In Summary
  • Belgium has some of the biggest and tallest players at this year’s World Cup. And the decision by their coach to start Maraoune Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in this game, meant even more height and size in their Starting

1. France 2-0 Uruguay
A surprisingly easy victory for France as Uruguay’s famed defensive solidity was constantly breached. You realise Uruguay was well beaten, when on 85 minutes, France’s defensive midfielder Ngolo Kante was high upfield on the left flank exchanging passes with teammates.
That’s not a scenario usually seen if games involving France are tight and on a knife-edge. N’golo Kante would at that moment in a game, be sitting tight in central midfield holding things together. Another pointer that Uruguay was well beaten is their central defender Jose Gimenez openly crying with three minutes of normal time still yet to play.

Uruguay’s handicap was their inability to seize control of the midfield, like had been in their earlier games. Lucas Torreira and Rodrigor Bentancour were well below their best. And the loss for this game of striker, Edison Cavani, through injury was a blow too. Cavani and strike partner Luis Suarez have played so many games together for years, it could be seen, as Suarez looked lost. Cavani usually acts as Suarez’s foil as they stretch and open up opposition defences.

2. Brazil 1-2 Belgium
Belgium’s tactical switch that had striker Romelu Lukaku operate from the right flank and midfielder Kevin de Bruyne into a more advanced attacking role, was clever. This is a tactic Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, used during his time at English Premier League side Everton. It means that the opposition central defence is stretched as they try to deal with Lukaku who is not playing centrally anymore.
This leaves spaces for on coming fellow attackers, in this case De Bruyne, to exploit. This tactic took Brazil by surprise and you could see, especially in the second half, that Brazil’s central defender Joao Miranda was virtually playing as a left back, as he tried to deal Lukaku, out on the right of Belgium’s attack.

(A) Height and Size. Belgium has some of the biggest and tallest players at this year’s World Cup. And the decision by their coach to start Maraoune Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in this game, meant even more height and size in their Starting XI. The effect was that Belgium were able to use this to their advantage to dominate Brazil at set plays, both in attack and defending them, and in midfield.
(B) Casemiro Effect. I had stated earlier that the loss of Casemiro was going to be a huge blow for Brazil. And so it proved to be, as his absence was keenly felt in central midfield. In all of Brazil’s matches, a closer observation shows that, Casemiro rarely moves more than five meters left or right of that central midfield. And if he ventures upfield, is careful not to go too far.

He has been Brazil’s shield to their back line. Goals like Belgium’s second goal set up by Lukaku making a marauding run through Brazil’s midfield, is not one Brazil would concede, were Casemiro on pitch. He would’ve been present to block that Lukaku run. Fernandinho, Casemiro’s replacement, has had a good season at Manchester City, but I guess he’s no Casemiro. He had a nightmarish game!
*The writer is a three-time winner of the Ugandan League with SC Villa and played in two continental finals (1991 & 1992)