Football Focus, Aston Villa-Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers’ vision for fluidity in attack

1 Comment

source:  Liverpool’s narrow 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday showcased a contrast of styles in each half of play from the Reds. The free-flowing style that manager Brendan Rodgers has tried to instill shined through in the first half, but it shrank as time wore on and Villa pressed for an equalizer.

Both teams started similar lineups as in previous league games in the young 2013-14 season, with Liverpool preferring a two-man central pair of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, while Aston Villa played three in the middle again.

In effect, Liverpool cut its lineup into an attacking block and a defending block, with those two central players creating a conduit between them. Gerrard and Lucas took turns pressing underneath Philippe Coutinho, Iago Aspas and Jordan Henderson.

Gerrard and Coutinho were the Reds’ primary playmakers, Gerrard from a deeper position and Coutinho higher up the field. Lucas’ role primarily consisted of winning balls and sweeping up defensively.

Aston Villa’s midfield triangle played much flatter than usual in the first half, causing its wingers to tuck in and leaving space on the outside.

Constant interchange and movement

When Villa had the ball, Liverpool dropped into two blocks of four defensively.

source:

Aspas worked closely with target striker Daniel Sturridge on both sides of the ball, remaining high as a quick outlet for breakout passes. Wingers Henderson and Coutinho dropped even with Lucas and Gerrard, leaving space into which they could run in transition.

In attack, the players interchanged constantly and overlapped one another at every opportunity.

source:

Primary movements included Coutinho tucking inside to find the ball and Aspas pressing alongside Sturridge on the front line. This gave left back José Enrique the space to overlap often, and Liverpool usually had two forward runners on balls played through.

Sturridge’s work rate creates game’s only goal

No play symbolized Liverpool’s attacking movement better than its goal. Sturridge started on the left wing, drifted inside and ended up finishing the play inside the six-yard box. He covered an immense amount of ground without ever really sprinting, all because he kept looking for open spaces to exploit.

source:

As Liverpool looks to counter-attack, Sturridge drifts into the channel to possibly exploit a one-on-one situation or open up space for Aspas to run centrally.

source:

He decides to hold the ball up and play centrally through the midfielders. Sturridge dribbles toward the middle of the field before laying the ball off. Meanwhile, José Enrique overlaps again on the left. After he gives the ball up, Sturridge continues his bent run toward the forward line, allowing the play to develop and searching for a gap into which he can run.

source:

Both he and Coutinho (who has drifted centrally once more) find themselves in the soft space between Villa’s defensive and midfield lines. Instead of taking on Matthew Lowton one-on-one, José Enrique decides to serve the ball into the middle, where Liverpool has numerical superiority.

source:

Now comes the tough decision for Villa’s defenders: do they step up and try to cut the pass out to Sturridge and Coutinho, or do they delay and wait for a midfielder to back-tackle? Ron Vlaar decides to step, thinking he can take the ball off Coutinho.

But instead, Coutinho dummies the ball through to Sturridge, and because Vlaar is now out of position, the forward finds himself one-on-one with Antonio Luna. Any forward in the world would salivate at the prospect of taking a player on in the penalty area and scoring, and Sturridge does well to round Luna and goalkeeper Brad Guzan before slotting it in.

A game of two halves

Aston Villa clawed for an equalizer for the remainder of the match, putting Liverpool on the back foot, especially in the second half. Liverpool’s defensive shell resulted from a combination of its desire to keep a slim lead on the road and Villa’s tactical changes to attack more dangerously.

source:

Instead of holding deeper positions next to Ashley Westwood, Leandro Bacuna and Fabian Delph pressed higher in Villa’s midfield triangle. It more closely resembled Villa’s shape in its first two league matches, which could be described as a traditional 4-3-3.

That allowed the wingers to stay wider, which put Liverpool on the back foot defensively. As the match wore on, the Reds’ line of confrontation dropped deeper and deeper, until Sturridge eventually began his team’s defensive work in his own half.

source:

His starting position dropped even deeper than Liverpool’s half of the center circle, which allowed it to condense its two blocks of four even further. Villa had no space to play within 25 yards of goal. Liverpool astutely held a deep but firm position, allowing the ball to play around in front but never getting too close to the penalty area.

In effect, Liverpool bunkered down and held on tightly for three points on the road. Villa completed 50 of 79 attempted passes in its attacking third of the field in the second half, compared to 30 out of 47 in the first, but it could not find a way past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who again made a couple crucial saves.

Attacking for 90 minutes

Ideally, Liverpool would like to be on the front foot all game long. A free-flowing system starts to look even better when a team goes up by two or more goals because then the opponent gets stretched out, looking for a response, giving more room to play combinations and run into spaces. So far, Liverpool has only been able to get its goal and then drop deep to keep the slimmest of leads.

Early in the season, teams are rarely able to convert the majority of their scoring opportunities. Although Liverpool’s players showed great understanding when moving forward with the ball, that should only get better as they get more of a chance to train together and establish a rhythm (not to mention getting Luis Suárez back from suspension).

