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.
Probably the most open group of the World Cup with the two likely to progress hard to call, Belgium & Algeria emerged successfully. Many touted the Belgium’s to be the most attractive side with the football they put on show, but Africans Algeria were the outright winners there, even displaying a well-organised defensive system in the last game against Russia. There were no big teams or household names, meaning that this was the hipsters favourite group. Belgium go through as champions with a series of late goals, while Algeria finished ahead of Russia, avoiding defeat in the last game against them. Algeria become the first nation from the Arab world/Middle East to qualify for the next round since Saudi Arabia in 1994.
Key Tactical System
This again wasn’t as much a system as it was an entire approach to the game. Unlike many ‘smaller’ times, Algeria played an attractive attacking system of football which left many viewers in awe of them. With three attack minded midfielders behind the striker, Algeria rely on players like Sofiane Feghouli for their attack. They were excellent against Belgium, surprising many by actually playing better football than the Europeans, but their best football was seen against an inferior South Korea side, where they struck three times in the first half. It was arguably the match that got Algeria many admirers though we’ve always maintained they’d be good to watch.
What was particularly intriguing in the Algerians, evident in their last game, was their defensive organisation. They went a goal behind early on, attacked and got back into it but then realised they needed to protect the point to qualify. We thus saw Valid Halihadzovic sides’ defensive solidity, which personally I didn’t feel existed. They were able to contain the Russia opposition remarkably well, as they qualified to the knock-out stage for the first time in their history.
Again, Algeria is the focus of our attention in this regard and that 4-2 win over South Korea. Striker Islam Slimani put in an excellent shift as he scored one and set-up another. Playing as the lone striker the Sporting CP player combined excellently well with the attacking midfielders behind him to run rings around the Korean defence. It was his ability right in front in attack that allowed Algeria to play their quick combination football.
With Belgium and their vast young talent, it’s no surprise that the best young player of the group is from their side. But while many would suspect potentially bigger names to have performed, one that has stood out is 19-yr-old Divock Origi. He came on in the first game against Algeria for Romelu Lukaku and essentially played the role Lukaku was expected to, only better. He was able to get his attackers into the game while playing as the lone striker. Against Russia ofcourse he had a more evident impact scoring a late late winner to secure the three points.
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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