The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has officially kicked off, with Ecuador rocking Qatar’s world and walking to a 2-0 win. Boasting 53% of the possession and outclassing the hosts every step of the way, Ecuador were utterly dominant from start to finish, against the shaky Qatar defense that looked perplexed and out of solutions in handling the energy from Gustavo Alfaro’s men. Here is our analysis of the opening match to this 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and how Ecuador easily beat the tournament hosts.
SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-4-2
Gustavo Alfaro set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Enner Valencia supporting Michael Estrada up front. That shape took center stage in defensive phases in particular, with the attacking principles in place adapting quite dramatically.Embed from Getty Images
We’ll discuss those innovations as we move along in this article. But for now, it’s important to note how the 4-4-2 set the foundations for Ecuador to remain resilient in defensive phases, and use their energy to quickly gallop back in two banks of four during those transitional moments.Embed from Getty Images
Imperative to the win, Caicedo and Méndez completely bossed the midfield throughout, remaining both smooth and sound in possession, and resilient off the ball in quickly winning back possession. That double midfield pivot will be difficult for any team in Group A to bypass, putting Ecuador in good standing ahead of their final two group matches.
ATTACKING PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
Ecuador dominated all facets of the game on Sunday, exuding confidence with every touch they took in the attack. But it was their flexibility and tactical complexity that completely undid the plain and incoherent Qatar; adapting their shape to the benefit of the personnel in place.
Out from the back across the circulation stage of their build-up, the effervescent Jhegson Méndez dropped in between the centre-backs to form a back-three build.
This is nothing new as far as tactical innovations go, but the intricacy lied within the way Alfaro’s team used the tactic to achieve success, and bring the best out of each player in their eleven. Piero Hincapié for example frequently plays as a fullback for Bayer Leverkusen, and benefited from being pushed into the left-half-spaces, where his progressive passing on his left-foot could take center stage. Pervis Estupiñán also benefited from being pushed higher up the pitch, allowing one of Ecuador’s brightest crosses and creators to advance.Embed from Getty Images
Both fullbacks could advance into the attacking third under the recognition of the defensive solidity that both Mendez and Caicedo possess in behind. This left a solid 3+1 rest-defense in place, with Mendez the deepest of that triad, and Caicedo the one shuttling immediately in transition.Embed from Getty Images
Caicedo himself could take his moments to drive forward with the mobile Méndez always clearly in behind, where he played a pivotal part in assisting Preciado’s wonderful cross for Enner Valencia on Ecuador’s second goal.
But the innovations don’t stop there. The back-three build meant that the wingers could also shift inside as the fullbacks maintained the width. Their influence in the game only grew as the match wore on, and they frequently adopted positions through the center of the pitch, where they could then let their incisive dribbling take center stage. This helped to overload the wide areas in a triangular trio that always seemed to involve the energetic Moises Caicedo, with Qatar being continuously pulled apart.
DEFENSIVE PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
Ecuador defended from the front in a 4-4-2 shape, remaining fairly adaptive to the contextual information received as each player’s nearest number floated toward the ball. The shape could be adapted in a man-to-man-esque manner, meaning the midfield players rarely held a distinct line of four in pressing phases. The forwards would also take turns in pressuring or marking the opposition’s ‘6’, and the right winger would often float up to match Qatar’s back-three build of their own. This could even give the defensive shape more of a 4-3-3 shape, with the left-winger sitting deeper alongside the midfield pivot, and Plata surging high to stop the left-centre-back from progressing.
The Real Valladolid man was excellent in angling his body back toward the centre, limiting the nearest option out wide to Qatar’s wing-back, and forcing play back to the congested centre where Caicedo and Mendez could break up the play.Embed from Getty Images
Deeper down on the field, that 4-4-2 remained in place to defend the width of the pitch. Their aerial capabilities and solid organization at the back meant that they had no problem dealing with Qatar’s deep crossing – often the main threat mechanism for Felix Sanchez’s team.
Winning 12 interceptions to Qatar’s 2, the likes of Caicedo and Mendez were constantly in the way to break up the play, limiting Qatar from having any ability to break through the centre. This took form all the more in any moment of transition, where the Ecuadorians were quick to race back in transition and break up the play. The two men in midfield were again crucial to the process, and the fullbacks rarely lost their 1v1 duels out wide, winning a combined 8 tackles between the pair of them.Embed from Getty Images
Overall, Ecuador remained defensively resilient and tactically flexible in the attack, cruising to an easy 2-0 win in the opening match of the 2022 World Cup. While it was only Qatar, the match provides some indication that Ecuador will be a difficult nut to crack this tournament, and positions them as the current table toppers of Group A after the first match.
Embed from Getty Images
So there it is! Our match analysis of the opening encounter between Qatar and Ecuador at the World Cup. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, World Cup articles, and follow on social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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