Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


So, soccer....
June 17, 2014 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Interested in the World Cup, but a complete ignorance of soccer tactics keeping you from enjoying the game? You need to read Zonal Marking. A one-stop tactics warehouse, Zonal Marking is written in its entirety by Michael Cox and includes detailed post-game analysis as well as in-depth profiles of every team taking part in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Brazil
Netherlands
Germany
Spain
Croatia
Uruguay
Argentina
Portugal
England
Italy
France
Chile
USA
Australia
Belgium
Russia
South Korea
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Iran
Ecuador
Switzerland
Honduras
Costa Rica
Japan
Ivory Coast
Greece
Colombia
Mexico
Nigeria
Ghana
Algeria
Cameroon



Bonus 1: The MeFi World Cup Fantasy Football League
Bonus 2: Sorry non-sports people
posted by 256 (63 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm familiar with the general soccer/football rules, but the groups/tournament rules always seemed hard to understand. This pdf match schedule has been really helpful with that.
posted by Big_B at 2:42 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Zonal marking is like the wet dream of us pasty faced introverted English nerds - you can read it and suddenly you are immersed in the world where football is about statistics and patterns and not about beer. So good.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:18 PM on June 17


Henderson as England's key player?

I'm familiar with the general soccer/football rules, but the groups/tournament rules always seemed hard to understand.

One key rule, you have to have a big chart on the wall to record all the results of the group games. Ideally this will fall out of a newspaper but you may have to make do with a printed off one from the internet. (9.6MB pdf)
posted by biffa at 3:44 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Great to see Brazil struggle against Mexico tonight. Opens up the group a bit. Iran Nigeria was awful, but respect to Iran for the result. Germany dispatched Portugal with ease, and Pepe got himself stupidly dismissed. And as for Holland Spain - wow!. Also, we discovered that Sabella is an idiot and a genius in 90 minutes of football! And USMNT beat Ghana - finally! As for England, the less said the better.

ZM is an awesome rescource.
posted by marienbad at 3:51 PM on June 17


Can we talk about that USA - Ghana game for a second? That was insane. After about 60 minutes I was thinking that a Ghanaian goal was so inevitable the USA should just let them drill one in so that they could get it over with and get on with trying to get the lead back. John Brooks' reaction after his goal was so amazing. I don't think I've ever seen a USMNT player that affected by a goal.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:55 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Henderson as England's key player?

His red card cost Liverpool the title - his energy and drive are that important. With him on the pitch, no Gerrard slip and no Palace comeback.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:00 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


You nerds will appreciate this juxtaposition.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:05 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I was really happy to see Kyle Beckerman perform well last night - I went to elementary school with him. His older brother Todd was in my grade, while Kyle was four grades back with my sister and Edward Snowden.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:13 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


robocop is bleeding, did you go to clone high?
posted by 256 at 4:20 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Please, call me Abe.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:34 PM on June 17


What is XI in this context?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:38 PM on June 17


Eleven. The number of players you are allowed to field at once.
posted by 256 at 4:40 PM on June 17


Wow. I read (or tried to read) the USA profile and didn't get very far before I gave up in frustration. I apparently know even less about soccer than I thought I did.
posted by octothorpe at 5:07 PM on June 17


Great site, thanks!

The US did surprisingly well against Ghana; I guess I'll have to root for them farther into the tournament than I expected before giving my full support to the albiceleste.
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on June 17


[Henderson's] red card cost Liverpool the title

In the game-to-game timeframe, I agree 100%. In the season-to-season timeframe I think Carragher's retirement the previous season cost Liverpool the title.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:17 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The albiceleste might need all the support it can get, lh ;) I kid because I love.

Holland had a terrific start, France was good against a weak opponent and Germany was very good at times. Easy wins like NL's and DE's can obstruct possible problems like trying to break through more organised defenses, but I'm optimistic so far. The two favourite outsiders, Colombia and Belgium, were a bit underwhelming in their first games, but I liked the choice of Colombia to give us (Greece) possession after scoring knowing that it's a team built on counter-attacking.
posted by ersatz at 5:23 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Wow. I read (or tried to read) the USA profile and didn't get very far before I gave up in frustration. I apparently know even less about soccer than I thought I did.

