Euro 2012: A Tactical Analysis Of The Group Of Death

The Group of Death kicked off yesterday, with pre-tournament front-runners Germany and Holland enjoying contrasting opening games. Here's a tactical analysis of the cagey first matches from Group B...
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The Group of Death kicked off yesterday, with pre-tournament front-runners Germany and Holland enjoying contrasting opening games. Here's a tactical analysis of the cagey first matches from Group B...

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Holland couldn't convert any of the 10 opportunities created by Wesley Sneijder against Denmark

Euro 2012: Co-favourites Germany and Holland Adopt Similar Tactics With Different Results

Two similar games went in opposite directions in Group B yesterday, as Denmark shocked Holland while Germany ground out a win over Portugal. There was an obvious dominant team in both games - predictably tournament co-favourites Holland and Germany - and whilst their opponents were content to sit and soak up the pressure, Holland managed 55% of possession, with Germany finishing their match with a similar 56%.

The two sides played similar formations - 4-2-3-1 - and their opponents played defensive 4-3-3's. Portugal were slightly more organised than Denmark were however, and Holland were afforded plenty of chances by the Danes, who were quite open at times, as shown by the chance given on a plate to Arjen Robben who could only hit the post when presented with the ball by the Danish goalkeeper.

Holland started the game well, monopolising possession, and their attacking quartet of Afellay, Sneijder, Robben and van Persie all combined well with one another. Having missed a few chances however, Bert van Marwijk’s side fell behind midway through the first half, albeit against the run of play. After good work from Danish wing-back Simon Poulsen, the ball fell to Michael Krohn-Dehli, who feinted past Johnny Heitinga and Mark van Bommel to find space in the box, before firing between the legs of Maarten Stekelenburg. It was a great piece of skill, but van Marwijk will have been concerned by how easily Krohn-Dehli was able to breach the entire Holland defence.

Robben then managed to miss when a poor kick from the Denmark ‘keeper Stephan Andersen saw the ball fall to him about 25 yards out with just one defender between him and the goal, with two others hurrying back on either side. This profligacy would be repeated by Holland, with first van Persie and then Sneijder wasting promising opportunities.

Holland managed 55% of possession, with Germany finishing their match with a similar 56%

Chances were more rare in the second half for Holland, as they found Denmark more stubborn and organised after the break, and a lot of their play went through Robben, who refused to pass and spurned a couple of good openings. Sneijder frequently attempted to supply van Persie and then substitute Huntelaar with chances, but neither of them took any of the opportunities created for them by the Inter Milan playmaker.

Huntelaar was denied a penalty near the end, when a defender clearly hand-balled inside the area, but Holland weren’t able to find a way through. Their poor finishing in the first half cost them, but in truth they should have created more clear-cut chances against a Danish side who weren’t all that cautious. The eventual winners were prepared to allow the Dutch to have the ball, but Denmark did still attacked with considerable numbers, and didn’t set out that defensively when Holland were attacking.

In the end it was a rather blunt attack that cost the joint-favourites – they didn’t have an awful lot of variety in their play, and didn’t seem to want to resort to crosses, at least not until Huntelaar joined van Persie up front. They seemed content to let Holland's four attacking players do the work; the full backs rarely joined the attack, while when one of van Bommel or de Jong went forward to help out, they seemed uncomfortable and unsure of themselves.

There were a few key differences in the following game between Germany and Portugal. While the basic formations were much the same, Portugal were a lot more cautious, restricting the space for the likes of Mesut Ozil between the lines by dropping the midfield very deep so there was barely any room in front of the defence. Furthermore, Miguel Veloso was clearly tasked to man-mark Ozil, and he managed to stop him from having a major effect on the game.

However, when Portugal did come forward, Germany were able to fend off their attacks - the Germans were organised, strong, and all of their players read the game well to deny the likes of Ronaldo and Nani. Portugal’s plan seemed to be to simply counter-attack through their wingers, with Joao Moutinho not getting much of a chance to pull the strings as his side sat back and defended.

Miguel Veloso was clearly tasked to man-mark Ozil, and he managed to stop him from having a major effect on the game

Joachim Low’s side were able to penetrate the Portuguese back-line however, as Germany had variety to their game and players comfortable to come forward and help out their attacking four – Sami Khedira often burst forward from his deep midfield position, and did so to good effect in the second half especially when he crossed for Mario Gomez to nod home the winner.

Germany still seemed slightly uncomfortable with the possession-based game they were playing, partly due to having quite direct wingers in Podolski and Muller. A lot of their joy came from getting players in behind the Portuguese wing backs and cutting the ball square, although their goal of course came from a different cross.

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