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John Simkin

Euro 2004

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Guest Andrew Moore

I think you are rather hard on Hr. Eriksson, John. Under his guidance, the England team has qualified for two major tournaments, and in each case reached the quarter-finals. Bearing in mind the situation when he arrived in the job (Germany leading the group), many of us would settle for this.

Only two managers in recent times have done better: Bobby Robson in the 1990 World Cup, and Terry Venables in Euro 96 - each reaching a semi-final; both losing to Germany. Under such greats as Don Revie and Graham Taylor, England failed to qualify for the World Cup finals. Even Alf Ramsey got no further than the quarter finals when England played away. In fact, Eriksson's team did better than any previous England team in the European Championship, apart from Venables' - and he had the same home advantage that worked for Portugal this year. (And a goalkeeper who can save penalties).

I would trace England's failure to a bad mistake by Emile Heskey that lost the lead, and utlimately the game, against France - thereby giving England a match against the hosts in the quarter finals. And an injury to Wayne Rooney that looks like an act of God, or Nemesis. With the players that were available, defending could have made sense. That was how England played against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup - but then it was OK, because we held the lead to the end...

The most successful and tactically sophisticated coach England have had in recent times was Glenn Hoddle - who even won a tournament (albeit a friendly one) with France, Italy and Brazil as the opponents. Hoddle was never tested in a major tournament, as the idiot popular press ensured that he lost his job.

Under Graham Taylor and Kevin Keegan the team often looked to have no idea of how to play. Graham Taylor made daft selections (Geoff Thomas, Carlton Palmer), and presided over the fastest ever goal England have conceded - scored by mighty San Marino. (Eventually his team won 7-1, but to no avail as the Netherlands took the qualifying place the same night, by winning.)

Under Hr. Eriksson, while they do not always look good, they do at least have a system, self-belief and a good attitude. So we are not surprised when they equalize in extra time.

Is there another potential good manager to replace Hr. Eriksson? Big Phil Scolari? I don't see that. Maybe Martin 0'Neill in a few years. Arsène Wenger might do a good job...

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The Netherlands did some good changes in the game which established a better Dutch midfield and more pressure on the Swedes. Van Nistleroy got several big chances - but I guess it wasn't his day during the ordinary play time.

The game Sweden vs the Netherlands was different to the game we saw of the Dutch vs the Czech Republic: In the latter game it was possible to use the wings (Robben and Van der Meyde). The Swedes were clever enough to push both wings back and leave van Nistelrooy lonely in the front-line. So the problem with Van Nistelrooy I think, was a clever tactical decision of the Swedish coach.

The fact that the Dutch team has come so far in the tournament has surprised even many Dutch people. It wasn't the fear of taking penalties, but the fear of lack of cohesion within the group that could have ended the Dutch aspirations. But Dick Advocaat has the credits of turning this bunch of highly paid individuals into a TEAM.

The final: Czech Republic vs The Netherlands

Winner: the spectators!

Edited by N. Zijlstra

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The most successful and tactically sophisticated coach England have had in recent times was Glenn Hoddle - who even won a tournament (albeit a friendly one) with France, Italy and Brazil as the opponents. Hoddle was never tested in a major tournament, as the idiot popular press ensured that he lost his job.

I find this analysis amazing :)

Hoddle in my view possessed a lethal combination of arrogance and ignorance and it is this which eventually brought him down. Eriksson has certainly been an improvement on most of his recent predecessors. I agree with John however that he should have taken the hapless Beckham off in the portugal game.

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An exciting game for us Swedes, probably the best of our games. I was positively surprised yesterday that Sweden tried to play more offensive during the first half - that play was better than in any of the other games that involved Sweden in this tournament. This time we tried to play a whole game. The second half against Bulgaria and Italy was better, but that was more because they invited us into the game. (Anders)

Definitely an improvement on your game against Denmark. I did not think there was much in it between the two sides. Holland were better in the first half and you made much better chances in the second half. You were extremely unlucky not to score near the end of the game. Of course, when it gets to penalties, it all becomes a lottery. I would rather have a golden goal type solution. At least that would encourage teams to play attacking football.

