Advanced Team Fundamentals II – System 🆚 System

Argentina: Attack the Left Channel



Argentina is celebrating a victory on a FIFA World Cup

Argentina are FIFA World Cup champions after one of the most dramatic finals in history. Many will recall this game as anything we’ve ever seen before, surpassing all of our expectations. This final had everything we desired; an impressive clash between Leo Messi and Kylian Mbappé, comeback goals, and a penalty shootout. It was peak football. Yet, these is so much more details that have escaped the public eye after all the celebrations and World Cup aftermath. As you know, at Ekkono we like to dive much deeper and analyze aspects of the game that are normally never seen. Today we will consequently look into the “Hidden Key” for the Argentinian national team in this final and understand how their tactics and playing style boosted their success against a very impressive France to become FIFA World Cup champions.

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While being on the pitch, Ángel Di María (Left Winger) was a key player for Argentina. His skill and positioning in the field became a constant threat to the French defense and they suffered greatly. In more detail, it can be seen that within Scaloni’s game plan, Di Maria needed to remain isolated on the left flank. This combined with France’s narrow defensive block to eliminate spaces in the middle of the pitch, allowed Di Maria to receive many times with advantage and time to cross or look for the one versus one.

As seen in the first video, Argentina is quickly playing the ball in the right, to then play quickly inside France’s block and after combining, pass it to Di María as he is open on the left and unmarked. As Argentina’s advanced midfielders were well positioned in between lines, they manage to attract Koundé (RB) and leave Di María in a one-versus-one situation against Dembelé (RW). This mismatch lead to penalty that allowed Argentina to score the 1-0.

Across the game, Di María was seen playing very comfortably, receiving wit time, and dribbling inside the French area to create goal-scoring opportunities. It can also be stated that Argentina looked and performed best when he was on the pitch. Throughout the final, Argentina were very keen in quickly progressing the ball to the left side of the pitch, where Di María would received and create options. One of the most common ways they did this was through creating diagonal chip passes for Di María to battle and receive.

After he was subbed out, it was Acuña who took this role.This can be seen in the second video, where Acuña (LW) is the sole focus of the Argentinian team to create dangerous options in attack. At this moment of the game Di María had already been subbed out, thus allowing Acuña to fill this attacking role by staying as wide as possible to the left flank. Again, France can be seen with a very narrow defensive block, which allowed Argentina to do these diagonal chips to advance and create offensive options. Nevertheless, there was a clear difference in attack when Acuña received the ball and when Di María did it. Acuña was not as comfortable as Di María to dribble inside and face 1v1 actions, so he crossed the ball more to his teammates from outside the box.

Another of Argentina’s main patterns when attacking was arriving with many players to the opposition’s box. This occurred through different chance creation options but it was more efficient when a winger, usually Di María, received the ball out on the left flank and dribbled inside the box. When doing so, it was very common to see three or four Argentinian attackers enter the area with speed or get good positions at the edge of the box, obtaining positional advantage. This action can be seen in the next two videos, two scenarios where Argentina looks very dangerous on the attack and nearly scored. This type of action also embeds a different element such as the “cut back” by the passer. By cutting back, Argentina are again able to take positional advantage in relation to the opposition and therefore be more dangerous.

These types of actions were incredibly challenging for the French defense, as their players would very often be attracted by the ball and lose their marks within the area. In several cases Argentinian attackers would be found without proper marking from the French players and by the time they realized this, it was too late and Argentina would have the upper hand in attack. Throughout the whole match it is very interesting how the quick repetition of this action resulted in a very efficient tactic for Argentina and a hassle for France. In other words, Scaloni aced this tactic and it resulted in one of their “hidden keys” to win the final.

Another key for Argentina in this World Cup final was their aggressive ‘counter-pressing’. In more detail, when Argentina lost the ball in France’s half, they would rapidly get multiple players in the intervention zone – the zone where the ball is located on the pitch – to block all potential near passing options and recover the ball aggressively by pressing. This idea to anticipating and reacting fast after losing the ball was key to avoiding any progression or dangerous counter-attacks by France, who had very fast players such as Mbappé or Dembélé in the starting eleven. This behavior can be seen in the next video, as Argentina loses the ball after an unsuccessful chip to Di María. Here, six Argentina players are seen counter-pressing quickly in France’s half to recover the ball. In this case, the pressing is efficient as it forces Griezmann to do a bad pass. The action results in Argentina recovering the ball and shooting to target all within the first five minutes of the game.

Argentina also depended on the aggressive but efficient approach from their center backs. This can be perfectly seen in the next video, where Romero is able to anticipate the pass, go forward with determination and intercept it before it reaches Mbappe in the middle of the field. This is extremely important as, when counter-pressing, if the defensive line is not ready to press forward and push the line up, they would give too much space to link players to activate the counterattack. It must also be understood that Romero’s interception is a result of the Argentinian counter-pressing in the play before this one, as it forced France to look for quick options while being pressed by many players.

To conclude, the final game between Argentina and France was a true spectacle. In between all the vivid emotions and wonders, the game had an impressive tactical display. Both national teams performed impressively well throughout different moments of the match. Yet, we believe that Argentina as crowned champions, had a slight upper hand in terms of tactics, which allowed them to dominate the match during the first 80 minutes. The penalty shootout was definitely decisive but Scaloni’s tactics and the masterclass from players like Messi and Di María were crucial for Argentina to win over a very persistent French national team. The FIFA World Cup is over and it left us with some everlasting memories and moments. At Ekkono we want to thank you for your constant support along this journey and we want to let you know that many more matches and analyses are coming.

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