Soccer / zlatko dalic
England Did Not Deserve the Finals
Three theses on the World Cup The euphoria about England's national team was greater than their performance during the World Cup. Croats could rely on their leaders – and therefore, also had good chances in the finals. 1. England did not reach the finals – and that is good England's defeat in the group stage match against Belgium, which was calmly taken, attained its effect: after winning over Tunisia and Panama, two more teams – Colombian and Swedish ones – were beaten by the English national team thanks to the favorable tournament schedule. With these four wins against teams whose performance was the same or worse, the young players of Gareth Southgate gained self-confidence for the coming years. But the future of the Three Lions will be based, first of all, on the lessons drawn from the matches against Belgium and Croatia. Because the clear focus on a reliable goalkeeper, numerical superiority in defense and standard situations will not be enough in the long term. The build-up was certainly better than one at the 2016 European Championships or the 2014 World Cup, though not much better. Whereas Croats got exhausted because of two extra-times, English own offensive tactics came almost to a complete standstill after 30 minutes; even Harry Kane was not an example of an effective player. He could neither be a leader nor force the attack. And when he had a chance to make the score 2:0, he gave it away in an unusual way. So Kane is considered a symbol of a team that was able to score against the second- and third-order teams, but still has a gap from the most powerful football nations. His six tournament goals were three penalties, two easy goals and one normal goal just when he suffered an injury; the opponents were Tunisia and Panama. The Three Lions embody a promise of success for the future. How big this promise actually is cannot be read off at this World Cup. 2. Croatia had no play strategy but the right players In contrast to England’s squad, Croats demonstrated at least a convincing performance at this World Cup. During the match vs Argentina, which was in the preliminary round, ended with 3:0 win, Zlatko Dalic's team showed a focused defensive strategy, sent off superstar Lionel Messi to the bench almost for the whole match, and shone showing an effective vivid football in the second half. The Croatians did not have a grandiose or even innovative tactical concept, but they could rely on the individual play quality of their stars. Luka Modric, not accidentally a four-time Champions League winner playing for Real Madrid, could be probably the best player at the World Cup. Moreover, he had three team partners alongside with him: Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, who had also played at the highest level for top clubs for years. The class of these four combined with a reasonable defensive as well as the pace and Ante Rebic’s unpredictability led Croatia into the World Cup finals deservedly. And that does not seem to have been all. 3. The finals did not promise to be nice but rare Who would have bet on a final match between France and Croatia before the start of the World Cup, would probably be rich now. The French could be expected in the final, but a special foresight was needed to see the Croats there. That is exactly what could be a great advantage of coach Dalic's team. The pressure was fully on L’Equipe Tricolore. Just like 2016 when the French wanted to become the European Champions in their own country – and lost in the finals against the underdog Portugal. Today, we can notice that the French national team has made a great breakthrough over the past two years. In defense, Les Bleus were even more confident and played more aggressively due to an explosive weapon in the person of Kylian Mbappé. Nevertheless, the semifinal against Belgium was not the expected football festival but a match marked by Deschamp's defensive tactic, in which a set-piece ensured the decision. The same made the opponent feel fear for the finals. First of all, both teams were careful not to make mistakes. In the end, nuances determined the final result. The French were the obvious favorite because their squad had been better lined up overall. But Croatia with such players as Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Mandzukic and the self-confidence gained after coming back in three still intensive matches qualified in the knockout round. Source: spiegel
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