As the group stage comes to an end with two teams from each remaining in Brazil and the rest heading back home, we at Outside of the Boot have analysed each group, paying focus to four key aspects — the primary tactical system that was noticeably successful, the individual game changing performance that decided which way a result went, the most consistent and best young player across the three games (Talent Radar) with the players qualifying no more than 22-years-old and an XI of the best players from the group.
The only group that is flying the European flag high with both the representatives from Europe qualifying, was probably one of the easiest to call. France & Switzerland were significantly better than their respective opponents though the Ecuadorians caused problems to both. France qualify as champions and top scorers having scored 8 in their first two games but held to a clean-sheet in the last; Switzerland and their youthful side ranked high in the FIFA listings were smashed by the French but managed to pick up maximum points from the other two games.
Key Tactical System
What intrigued me most tactically in this group was France’s midfield set-up which personally I see as one of the strongest and well set-up on paper. Cabaye, Matuidi & Pogba/Sissoko form a nice balance in the three man midfield with specific roles for each. Cabaye plays as the creative head, dropping the deepest in midfield and spreading play, interestingly to wide areas primarily. The other two have the crucial box-to-box role but with a dominating French group stage performance, their attacking influence has been much more far-reaching.
Although this three man midfield isn’t innovative in the modern game, it’s effectiveness for France in the group particularly made it key. The more advanced midfielders are also crucial to protect and cover the attacking full-backs. Thus there’s a clear and efficient creative, defensive & attacking balance in the side. While a lot of credit will be given to their attack, Benzema in particular, their midfield has allowed this system to function with an important attacking contribution.
Although not as game-changing as it was impressive, Karim Benzema’s shift against Switzerland in their 5-2 victory was of particular note. The Real Madrid striker having just missed out on a hat-trick in the previous game, got another brace this time around also missing a penalty in the first half. He even set-up a goal against the Swiss living up to his reputation as France’s main man. Special mention must go here to Ricardo Rodriguez who did indeed change the game against Ecuador for the Swiss, with two perfect assists and a good overall performance.
With plenty of youngsters in the side, it’s no surprise that it’s a Swiss player who gets recognition here. In fact, this group had more Talent Radar youngsters than any other. But the one that stood out, particularly in the final game, was Xherdan Shaqiri. The midfielder started off the group quietly with a rather poor first half performance vs Ecuador but allowed Swiss attacks to flow when shifted centrally. He capped of his group stage with a hat-trick against Honduras in the last game that confirmed their progress to the next round. Shaqiri was at No.11 in our Talent Radar list of 25 Young Players to Watch at the World Cup.
Players in red are Talent Radar youngsters
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Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
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