I don't know if this was your issue, but one key type of jargon that Cox throw around a lot is the numerical codes for different formations (4-3-3, etc.). It helps a lot to be able to decode these, but it's pretty simple once you learn how. Soccer does not have any positions (other than goalkeeper) defined by the rules of the game, so there's a lot of freedom in how teams arrange their players on the field. Most formations are given in a simple [defense]-[midfield]-[offense] nomenclature to indicate how many of the 10 non-goalkeeper players are assigned to each position.

Sometimes you will see a four part code like 4-2-3-1, which simply indicates that the midfield is broken into substantially separate defending and attacking groups (so that formation has four defenders, two defending midfielders, three attacking midfielders, and one straight attacker). You will also see a lot of talk about shapes and formations within a line. Do the midfielders arrange themselves in a diamond, or in a wedge? How far to the outer lines of the field do the outside defenders tend to keep?

Another bit of jargon you see tossed around on Zonal Marking is position numbers, which are particularly opaque, and largely obsolete. The only ones you really need to know are position 10, defined as a forward or midfielder who tends to create scoring opportunities for others rather than scoring goals himself, and position 9, which is a central forward in a direct attacking position. Extra confusingly, the number 9 position is most commonly referred to these days in terms of a "false 9."
posted by 256 at 5:28 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


As opposed to Arsenal, which in the past few years has experimented with the "false 6", the "false 4", the "false 3", and the "false 1".
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:32 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Also- Mario Balotelli, how can I stay mad at you?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:35 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


I think if Wenger thought he could get away with it he'd try a 6 10s formation with 6 attacking midfielders in front of the defense.
posted by vuron at 5:48 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


One of the reasons I enjoy the World Cup is because I know practically nothing about the game. This is a relief after American gridiron football where I have so much experience and technical knowledge that I can't really enjoy the sport anymore as a fan. With World Cup soccer I just watch the flight of the ball, the flow of the play, the differences in the nationalities and marvel at the athleticism. Ignorance is bliss...
posted by jim in austin at 6:23 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Shocking news, but the Brazilian coach kicked one of his star players in practice.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:30 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Further to what 256 said about formations, here's the wikipedia page for them. The ones that see most currency today are probably the mentioned 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 (where one of the attackers is a bit behind to link play or make late attacking runs), and less often, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2. It gets a bit complicated in that depending on the capability of personnel, a side can transition between these, certainly between matches and sometimes within the course of a single match to adapt to circumstances.

It's worth noting that depending on how wide the midfield is, fullbacks (the outside 2 in the defensive 4 of a formation) will often do a lot of offensive duty along the flanks. Conversely, in a 3-5-2 the wide players in midfield are expected to shoulder a greater than usual defensive burden.

Some other random WC stuff I found neat:
FiveThreeEight's interactive predictor
Jonathan Wilson's coverage at The Guardian
and this Brian Phillips piece which is as much about Garrincha (documentary on youtube: part 1, part 2) as it is the current WC, probably.
posted by juv3nal at 6:32 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


It's worth noting that depending on how wide the midfield is, fullbacks (the outside 2 in the defensive 4 of a formation) will often do a lot of offensive duty along the flanks. Conversely, in a 3-5-2 the wide players in midfield are expected to shoulder a greater than usual defensive burden.

Oops forgot to mention, I bring this up because it can be wrong to assume that a formation with 4 across the back is necessarily more defensive than one with 3. In the case of 4 at the back, you're looking at 2 central defenders supported by 2 full backs on the flanks, but in a 3-5-2, you're looking at 3 central defenders with 2 wing backs (coming back from midfield) on the flanks.
posted by juv3nal at 6:59 PM on June 17


The Arsenal Gentleman is getting into the USA spirit.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:03 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


PSA: Not too late to join Metafilter Cup 2014 fantasy league.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:19 PM on June 17


Well, the number 9 position typically is a forward or winger who scores goals. (e.g. Ronaldo or Alexis Sanchez or David Villa.). The false 9 is an attacking midfielder who scores goals e.g. Fabregas in his role for Spain in Euro 2012. Rooney is playing a classic #10 role behind Sturridge this WC.
posted by persona au gratin at 8:01 PM on June 17


vuron: "I think if Wenger thought he could get away with it he'd try a 6 10s formation with 6 attacking midfielders in front of the defense."