For now, manager Brendan Rodgers will be happy — but not satisfied. His team still has work to do to become an attacking force for 90 minutes.

If you missed the match, or if you want to re-watch it in its entirety, here it is:

Lionel Messi scores again as Argentina eliminates Australia (video)

0 Comments

Lionel Messi and Argentina will continue their 2022 World Cup quest after beating Australia 2-1 in a controlling performance with a mildly-nervy ending in Qatar in Saturday’s Round of 16 meeting.

WATCH ARGENTINA vs AUSTRALIA FULL MATCH REPLAY

Messi and Julian Alvarez scored for the Albiceleste, who will play at least one more round that the 2018 tournament after taking a comfortable lead but dealing with a wickedly-deflected goal from Australia’s Craig Goodwin that’s likely to go down as a 77th-minute own goal.

Argentina will square off with the Netherlands at 2pm ET Friday.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


Socceroos’ Cinderella run ends as Messi scores, Argentina runs match

The headlines will once again, predictably, focus on Lionel Messi scoring for the third time in four matches for Argentina, perhaps dancing toward a final in the final World Cup for the greatest player in the sport.

But this should again be a look back at Argentina’s tight unit, as the Albiceleste held another nation to a microscopic expected goal total in Qatar.

Argentina has conceded thrice in four matches, with two goals coming off golazos in the loss to Saudi Arabia and one on a wicked deflection Saturday versus Argentina.

All told, Argentina’s back line, led by sterling Nicolas Otamendi, has conceded 0.15, 0.27, 0.32, and now 0.21 expected goals against in their matches at this World Cup.

That’s not to say that there weren’t nerves after Goodwin’s speculative rocket shot took a wicked turn off Enzo Fernandez to defy the gloves of Emiliano Martinez (and the wherewithal of any goalkeeper). Aziz Behich made an electric run into the box only to see Lisandro Martinez of Manchester United deny his 80th minute bid to make it 2-2.

So Argentina moves on to face the Netherlands, a familiar match-up for the World Cup, and will feel its chances of a semifinal or better improving by the minute.


Stars of the show

Nicolas Otamendi

Rodrigo De Paul

Lionel Messi

Craig Goodwin


Lionel Messi goal video: Argentina cuts in front

Julian Alvarez goal video: Oops, Mat Ryan


How to watch Argentina vs Australia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday (December 3)
Stadium: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Without looking ahead and past Australia, Argentina will know that their half of the bracket is shaping up rather nicely for a run to at least the semifinals, where they could potentially meet bitter rivals Brazil. Messi has been in fine form thus far in Qatar, scoring twice and assisting once more during the group stage, even if he was denied from the penalty spot by Poland’s Wojciech Szczesny in the finale. The main question regarding Lionel Scaloni’s selection revolves around Lautaro Martinez (2 starts in the group stage – 0 goals, 0 assists) and Julian Alvarez (1 start – 1 goal, 0 assists) at center forward.

Australia head into Saturday’s showdown having not conceded a goal in 199 minutes, going back to France’s fourth in the opener. The Socceroos have had success since switching to a 4-4-2 in both of their victories, keeping eight, nine and sometimes 10 men behind the ball while averaging just 36.7 percent of possession over the three games. Australia are one of four sides (Morocco, Poland and Japan being the others) to have held less than 40 percent of possession and make it through to the knockout rounds.


Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Follow @AndyEdMLS

France vs Poland: How to watch live, stream link, team news

0 Comments

Defending world champions France will begin their journey through the knockout rounds when they face Poland in the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup on Sunday.

STREAM FRANCE vs POLAND LIVE

Only twice in the history of the World Cup has a defending champion defended their title and went back-to-back. Italy did it in 1934 and 1938; Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962. 60 years later, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and captain Hugo Lloris hope to join those legendary sides for the rest of time.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for France vs Poland. 


How to watch France vs Poland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Sunday (December 4)
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

For France, the group stage was a bit of a mixed bag results-wise, but the quality of performances was undeniable. Les Bleus hammered Australia, the eventual Group D runners-up, 4-1 in the opener, followed by a 2-1 victory over Denmark in game no. 2 and a surprising 1-0 defeat to Tunisia with next to nothing to play for in the finale. After losing Karim Benzema to injury during training just two weeks ago, on top of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba going down long before the tournament began, Mbappe (3 goals, 1 assist) and Griezmann (1 assist) shouldered the load in the group stage. 22-year-old midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni was the only player to start all three group games, as Didier Deschamps gives the Real Madrid star a crash course in World Cup football.

Despite having Robert Lewandowski, one of the best strikers of his generation, Poland managed just two goals during the group stage — both in the same game, their only win, against Saudi Arabia. On the flip side, keeping two clean sheets (also against Mexico) proved the difference in elimination and advancement. Poland are one of four sides (Australia, Morocco and Japan being the others) to have held less than 40 percent of possession and make it through to the knockout rounds.


France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Hugo Lloris, Antoine Griezmann

Poland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Follow @AndyEdMLS

England vs Senegal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

0 Comments

England and Senegal square off in the last 16 of the World Cup with plenty of pressure on the Three Lions and next to none on the Lions of Terranga.

