Portugal – Ivory Coast: Post-Match Analysis [UPDATE]

15 Jun

Today’s 0-0 draw in the Group of Death was a lot more enjoyable than the scoreline would perhaps lead you to believe. It was a real chess match out there, a “highly tactical affair”, as people usually say after these sort of games. As such, the contest lends itself to some Zonal Marking-style diagrammed analysis, especially the strategies employed by those masters of nuance and subtlety, the Portuguese. Here’s their typical lineup:

Here we see Portugal’s preferred lineup. It’s an attack-minded formation, with plenty of danger and ways to create goals. But due to personnel issues, the team rarely keeps this exact shape. Let’s look at some of the issues Carlos Quieroz keeps in mind when preparing his side. Here we see the sizes of the egos of each player on the team:

This is obviously a very important consideration, and to ignore this basic fact of the Portuguese side would be suicide, or at least would probably result in Ronaldo threatening to kill himself when he felt he wasn’t getting enough attention. So obviously certain tactical adjustments must be made, as seen in this diagram of Portugal’s ball movement:

This adjustment has the effect of completely ruining Portugal’s shape, tactics, and–because Ronaldo hasn’t actually scored for Portugal in something like 200,000 minutes–their chances of winning anything in this tournament. However, it keeps the whining coming from that side of the field to a minimum (mind, only a minimum–have you ever seen him NOT complaining?), and pretty much everyone in Portugal would rather just keep CR quiet than win something.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the offense that is impacted by the presence of Ronaldo. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the lack of his presence, as this diagram of Portugal’s defensive shape shows:

Having Ronaldo on your team means you’re always down a man when the other team has the ball, no matter what. It is very important to consider this disadvantage at all times, because ignoring can lead to disastrous results:

Observe the way Ronaldo can’t muster more than a trot even when HIS MAN has the ball in front of the box and is in a position to score or create a goal. He is physically incapable of playing defense, or he just doesn’t. Fergie learned an important lesson that day, and then he sold CR. Unfortunately Quieroz can’t do that, so he has to find a way to cope with the crippling man disadvantage in other ways. The most important strategy Portugal employs is actually another of CR’s strengths, as this diagram of areas of probable areas of diving shows:

This is undoubtedly Portugal’s strength, and as you can see above, there is almost nowhere on the pitch where an opponent is safe from a Portuguese player falling down in their vicinity. As noted above, CR doesn’t score for Portugal, which as a player who refuses to do anything but stand in one place while calling for the ball, or shoot the ball, would be problematic. However, CR contributes to the team quite effectively by getting fouls where no contact exists, and conjuring yellow cards for the other team where other players would simply have lost the ball. Indeed, one of the most exciting contests of this tournament will be to see which number is greater: unjust cards CR “earns” for his defender, or number of goals the tournament’s golden ball winner will score. After one game, we’re all square at one apiece.

UPDATE:

Here are some fine examples of Cristiano’s best work, doing what he does best for the Portuguese:

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Stunning. Just marvelous stuff from a master.

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