. The two bigger teams seem to be having problems under their new managers and the other two seem to be really progressing under their new bosses.

Brazil vs. South Africa

In one of Gordon Igesund’s first interviews as the new Bafana Bafana manager he stated “we have to have an identity and I believe our philosophy should be to play attacking football with width and wing play as these are our strengths”. South Africa have always had a vast array or fast skilful wingers, so his decision makes sense, but he also mentioned he wants to play possession football.

In the modern game at least one of the wide players will often cut inside or at least tuck in with the central midfielders to help keep the ball but with South Africa starting in a 4-2-3-1 with two pure wingers their midfield three of Kagisho Dikgacoi, Lerato Chabangu and Oldham’s Dean Furman didn’t have the quality to match Romulo, Lucas and Oscar, struggling to keep the ball. As well as the mismatch of quality in midfield, Thulani Serero and Sephiwe Tshabalala stayed high up the pitch so Dani Alves and Marcelo were able to get forward and outnumber South Africa’s full-backs but they weren’t creative enough to take advantage.

Although Hulk managed to score in the second half, Brazil were generally as cumbersome as they usually are under Mano Menezes and after South Africa inverted their midfield triangle, their pressing improved and Brazil looked even worse. South Africa created some good chances, despite trying to play killer balls too early and attempting too many hopeful long shots. Nevertheless, after Igesund’s first game in charge, there are a lot of positives for the Bafana Bafana to take out of this game; Brazil less so.

Jamaica vs. USA

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side seem to be struggling to adapt to his style of football, however his major problem was that his tactics played right into Jamaica’s hands. It was well known Theodore Whitmore was planning to play three central defenders with wingbacks so it’s surprising Klinsmann didn’t consider what effect this would have on his own team.

The US started in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, taking the lead in the first minute through Clint Dempsey but poor soon afterwards. The primary source of width for the US was from the fullbacks but they were engaged very high up the pitch by Jamaica’s wingbacks. Jamaica’s formation, which could be described as a 3-6-1 without the ball, meant that USA’s deepest midfielder Kyle Beckerman was forced very deep and the main points of distribution in possession football – the full backs and holding midfielders – were shut down meaning the US couldn’t get the ball forward without launching it.

After Jamaica managed to get the score to 2-1 Klinsmann switched his teams shape to their customary 4-2-2-2. Normally, even if playing against a team with 3 central midfielders, they will be able to dominate since they have two very narrow wide players tucking inside with good movement to control the game in front of the opposition’s back four with the fullbacks getting forward well. However in this case since the Jamaica had four players in that central zone this was not the case, but when the USA’s attacking midfielders drifted wide they were able to overload Jamaica’s wingbacks yet the Reggaeboyz defended their box resolutely and came away with a win.

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