What was Wenger thinking, trying to send 10 midfielders on that early?
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:15 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Where is errant? This thread NEEDS MOAR CHILE.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:20 PM on June 17


" and less often, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2."

Both 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 have been used in the premiership. At the world cup, 4-3-3 is a popular formation, especially, it seems, against 4-2-3-1. Another formation you might have seen at the WC is 5-3-2, with 3 centre backs and 2 full or wing backs which becomes a 3-5-2 in attack and a 5-3-2- in defence. Mexico played this against Brazil.

Also, how a formation works on the pitch varies from team to team:

France and Argentina play 4-3-3,
England and Brazil play 4-2-3-1,
Honduras play - well, the formation is sorta irrelevant when your main tactic is nasty fouling.

4-4-2 has become a bit of a dated formation, although it is still in use, it will not be much on display during the world cup. One of the problem is that 4-2-3-1 can stretch horizontally, and stretch the play more, creating space on the park between the lines of opposition players for their own players to utilise.

Interestingly, formations all seem to be a reaction to a prior formation, as tactics/diet/training/speed evolves and changes. So originally it was 1-2-7, then 2-3-5 (the pyramid). Eventually people moved players into different areas, especially as the passing game grew ever more popular around Europe* until it settled into 3-2-2-3, which stuck around from about 1920 - 1950, when Hungary played their centre-forward Hidegkuti as a deep-lying playmaker, giving a 3-2-3-2 formation. In fact, at times in the England Hungary game, one of the Hungarian midfielders would sometimes drop into defence to create a modern style back 4. This was followed by 4-2-4, then 4-3-3, then total football, then 4-4-2 and so on. Each formation is designed to utilise the space left by the previous older formation.

And if you are really adventurous, you can play 3-3-1-3, which is a very attacking formation, but requires a lot of work and discipline to work well.

As 256 mentioned, shirt numbers are an oddity as they date to the days when we played 2-3-5. And if you look at 256's link, you can see that they conform to that formation. You can also see that centre-half-back is a midfielder, yet in football today, a centre-back is a defender! So numbers and roles have changed through the ages, and you only need to worry about what role a player is playing (so for e.g. Neymar is a playmaker but plays on the left - whether that is left wing or inside left is less important than his role).
posted by marienbad at 1:37 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Talking about numbers, it's of course extra confusing to novices that we're referring to positions with a number, and then the player in that position has another number on his jersey because the 23 players in the squad have the same number all through the tournament. In ye olden days, people really did wore jerseys numbered 1-11. Not anymore.

[There was a bright goalie in the Danish league who had the same last name as a city. He started playing with that city's well known post code, 2860, on his jersey instead of the customary 1. The next season the Danish FA introduced a rule that all assigned numbers should be consecutive starting with 1 :) ]
posted by brokkr at 4:49 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


256: Another bit of jargon you see tossed around on Zonal Marking is position numbers, which are particularly opaque, and largely obsolete.

If you are more familiar with basketball, it may help to think of it like basketball position numbers, also mostly obsolete, but with one position number that is still referred to often (the 2 guard) and one much less often (the 3 forward).
posted by Rock Steady at 5:58 AM on June 18


As opposed to Arsenal, which in the past few years has experimented with the "false 6", the "false 4", the "false 3", and the "false 1".

I was reading earlier how Sami Khedira might be leaving Real and entertained brief fantasies of Arsenal snatching him and a proper striker and winning the bloody league for a change, but I'd be surprised if Wenger gave money for a defensive midfielder *grumble*.

The NL-AUS and CHI-ESP games today should be interesting to say the least.
posted by ersatz at 6:26 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Also, if you are interested in soccer tactics at all, you should check out Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson. It focuses on the changes in soccer formations and tactics across time and around the globe. It's written at what I'd consider an Advanced Beginner level, so you don't need to be at Zonal Marking level sophistication to get a lot out of it. I read it in the run-up to the World Cup, and it's really changed how I watch the matches.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:58 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


ersatz, Costa Rica's Joel Campbell is an Arsenal player and looks pretty tasty. Probably on his way back to North London after the Finals. He looks like he would excel in the rough and tumble of the EPL. There will probably be one or two strikers around after the finals who, while not golden boot, will have done enough to earn a move. This is one of the best things (and the worst) about the World Cup Finals.

