Dhe second goal of the Argentines in the final showed once again where the trend at this World Cup was going: the quick transition when the opposing defense is not yet sorted. Di María’s goal to make it 2-0 was a move after winning the ball that couldn’t be played any better. And even a top defense doesn’t stand a chance when it’s so quick and precise going forward.
This goal is definitely something we need to take away from this World Cup for our youth national teams – this defensive stability combined with extremely fast and precise transitions. The point is not only the quick transition, but this common intensity and dynamic in the actions at the moment of winning the ball. Not by one player, but by almost half the team.
How quickly it went from one side to the other, and in the end one is completely free because the opponent can no longer close the gaps at this speed. It’s a very different style of play than we had when we won the title in Brazil in 2014, when possession football was a big thing internationally.
Both the ability to suffer and the aggressiveness of the Argentines was striking to me. That’s a point we’ll be bringing up with our players in the U space. But we always want to be fair and keep everything within a certain framework. For me, the Argentines overstepped that limit a little, especially in the game against the Netherlands. But this aggressiveness and passion are part of the South American game, and we can learn a little from that.
The first 75 minutes of the final were a real benchmark in terms of the intensity with which the Argentines worked against the ball. That was the point that the French didn’t get to grips with for a very long time. They were immediately put under pressure and repeatedly met very aggressive and determined opponents in 1-1 situations. But you have seen what happens when this intensity decreases a bit.
Resilience as a key point
We also always observe the coaches on the sidelines and their way of coaching. And Lionel Scaloni constantly urged his players to put pressure on opponents as soon as they had the ball. For that you need a very athletic team that can maintain this concentration at any moment. To do that for 90 minutes at this level is very, very demanding. And when they couldn’t do it 100%, which is normal in a final after so many games in a short space of time, the French came back and the final was absolutely spectacular.
Argentina’s resilience was the key to winning the title. It must not be forgotten that they lost the first game at this World Cup, their first loss in a long time. Maybe that was the key that welded them together even more as a team, that made them harmonize even more as a team, because the senses were sharpened.
They drew the right conclusions and who knows if they had won all three preliminary round games quite easily, that might have been the case. They easily led 2-0 against both the Netherlands and France, but still had to accept the surprising equalizer and then defended themselves against defeat with everything they had. Chapeau!
Plus, of course, they had Lionel Messi. He played an outstanding World Cup that hardly anyone would have believed him capable of. And Scaloni had put together a team that was perfect together with Messi. He had the role that he has: distributing the balls, bringing the ideas into play, and if the other players don’t know where to put the ball, they play to Messi and he then makes something of it. He creates completely new situations. The other players around have different roles and there were a lot of them who caught Messi.
Alexis Mac Allister, for example, how much he ran, what holes he ran was very impressive. Like others, he ran for Messi. That is then a question of the composition of the team, the exact task description, the team structure. We saw something similar, on a different level, with Morocco and Croatia, who harmonized almost perfectly and eliminated the weaknesses of one player with the strengths of the other players.
But in the end it was Messi’s World Cup. We’re getting a lot of data now, doing trend analysis, getting heatmaps from the games. We know that 70 to 80 percent of the goals have been scored in the “golden zone”, i.e. five to eleven meters in the center of the goal.
There were fewer set-piece goals, which could be due to the short preparation time of all teams. The majority of goals were set up on the wings, there were fewer long-range shots. And then you see Argentina’s opening goal in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands, that no-look pass from Messi in full dribbling, and you can’t help but be amazed. Absolutely outstanding, for me, together with Di María’s goal in the final, the goal of the tournament.
The author Christian Wück has been working as a coach for youth teams of the DFB since 2012. The former professional accompanies the U-17 national team on the way to the EM 2023. “Team DFB” appreciates the 49-year-old game philosophy expert for his analyzes and innovations.
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