It’s finally that time. No, not Christmas. THE WORLD CUP. It’s just around the corner, and if you squint real hard you can probably see the sleepless nights and heart-thumping contests already. But to warm you up, here’s your dose of group tasters. It’s where you’ll get to experience a taste of each side, before you see the real deal next month. For the month of May, every Tuesday and Thursday will be a dose of food for thought with each group drop.
So sit back, be ready to drool, and enjoy.
Like a piece of licorice can stretchhhhhh out, so too is how the Germans look to stretch the play when moving into attack. Those long switching balls across the park to find buckets of free space on the opposite flank.
Every good German side is comfortable with the ball, as if born with it at their feet. In this they’re patient with their use of the ball, biding their time until space opens up, to then flick on the afterburners transitioning quickly into attack. A team who likes to find that free space down the flank, it’s really their combinations in front of their opposition’s defensive line where they look the most dangerous. They’re not afraid if the game turns physical and are flexible using different formations without losing that structure.
At their best Germany will be the side everyone wants a taste of. At their worst it’ll be like that licorice salesman at Salamanca Markets who insists you have a try but you avoid eye contact because it’s just not appetising that early in the morning.
The way Jelly can manoeuvre into spaces it somehow creates, and wiggles around, that’s how Spain work the ball. The way the side moves the ball means they can find a way out of any situation, and much like jelly, once they start moving it’s hard to catch.
Spain puts the idea of one touch, combination football on steroids. They’re not afraid if a team pins them into a corner, because they’re confident enough on the ball to pass their way out of it. With this, the off the ball movement and vision is drool worthy. With super high fullbacks in attack, they will look to fool their opponent into thinking they’re playing down one flank with all the numbers, but then open up to find a completely free fullback on the other side of the park.
Of course, a game isn’t won by who has the most amount of complete passes. It’s the amount of goals they can put into the net. That’s where the jelly may fall flat here.
Well organised and with a bit of spark up top, the side look a lot like a deliciously decorated cupcake with the organisation of being able to deal with roughly a dozen individuals at a time, but that pizzaz of the icing that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
China are a side who are more than comfortable on the ball, able to play out from defence and around tight spaces. In all of this, the use of width when pushing forward to create space across the pitch is pivotal to their set up, hence their tendency to play with four or five across the midfield to allow this. They’ve got some eagle eye forwards, who will no doubt be keen to show off their icing decoration in the Cup.
Able to turn on a high press with a flick of the switch, China will pick the right times to implement that weapon. When they are looking to get the ball back, they will crowd the opposition ball player in an effort to win it back.
A bit like soft drink, an absolute winner but can they mix it when the adult drinks come out? The potential is there, but they might also get left behind by that next level of competition.
Not only will defence be important for the side to combat the quality of forwards in this competition, but their defence is where the heart and metronome of the side is. When they have a spell of possession no doubt it will be because of the composure to play it around the back.
A side who can adapt to controlling play as well as being up against it, seeing very little of the ball. Essentially South Africa will be looking to not get exposed in behind their defence. If they can limit the damage of quick attackers getting into these spaces they’ll stand a chance, if they don’t it could be a long day in the office. In attack they’ll be relying on their wingers to be darting down the flank off quick transitions.