Sweden defence was always well organized and it never seemed you would let too many goals in. You also looked a much better side when you played attacking football. The main problem is that you lacked world class forwards who could score against good defences. I thought that Larsson and Ibrahimovic might fall into that category but alas that was not the case. Still, given the size of your country (and the money spent on your coaches – you obviously cannot afford Eriksson) you did very well.

The game Sweden vs the Netherlands was different to the game we saw of the Dutch vs the Czech Republic: In the latter game it was possible to use the wings (Robben and Van der Meyde). The Swedes were clever enough to push both wings back and leave van Nistelrooy lonely in the front-line. So the problem with Van Nistelrooy I think, was a clever tactical decision of the Swedish coach. (Nico)

As I said, I did not think there was much in it between the two sides. However, you do have two outstanding players in Robben and Van Nistelrooy.

There is an excellent article by Gordon Strachan in today’s Guardian today about the tactics being employed in Euro 2004. It begins as follows:

Although Holland, Greece and Portugal have reached the semi-finals, I can't say they've inspired me. I've not enjoyed watching the Dutch, I'm enjoying the Greeks only for the sake of it being Greece, and Portugal have played one good game, which was against England. I don't think it's a coincidence that all those teams have got this far playing 4-3-3 systems.

That set-up might sound attacking and exciting but it's quite boring. It's great for making sure you won't be beaten but doesn't excite in terms of winning. Sides that play it don't tend to produce a lot of chances because they have only one striker in the box and it makes you hard to break down because 4-3-3 quickly becomes 4-5-1 when you're defending.

Holland, Greece and Portugal play different types of 4-3-3 but the basics are the same in that it's a system that plays off other people's mistakes. Opponents have to take a chance to get through the five midfielders and then get problems against counter-attacks. If you look at the games those countries have been involved in, there haven't been many classics.

If Denmark had beaten the Czech Republic last night all four semi-finalists would have played 4-3-3. As it is we've got one 4-4-2 side there and I'm glad the Czechs are through because they're the team I've most enjoyed watching. Their system will be the exception in the last four but I hope the 4-3-3 system doesn't catch on in the Premiership. It might win games but it doesn't win fans and I don't think the public would accept it. Nor would the game benefit in general. Exciting matches not only fill stadiums but bring in big money from TV and sponsorship. The reason we get the biggest sponsorship is because we have the most entertaining football.

http://football.guardian.co.uk/euro2004/co...1248850,00.html

I cannot find anything in that I disagree with and reflects the sort of thing that Anders and myself have been saying throughout the Euro 2004.

I think you are rather hard on Hr. Eriksson, John. Under his guidance, the England team has qualified for two major tournaments, and in each case reached the quarter-finals. Bearing in mind the situation when he arrived in the job (Germany leading the group), many of us would settle for this. (Andrew Moore)

If we just look at his record it does not seem too bad. However, some would argue that he was a lucky manager in that in has several outstanding players available to him. His greatest success was his 5-1 victory over Germany. However, football observers have been dismayed by the way he dealt with the really big games (Brazil, France and Portugal). In this games her emerged as a traditional, timid, predictable and defensive coach. This is not surprising as he had his most success in Italy (with the help of a lot of money that bankrupted Lazio).

There was an excellent article about Eriksson’s managerial style by David Walsh in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Walsh argues that Eriksson’s strategy is to treat a small group of players differently from the rest of the team. The people who fall into this category are: David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Sol Campbell. He tells them they are world class players and will remain in the team whatever happens. The advantage of this approach is that builds these player’s confidence. It also breeds loyalty. These players will defend the manager’s decisions at all times.

This is a popular management style that is employed by many head teachers. As a school governor I saw a head do this with great skill. However, there is a great problem with this approach. One disadvantage is that if you surround yourself with yes men it is much more difficult to discover emerging problems. It also causes problems with members of staff outside this charmed circle. They feel that compared to the favoured ones, they are not treated fairly. This can demotivate staff. It also has a tendency to make the charmed group complacent. However, the major problem concerns the decision-making of the head/manager. This strategy reduces his ability to make difficult decisions.

It has emerged over the last couple of days that Beckham was unfit during the tournament. According to Beckham the problem was the training system in Madrid. He was also surprised by the amount of fitness that he lost between the end of the Spanish system and when he reported for duty with England. Eriksson admits that tests showed that five England players reported for duty below their best (Beckham was the worse but the others were not named). Despite putting Beckham on special training he failed to reach the standards needed for Beckham to play his normal game.

