Italy maintained their Arigo Sacchi trademark system and style, working within an aggressive 4-4-2 system that covers every blade of the Anfield grass.
Sacchi has changed out the wingers and strike partnership in this match, which slightly alters how Italy attack during build up and in transition. No longer do Italy have the creative skill of Zola to drop off the high line, instead Chiesa and Ravanelli battle it out to see who can attack the box first, with the other looking vaguely disinterested that they have to combine with the midfield. Similarly in transition both made penetrative runs to get behind the opposition back line, thus disconnecting them from the attack and giving the Czech’s more time to press the player (typically Donadoni or Fuser) who were carrying the ball forward in attack.
Donadoni has played under Sacchi for a long time and knows this system well, but his advancing years question whether he can operate at this intensity for 90 minutes. Despite that he offered some moments of creativity in the wide area as well as centrally. Fuser was very much a dribbling winger on the right side, which quite often led to him becoming disconnected in moments of defensive transition and leaving gaps in Italy’s shape.
Baggio would come in to replace Di Matteo, however he and Albertini continued to work as pivot points to switch the ball, but also working hard to make tackles and counter centrally when possession is won.
Italy Starting X1
Czech coach Dusan Uhrin changed the shape of his side heading into this match, starting with a solitary single striker in Kuka. He was supported by the creative trident of Berger, Nedved and Poborksy, each of which had the quality to combine and attack individually in moments of transition.
Berger & Nedved interchanged between central & wide left positions, living within the space between Mussi and Albertini, both of whom were set up in a zonal marking scheme which would afford the Czech duo more space in which to pick up the first pace.
Poborsky would start from a narrow defensive position, but in attack he would take up a more natural wide right attacking position, using his pace to create crosses but more importantly stymie any attacking intent Maldini may have from left back.
While Nemec was tasked with a more defensive central midfield role, often dropping back into the back line to work as part of back five when required. Bejbl was given license to press forward and attack from deep, giving the Czech’s a nice 5/5 split in terms of where their players defended while the others were attacking.
Czech Republic Starting X1
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US?
Value of Chances
As first noted in the opening game, we again see that after Italy’s equalizing goal there was a substantial period of time until their next recorded attack (15 minutes after both goals in previous game). Even though Italy were down to 10 men in the second half it was interesting to note that in the final 20 minutes of a crucial match they recorded only 3 attacks.
Like the Czech’s opening game, we see that they struggled to create chances in the 1st half and saw a sizeable upswing in the 2nd half. The last twenty minutes of the game they did their most damage on the counter, especially with Italy down a man and having to chase to get back into the game.
Italy’s expected goals tally alone shows us that they under performed in this match, we can also see that from the chances they did manage to get on target all were actually fairly low quality efforts. Undoubtedly the biggest opportunity of the match (in both context & chance probability value) was Casiraghi’s 92nd minute miss inside the center of the box. Had this gone on it would have changed Italy’s prospects significantly.
While the amount of Czech chances was low in the 1st half, they were absolutely clinical & put away two chances that had a high probability rating. This inevitably set them up for the second half, as they had a lead to protect & could counter attack the spaces given to them when Italy had to chase the game.
Type of Chances Created
We saw a very similar game plan from Sacchi, in that they pressed forward hunting in packs & from this attacked through fast and fluid transitions. Italy’s only goal would come from a counter attack, but in contrast to the opening game Italy recorded only 3 attacks from 13 that were on the counter. In the remaining 9 attacks we saw more attacking actions from build up play, as the Czech’s sat deeper & frustrated the Italian’s for large parts of the game. This proved increasingly problematic as the Italians would only register 1 attack on target from 6. Quite evidently Italy prefer to play against a possession based side and use the spaces behind an opponent, in this game the couldn’t deviate away from the plan and as such their chance creation was affected.
The Czech’s attack play also came through build up patterns to goal, with 5 of their 12 actions coming from structured attacks. The right side of the field appeared to bring them success in terms of creating attacks on goal, and further to this they favored creating attacks from crosses, with both of the Czech goals coming from whipped balls into the center of the box.
Where Chances are Created
Of Italy’s 13 attacks 10 were registered inside the box, with the other 3 coming from free kicks outside the box. Breaking down the 10 chances further we see that only 3 of them were on target, which for sure speaks to why they werent able to turn their control of the game into a victory. Of Italy’s xG only 26% of it came from attacks that hit the target, which in a match that they were heavily favored to win simply isnt good enough.
Czech Republic also had a higher percentage of chances inside the box, however almost 50% of these attacks were on target (3 from 7) which of course still have to be scored, but the clinical nature of their attack play was very much the deciding factor in the game.
Who Created Chances
With Sacchi shuffling the line up in this match it gave relative new comer Enrico Chiesa an opportunity to shine. Coming off the back of a 22 goals in 27 season for Sampdoria he was magnificent in this match, scoring the only goal for the Italians & was registered 3 of his 6 attacks on target.
The Czech’s best statistical performer was probably Karel Poborksy, as he helped create 4 chances in the game one of which leading to a goal. Radek Bejbl also deserves a mention, getting himself a goal & was involved in the creation & taking of 4 attacks in total.
Using our very own Retro Football Analysis Match Simulator, we use the probability rating of each attack to calculate the odds of the matches outcome. Here are the results we got back.
Chance creation can tell us a lot about a match, however our predictor shows that on another day Italy probably should have won this game. The Czech’s ability to be clinical when it mattered worked for them on the day, but how will it serve them going forward?