Lagerback’s incredible success shows why O’Neill plaudits are misplaced

“It is extremely important that every single player follows our plan. The more organised the team is, the bigger the chances to win. That is why football is the only team sport where a third division team can beat a first division team.”

The words of Lars Lagerback, manager of the Icelandic national team, extolling the virtues of meticulous planning earlier this year. On June 27, in Nice on the south coast of France, the Swede’s hard work paid a rich dividend in the form of victory over an old mentor in Roy Hodgson and a place in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. Continue reading

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Euro 2016 Day 6: France’s 4-2-3-1 flops; Russia’s midfield muddle

France’s 4-2-3-1 flops

Didier Deschamps’ last dalliance with 4-2-3-1, prior to May’s warm-up friendlies, saw his France side crash to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to Albania in June 2015.

The French manager’s memory must be as short as his passing range, as the same configuration completely failed to threaten the same unheralded opposition in the first half at Stade Vélodrome on Wednesday night. Continue reading

Euro 2016 Day 2: England full backs show France how it’s done

Walker and Rose show France how it’s done

Like France’s Didier Deschamps, England manager Roy Hodgson selected a 4-1-4-1 system with inverted wingers for his side’s opening group game against Russia. But while the host nation’s narrowness played into Romanian hands, with ageing full backs Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra unable to regularly provide the requisite width, their younger cross-channel equivalents looked far more dangerous. Continue reading

Four things we learned from France vs. Romania

Set-pieces and left back zone are problems for fragile France

Prior to last Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Scotland, Didier Deschamps’ France conceded six goals in three games against the Netherlands, Russia and Cameroon. Romania, a side whose limited attacking ambition secured them only 11 goals in 10 qualification games, also managed to expose the hosts’ glaring defensive frailties. Continue reading