Given this problem, a manager would normally refuse to pick a player that was unfit. This was not an option for the Eriksson style of management. Instead he plays him, does not substitute him, and afterwards tells the press he was pleased with his performance. Can you imagine what impact this has on the rest of the players who are fully aware that Beckham is unfit. This is especially true of people like Gary Neville (who should be the captain of England), Paul Scholes and Ashley Cole, who play for managers who refuse to have favourites. Can you imagine how Ferguson would have responded if one of his players turned up who was unfit. That is why Beckham never did it at Manchester United. It also explains why he reported unfit for England. Ferguson never allows a player to be complacent. Eriksson, because he is a bad manager, encourages complacency.

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There is an excellent article by Gordon Strachan in today’s Guardian today about the tactics being employed in Euro 2004. It begins as follows:

Although Holland, Greece and Portugal have reached the semi-finals, I can't say they've inspired me. I've not enjoyed watching the Dutch, I'm enjoying the Greeks only for the sake of it being Greece, and Portugal have played one good game, which was against England. I don't think it's a coincidence that all those teams have got this far playing 4-3-3 systems.

That set-up might sound attacking and exciting but it's quite boring. It's great for making sure you won't be beaten but doesn't excite in terms of winning. Sides that play it don't tend to produce a lot of chances because they have only one striker in the box and it makes you hard to break down because 4-3-3 quickly becomes 4-5-1 when you're defending.

Gordon Strachan sounds totally frustrated <_< Perhaps he should leave football and start reporting on chess! :cheers

Edited by N. Zijlstra

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Guest Andrew Moore

I didn't really give an analysis of Hoddle's term as coach - and mentioned him merely to point out that he won something (the 1997 Tournoi de France). Apart from the 1966 World Cup and the dear old Home International Championship (which should perhaps be revived now), the English team has won nothing else. Zilch. Rien. B**** all. The Tournoi is the team's only tournament victory on foreign soil...

Hoddle's tactics, for what it's worth, five years on, were fairly unusual for an English team - he favoured a flexible midfield system with a covering sweeper, and wing backs: 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 depending on how you look at it. The players tended not to like this so-called "continental" formation. That's because every team that has won the Premiership (Manchester United, Arsenal, Leeds, Blackburn) has used a four-man defence for most games, adapting to other systems only for specific matches. I'm open to correction on that one...

Hoddle's record in major tournament matches? Played 12, won 8, drew 2, lost 2 - that's not bad. But not as good as the current manager's...

I would agree with John that Hr. Eriksson is a cautious, defensive coach. Such coaches often win tournaments. To those who watched Mr.Taylor's teams, a competent defence seems like a luxury.

Joe Cole? That would certainly have been a risky, adventurous choice. But Mr. Cole's displays to date in the England shirt have been underwhelming. The injury to Rooney, coming so early, made it hard to use the substitutes positively. With hindsight, Emile Heskey (despite his inept game against France) could have been a more logical choice - big man, fast, holds the ball up, occupies defenders, plays well with Owen and so on. In that scenario, Hargreaves and Wayne Bridge could have replaced Beckham and Gerrard, if and when needed. (With big Emile on, they would not have had to do so much running, and the long ball could have found an England player - whereas Darius Vassell was no match for the superb Portuguese centre halves).

The England Football Online Web site shows that Hr. Eriksson is the most successful England manager since the Second World War (before that we did not have managers - the FA did it).

It also shows that he is still a relative novice - he has a long way to go to reach the number of matches of Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson.

We are disappointed in England, because, for once, we saw that the team had a good chance of winning. (That translates as the Germans and Dutch being weak at the moment...) With Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Taylor one knew in advance that the team would lose.

But, hey, Michael Owen is still young, the defence should be good for another few years, and Wayne Rooney has years ahead of him. We'll be back.

I'm a bit of an internationalist, anyway - once the England team makes its customary Henman-like quarter final exit, one can enjoy the football for its own sake - Portugal's performance against the Netherlands, for example, was a joy to watch for most of us. (Sorry, Nico - but we, too, have known that pain.)

As for Gordon Strachan, the guy never won anything as a manager. His analyses, like ours, are wise after the event.