Australia and Spain to go out today. Chile will do Spain, they won't have recovered from the hammering, it is a psychological and karmic shock!

Clint Dempsey and another guy who is possibly Marcus Beasley* with the VP after the Ghana game.

Giraffes In Ghana???

* sorry, I don't recognise him, I tried to find out who he is on this page with pics of the MNT, but couldn't find anyone who looked exactly like him.
posted by marienbad at 8:00 AM on June 18


Yeah, I feel like Spain managed to lose the entire tournament in the first game, despite being the defending champions.

I'd like to see them put up a fight against Chile today, but I expect them to get stomped.
posted by 256 at 8:23 AM on June 18


marienbad, that's Beasley all right. But his first name is DaMarcus.
posted by brokkr at 8:29 AM on June 18


Hah, yeah, sorry, lousy old man eye sight just saw the Marcus bit.

Beasley's Cheeky grin makes it look like he is pinching the VP's ass.

If either Cameroon or Croatia lose today they are out too! it is gettin' busy!
posted by marienbad at 8:45 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Also, Australia v Netherlands is about to start, so its goodbye from me, and its goodbye from Tim.
posted by marienbad at 8:53 AM on June 18


That was a great game. I'm glad the WC is so entertaining so far.

ersatz, Costa Rica's Joel Campbell is an Arsenal player and looks pretty tasty. Probably on his way back to North London after the Finals. He looks like he would excel in the rough and tumble of the EPL. There will probably be one or two strikers around after the finals who, while not golden boot, will have done enough to earn a move. This is one of the best things (and the worst) about the World Cup Finals.

I watched many of his games since he played for the club I support in Greece and he's very good tactically; his speed won't hurt either. He may need some time to build up his stamina to EPL levels since the Greek league has a rather slower pace, but he's likely to perform. Arsenal received official offers twice for him. He's better as an attacking midfielder coming from the wings though - the few times he spearheaded the offense for the club he got lost in the fray.

Arsenal need to replace Sagna too, but since Wenger has a 100-million budget, he should use some of that money.
posted by ersatz at 11:14 AM on June 18


Wow, what a blinding game, Australia deserved at least a draw and can hold their heads high after the way they played. Onto Spain Chile!

"Arsenal need to replace Sagna too, but since Wenger has a 100-million budget, he should use some of that money."

As an LFC fan, that's just what I needed to hear ;)
posted by marienbad at 11:25 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Spain, defending champions and first team eliminated from the tournament....
posted by 256 at 3:06 PM on June 18


it was like watching elvis die bloatedly on the toilet a mere 2 years after his last lithe hip thrust
posted by elizardbits at 3:39 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


> I'd like to see them put up a fight against Chile today, but I expect them to get stomped.

Excellent prediction. It was sad to watch.
posted by languagehat at 3:42 PM on June 18


So I guess now I want anyone South American to win, or possibly Italy mainly because it will anger every single person I know.
posted by elizardbits at 3:44 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Ya, Mario Balotelli just seems like the Kanye West of futbol.
posted by rosswald at 4:01 PM on June 18


That red card of Cameroon's was the stupidest penalty ever. Why would you do that? You weren't even trying for the ball or anything. Your team got nothing out of it, either, and now they have to play without you.

Idiot.
posted by misha at 4:13 PM on June 18


Someone huffily recounted the story of him getting pulled over with like 5k in cash on him (and telling the officer IT'S BECAUSE I'M RICH OBVSLY) as an attempt at a "look at this asshole" kind of thing and it had the exact opposite effect as I found it delightful.
posted by elizardbits at 4:24 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Did you see that ludicrous display last night?
posted by starscream at 4:40 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


:( Cameroon. You are better than that. I was really expecting to see Eto'o.
posted by 256 at 4:42 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


rosswald: "Mario Balotelli just seems like the Kanye West of futbol."
Balotelli has (a little) self-irony.
posted by brokkr at 4:52 PM on June 18


I'm sure nobody but me on MeFi cares, but the rundown on team Japan was on the mark (except Endo's name is Yasuhito). I'm looking forward to delving into the rest.
posted by misozaki at 7:21 PM on June 18


Dr. Zira, to answer your question, Errant has been DRINKING HIS FACE OFF because Chile are the best team that ever teamed a team and he is unreasonably excited. If Australia can score 2 against the Netherlands, Chile could win this group. Of course, Chile don't defend, at all, ever, so they'll probably have to score like 6. But no van Persie, that ought to help keep the damage down. If Chile can just remember to let Robben have the ball on his right foot as much as he wants, that could be a fun one.

