What Eng­land Learned from Their Bel­gium Defeat Aid­ed Their Win against Colombia

What Eng­land Learned from Their Bel­gium Defeat Aid­ed Their Win against Colombia

England’s breath­tak­ing win against Colom­bia on penal­ties was a sign that this Three Lions team has the char­ac­ter to go far in this tour­na­ment. How­ev­er, Colom­bia trou­bled them at points and it took some lessons from ear­li­er in the tour­na­ment to tac­ti­cal­ly adjust for this match. Our guest ana­lyst takes a look at how this took place.

How did Colom­bia dis­rupt Eng­land in the first half?

Eng­land had more of the ball (51.4% to 48.6%), and cre­at­ed sev­en attempts on goal (com­pared to Colombia’s 4), but despite this sta­tis­ti­cal dom­i­nance it was Colum­bia who were the hap­pi­er side at half time. 

The Group H win­ners lim­it­ed the Three Lions to just 1 shot on tar­get in the open­ing 45 min­utes, which came from a dead ball situation. 

Essen­tial­ly Colom­bia stopped Eng­land from cre­at­ing a sin­gle clear cut chance from open play in the first 45 minutes.

Colum­bia pre­vent­ed Eng­land from find­ing their stride in the first half? Num­bers behind the ball defensively.

Colom­bia worked hard to get num­bers behind the ball quick­ly. The sheer numer­i­cal advan­tage that the South Amer­i­cans pos­sessed in their own half made it dif­fi­cult for Eng­land to find time and space on the ball. In addi­tion, Columbia’s Wilmar Bar­rios won the ball nine times in the mid­field, more than any oth­er mid­field­er in the match.

The phys­i­cal approach of Colombia’s mid­field was obvi­ous to an eye-wit­ness, and was backed up sta­tis­ti­cal­ly with Bar­rios com­mit­ting a match-high sev­en fouls, with Car­los Sanchez also com­mit­ting three.

Sanchez and Bar­rios com­pet­ed furi­ous­ly for knock­downs and sec­ond balls in the cen­tre of pitch and did a sol­id job of deny­ing Eng­land com­fort­able pos­ses­sion in the first half.

Columbia worked hard to get numbers behind the ball, as can be seen here with Barrios, Lerma and Sanchez stationed in front of the back four.

What did Eng­land learn from their defeat to Belgium?

When out of pos­ses­sion, Eng­land opt­ed to drop to shape rather than press for the ball immediately.

The press approach worked well against Tunisia and Pana­ma, but against Bel­gium, England’s press was dis­joint­ed and large­ly ineffective. 

Wing­backs and mid­field­ers found it dif­fi­cult to lock on and sup­port the press and then recov­er to defen­sive shape when Bel­gium played forward. 

Eng­land again played their 352 shape, but opt­ed for a mid­field block out of pos­ses­sion with the wing­backs Trip­pi­er and Young drop­ping in to form a back five with Kane and Ster­ling pro­vid­ing England’s first line of defence.

England's 3-5-2, which was executed slightly differently in transition, with the fullbacks forming a back five rather than pressing for the ball.

Eng­land also showed an abil­i­ty to break the sec­ond line of defence when build­ing play from the back. 

In pos­ses­sion, they made a con­scious effort to rotate posi­tions to ensure the play­er in con­trol of the ball had at least two, if not three, pass­ing options. 

The fact that the back three of Walk­er, Stones and Maguire com­plet­ed 97, 92 and 93 per cent of their pass­es across the match shows that options were mak­ing them­selves avail­able to receive the ball and pass­ing was accurate.

Our Sports­code out­put win­dows shows the pos­ses­sion advan­tage that Eng­land enjoyed, as well as the pos­i­tive nature of their play, as they com­plet­ed more for­ward pass­es, total pass­es and aver­age time with the ball per possession. 

Colombia’s com­mit­ment and tenac­i­ty in the mid­field can be shown in the below win­dow by how they held a size­able advan­tage in ground duels won, and over­all tack­les won.

The Sportscode output window shows England were more useful with the ball, but Colombia did their very best to disrupt them.

A work-on for England

Eng­land occa­sion­al­ly lacked flu­id­i­ty in tran­si­tion and at times failed to get play­ers in the right posi­tion to break lines. 

On sev­er­al occa­sions in the first half, Maguire and Stones played direct to Kane but with no mid­field­ers sup­port­ing as options. 

A pos­si­ble rea­son could be that Dele Alli was play­ing injured and was slow to move into use­ful posi­tions in tran­si­tion, but in sit­u­a­tions like this, Kane was forced to play back­wards and ter­ri­to­r­i­al advan­tage was lost.

Pass­es like this will be cut off by bet­ter teams that have a world-class play­er as a hold­ing mid­field­er. N’Golo Kante or Brazil’s Casemiro are two play­ers that fit this mould and will like­ly be play­ing at the busi­ness end of the tour­na­ment should Eng­land make it that far.

Harry Kane was often isolated. He needs support beneath to set the ball (in box). On this occasion he returned the pass to the back 4 and the attacking threat was lost.

Star play­er — England’s unsung hero 

Bar­rios was tire­less in the mid­field, but as a cen­tral mid­field­er in a defen­sive-mind­ed team, this is basis of his role.

How­ev­er, Kier­an Trip­pi­er matched Bar­rios’ defen­sive out­put with 12 defen­sive actions in the match,

Trip­pi­er was also more eco­nom­i­cal in his approach, con­ced­ing only two fouls to Bar­rios’ seven.

England’s right back was also a threat down the flank, swing­ing in sev­en cross­es. He topped off a great match by scor­ing an unstop­pable penal­ty in the shoot out.

Kieran Trippier produced an outstanding performance on both sides of the ball.

Post match review

A great win for Eng­land in a match that could have got­ten away from them when con­ced­ing a last-minute equaliser. 

The deci­sion to defend in shape with the wing­backs revert­ing to deep­er posi­tions in tran­si­tion was a great tac­ti­cal shift from South­gate giv­en Colom­bia had dan­ger­ous play­ers such as Fal­cao and Quin­tero who would have caused issues had the oppo­si­tion bro­ken the press used ear­li­er in the tournament.

The deci­sion for South­gate now ahead of Swe­den is which defen­sive sys­tem do they use against a weak­er team than the one they just faced? Press or defend more passively?

Accu­ra­cy in pos­ses­sion will again be vital. The dis­tri­b­u­tion of England’s back three will again need to on point to pick apart a team like­ly to sit back and take their chances as they come.

To learn more about how Hudl uses ana­lyt­ics to fuel the mod­ern game, you can sign up to one of our online class­es or check out our pro­fes­sion­al case stud­ies here.