The moral of this seems to be that the FA should give Hr. Eriksson a shot at the 2006 World Cup - but if that fails, use its large wallet to buy in Big Phil Scolari, after all. My money would be on Martin O'Neill, though, with outside bets on Steve Bruce, Sam Allardyce and Alan Curbishley.

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As for Gordon Strachan, the guy never won anything as a manager. His analyses, like ours, are wise after the event.

Not true. He has a daily column in the Guardian. He pointed out these problems before the Portugal game.

True he has not won anything yet. However, he has only been in manager for a couple of years. (Could do very little with the resources available at Coventry). I know the Southampton fans were very pleased with him. In one season he got them to the Cup Final and into Europe. He will obviously get the next top job when it becomes available. That is, the first job where they want a British manager - very rare in itself.

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Portugal's performance against the Netherlands, for example, was a joy to watch for most of us. (Sorry, Nico - but we, too, have known that pain.)

It was a good performance by the Portugal and the best team deservedly won. No national mourning here, although some hooligans in the Brabant town of Oss fought with the police. Getting into the semi-finals was the best the Dutch this time could achieve to be honest.

See what Otto Rehagel's Greek team will do tonight: a coup aganst the Czechs? ;)

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Guest Andrew Moore

Hi, John,

Gordon Strachan had five years at Coventry City. He managed to avoid the drop a few times, but eventually took them down, and was sacked a little later.

He had only a few weeks out of management before he replaced Stuart Gray at Southampton in 2001, where he took the team to the FA Cup final last year.

He has left management for personal reasons. He could,as you suggest, be an outside bet for a national coaching post (Scotland would be a possibility).

I can't see him as England coach - a foreigner is possible, and maybe a very successful British manager (Martin O'Neill), but a Scot... The thought is very entertaining, though - some of us would enjoy the post-match interviews.

I think that any future coach will be required to have a track record of sucess at a big club, and in European competition - currently that would mean Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool in the Premiership. None of the current incumbents looks very likely. There's Mr. O'Neill with Celtic, and then we have to look overseas. But by 2006 maybe someone else will have broken through...

In terms of technical ability, diet, preparation, treatment and so on, the word is that Steve MacClaren and Sam Allardyce are the most progressive. Steve Bruce and Alan Curbishley do well with modest resources.

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Guest Andrew Moore

Well done, Anders - you got that right.

I said earlier that defensive coaches often win tournaments - and that has happened here. Portugal's power play broke down the English and Dutch defences, but not that of the Greeks - who, let it be remembered beat them earlier, too.

Having not conceded a goal against France, the Czech Republic and, in the second game, Portugal, the Greek team cannot be thought lucky. The players are all modest performers at club level - but as a team, excellent.

A very exciting game, too, played in a good spirit. A pity about the idiot who ran onto the pitch. Did that affect the result? I don't think so.

All the English commentators have remarked on the friendliness of the hosts.

Now let's think about the next World Cup...

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Good discipline, great boll control and passes together with a very efficient defensive - that's obviously the winning concept... ;)

"King Otto" made the Greek individuals work as a team! That's amazing when you see the qualities of some of those individuals,

The players are all modest performers at club level - but as a team, excellent. Andrew
- I agree completely. I wish an offensive play would pay off better though...

Today the Portugese team was to slow and played the ball around the team to much to become really dangerous. The compact wall of Greek defensive players (6-10 of them) took care of the few Portugese players inside the penalty box and the longer passes, often high balls, was exactly what the Greeks wanted - they have been one of the more efficient teams in the air. It's quite typical that a trained situation like a corner decided the game in the favor of Greece. It's true that you don't need to win the ball possession anymore - you must be able to turn the game fast or use the trained situations as free kicks and corners.

Even the fact that a defensive team wins the tornament I must say that it's interesting to see an "older" kind of football is coming back, often individual against individual, with lots of changes of positions. I might be wrong, but this reminds me more about the football I saw as a kid. Several teams played like this. I like that development. ;)

I did enjoy this tournament. It was interesting to see a team - totally unexpected win it. Some games have been great to follow - others just exciting. Now the sofa will get to rest some weeks - and then the Olympic Games starts... :D

In football World Cup comes (if you don't count the tournament in the Olympic Games - which we Swedes missed). We will have more to talk about then...

Now I will again focus on the team of my heart - HEJA GAIS!!! :D

Edited by Anders

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