25 May 2010
England v Mexico
England were presented with an interesting tactical problem in the first half of the match. It is something they are going to face and overcome if they are going to succeed in the World Cup. Mexico played with a lone striker, two wide players who pushed onto the England full backs, four in midfield and two full backs who joined into the attack at every opportunity.
England played with a back four, four in midfield and Crouch and Rooney up front. Mexico were very good technically, keeping the ball and playing a very good possession game, pulling England around and creating opportunities to get one of their midfield players in the hole between England’s back four and midfield. Neither of the two English centre backs wanted to get pulled into this hole, as it would have left space behind them. The English midfield played very traditionally, almost in a straight line across the pitch. The solution was to accept that there were times in the game when England had to adjust tactically. They had to drop one of the central midfield players into the hole between the defence and midfield, ideally Carrick, with the other midfield players recognising that if Carrick was pulled out of this hole, then one of them had to take responsibility and fill this hole, between the back four and midfield. The other thing they could have done, was to drop Rooney back in front of the English midfield, either wide or central and leave Crouch up front on his own. This tactical adjustment of Rooney, would have allowed the other three English midfield players to play narrower, drop Carrick into the hole to shield and protect this key area.
In the main, England managed to sort their tactical problem out in the second half. Their solution was to stagger or zig zag their midfield, particularly in the central midfield area and to keep the two central midfield players closer together. They made sure that one of the central midfield players always dropped deeper and covered their team mate in this area. This resulted in the Mexicans finding it difficult to pass into hole and when they did, an English midfield player being closer to the player in possession and able to get tighter and close the player down quicker.