The knockout stage of an international tournament always serves as an emphatic reminder of what we all would claim to know: even the best laid plans can prove insufficient over the course of 90 minutes of football. And while the team who keeps their shape is often assumed to be in the ascendancy, adaptation undoubtedly preempts success; that is to say, some of the greatest examples of tactical prowess in sport are evidenced when the first blink leads to the last laugh. For instance, during their Euro 2020 round of 16 clash versus Wales, Denmark employed at least THREE different formations, modifications which ultimately tipped the result in their favor. Here, we take a closer look at the incentive and effect behind each change.
For the third time in four Euro 2020 matches, the Danes started in a 3-4-2-1 setup. Nearly from the outset, Wales, lining up in a 4-2-3-1, looked dangerous between the lines. Gareth Bale (RW) and Aaron Ramsey (AM) were especially problematic for the Denmark defense, picking up the ball between Danish midfielders and defenders, and driving towards goal. Despite generating some attacking threat of their own from wide play, Denmark’s outnumbered midfield struggled to shield their center backs from the dribbling threat of the opposition. In response, Andreas Christensen moved from the right side of a back three to a spot more characteristic of a defensive midfielder (purple arrow). This, in turn, prompted additional repositioning’s (black arrows) and resulted in a 4-3-2-1.
An additional man in the middle provided greater resistance to Welsh playmakers’ preferred methods of attack and quickly shifted momentum in favor of Denmark, leading to the opening goal midway through the half. The rest of the first 45’ was largely dictated by the Danes, whose improved ability to mitigate changes in possession kept the Wales defenders occupied and attackers disjointed. Following the halftime break, Denmark once again broke through to lead 2-0, a comfortable advantage which eventually afforded their final tactical tweak. Again prompted by the positional alteration of Andreas Christensen (purple arrow), Denmark entered the last phase of the match in a defensive 5-4-1.
The reinstating of three center backs meant Denmark could easily manage the direct play of their opponents, effectively nullifying Wales’ attempts to chase the game and reclaim a foothold in the final third. By simultaneously using fresh legs to stay dangerous on the counter, the Danes twice capitalized late on the desperate forays of their Welsh counterparts, finishing the game with an impressive 4-0 victory and solidifying their place in the quarterfinals.
By the tweet of this tie’s final whistle, tactical adaptation had prevailed as a thunderous overtone of Danish dominance, courage, and class. Considered in its entirety, this match is a memorable instance of the game’s wonderful unpredictability, showing that a change in approach, though often seen as a sign of inferiority or unpreparedness, can be decisive in a close competition.
So there it is! A quick tactical analysis of Denmark’s massive 4-0 win over Wales in the Round of 16 of Euro 2020. Be sure to check out more Tactical Analyses and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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