There is a whiff of an upset in the air.

STREAM LIVE ENGLAND v SENEGAL

Gareth Southgate’s England have been solid so far at the World Cup, finishing top of Group B with minimum fuss as they are unbeaten but they’re still capable of putting in a stodgy, stale display as we saw against the USA. The attacking talent of this English side has many believing they can at least better their fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Cup.

As for Senegal, sans Sadio Mane they did very well to get out of Group A but this challenge will be a huge one for the reigning AFCON champs. Can Aliou Cisse’s side be solid enough defensively to give themselves a chance to cause a shock?

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for England vs Senegal


How to watch England vs Senegal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET – Sunday, December 4
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor 
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

When it comes to England they have so many wonderful attacking players that it’s so hard to get them all on the pitch at the same time. It is also tough for Southgate to get the balance of the team right. When England clicks up top they are almost unstoppable and Harry Kane is the chief creator as well as the biggest goal threat. But he’s yet to score in this tournament as Rashford, Saka and Co. have done the damage. Defensively John Stones and Harry Maguire have been excellent too and this will all be about if England are brave enough to come flying out of the traps and back their star forwards to have the win wrapped up by half time. England have no injury issues, although Ben White has flown back to the UK for personal reasons so the Three Lions squad now has 25 members who are all fully fit. That makes preparing to play England a nightmare as they could roll out so many different combinations and formations in midfield and attack.

Senegal has nothing to lose which is very dangerous in a knockout game. They have great experience in their side with Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy holding them together defensively and at the other end of the pitch Ismaila Sarr has really stepped up in attack in the absence of their superstar Sadio Mane. If Mane hadn’t been ruled out of this tournament due to injury, we would probably be talking about this Senegal side as a potential semifinalist. If England make a mistake or underestimate them, Senegal will make them pay but they will miss Idrissa Gana Gueye in midfield for this game as he’s suspended. There are also a few other injury issues for Senegal to deal with as Cheikhou Kouyate has been missing after he picked up an ankle injury in the opener.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford
At the 2022 World Cup – Won Group B with 7 points (+7 GD)

Senegal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 18
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key players: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly
At the 2022 World Cup – Finished 2nd in Group A with 4 points (+1 GD)


World Cup yellow card rules 2022: Do cards carry over after group stage?

0 Comments

At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, we’ve already seen games majorly impacted by yellow cards and red cards – most notably the Wales group stage meeting with Iran where goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey came off the line and took out Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi. Hennessey was sent off with a red card and Wales, down to ten men, saw Iran score two stunning stoppage time goals for the unexpected win. It was the first red card of the tournament and one that unquestionably changed the course of the game.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – how to watch, groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

Less impactfully but still of note, four U.S. players received yellow cards in the Americans’ opening match against Wales – (Kellyn Acosta, Tim Ream, Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest). While yellow cards are a omnipresent part of soccer, players run the risk of acquiring two cautions and being unavailable when their team needs them most. Here’s the breakdown on how yellow cards turn into player suspensions and what happens to cards in between rounds of the tournament.

How many yellow cards equal a player suspension?

If players receive two yellow cards at the 2022 World Cup, it will result in a one-game suspension. If the player receives both cautions in the same game, they will be sent off and serve the suspension in the subsequent match. But players can also receive a suspension after accumulating two yellow cards across separate matches. So once a player has a yellow card to their name, they’ll likely be thinking carefully about how they approach situations to ensure they’re not out of commission at a key moment in the tournament.

RELATED: What are the group stage tiebreaker rules at the 2022 World Cup?

Do yellow cards carry over from the group stage?

At the 2022 World Cup, yellow cards do carry over from the group stage into the Round of 16. If a player receives one yellow card in the group stage and another in the Round of 16, they are ineligible for their team’s quarterfinal matchup. However, there is a “clean slate” from the quarterfinals into the semifinals where all previous cautions are wiped, so no players in the semifinals will be at risk of missing the final matches due to accumulated yellow cards from earlier in the tournament.

Per FIFA, if a suspension can’t be served during the World Cup, it will be carried over to the team’s next official national match.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 odds: Favorites, underdogs, group stage winners

What do yellow cards mean at the World Cup?

Yellow cards are essentially cautions (also called “bookings”) given to players by match officials for a variety of infractions – these can include poor sportsmanship, delay of game, intentional injury to another player, not maintaining mandated distance from the ball on penalty kicks, impermissible language or other situations as determined by the referee on the pitch and the Video Assistant Referee. If a player receives multiple yellow cards, either in the same game or across multiple games, they receive an “indirect red,” which results in a one-match suspension.

Yellow cards can be a big problem for a team when it comes to missing key players, but they can also impact a squad’s chance of making it through the tournament. The final tiebreaker to determine which teams advance out of the group stages is the team conduct score, or “fair play” tiebreaker based on the number of yellow and red cards a team has accumulated. In a situation where teams are equal on all other tiebreakers, the side with the higher team conduct score will advance to the round of 16.

RELATED: Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits

World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5am, 8am, 10am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!