I had a feeling that one of Spain or the Netherlands would get found out this tournament; sadly I chose poorly. But I had no doubt at all that Chile would progress. Sampaoli is basically Bielsa with one ounce of self-control, so Claudio Bravo only comes 20 yards out of his goal to sweep up instead of 30. It's the little things.
posted by Errant at 7:25 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


I am actually currently at a bar, where I have provided the bartender with my watch ESPN info so we could put on the Spain - Chile game again. Yep. It's like that.

elizardbits, I tell that Balotelli story all the time because it should make you like him. Here's another one: he got a fan letter from some little kid, saying how Balotelli was the kid's idol and when he's getting bullied, he thinks about what Mario's been through and it helps. Needless to say, Balotelli didn't write the kid back. He went to the kid's school, told him to point out the bullies, and gave them a very stern talking-to. He's pretty great.
posted by Errant at 7:47 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


"Someone huffily recounted the story of him getting pulled over with like 5k in cash on him (and telling the officer IT'S BECAUSE I'M RICH OBVSLY) as an attempt at a "look at this asshole" kind of thing and it had the exact opposite effect as I found it delightful."
posted by elizardbits

This is the guy who threw darts at youth team players because he was bored. He is driving round Manchester, which is full of poor struggling northerners with a shed ton of money in his car - this is either dangerous or arrogant or both. Seriously, Balotelli said he was the 3rd best player in the world, with only Messi and Ronaldo ahead of him! Yeah, ok, tell it to Suarez, Cavani, Robben etc etc. Danny Sturridge is a way better striker and a way better player. The Ox is a way way better player. Christ even Defoe is better than Balotelli.

Edit: and how could I forget little Raheem? Imagine him leading Balo on a merry dance as he jinks this way and that. Balotelli would get so angry he would most likely kick out!
posted by marienbad at 1:16 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Also - Congratulations to Chile - tika taka is dead, killed by the heir to Bielsa!!
posted by marienbad at 1:18 AM on June 19


i mean really who here HASN'T thrown darts at children when bored

no one that's who
posted by elizardbits at 6:03 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Seriously, Balotelli said he was the 3rd best player in the world, with only Messi and Ronaldo ahead of him! Yeah, ok, tell it to Suarez, Cavani, Robben etc etc. Danny Sturridge is a way better striker and a way better player. The Ox is a way way better player. Christ even Defoe is better than Balotelli.

My money would have been on Xavi. His decline was a significant factor in the terrible results of Spain and Barca this year and even though he wasn't the kind of player who would score fifty times per year, his passing and playmaking have been flawless for a decade. He deserved more personal honours, but his record for club and country speaks for itself. Messi and Ronaldo can be a team on their own at their best*, but Xavi made his teams play better. The second approach seems to have brought more consistent results.
posted by ersatz at 6:23 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


So far Team Japan seems to have the best hair of all the sides. No ridiculous 'dos, they just look like they are making the effort. I wasn't impressed by Team Korea's hair, though. I am ignoring all the ridiculous mohawks spotted elsewhere.

And the most amazing combover spotted on the ref for the Russia-Korea game.
posted by needled at 7:41 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I came really close to posting an AskMe yesterday about where to find one of these shirts.
posted by troika at 2:08 PM on June 19


The Western Colonies are still in the World Cup, but the mother country is out. Finally, USA, you have earned your independence from England.
posted by Wordshore at 10:58 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


"the mother country is out."

"We're shit, and we know we are..."
posted by marienbad at 11:00 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I have to like he way the national colors mean GER is in black and US is in white for their game.
posted by misha at 9:08 AM on June 26


« Older "The concept is a staple of the global culture of ...  |  What the gospel of innovation ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments