Our Take

The end of the possession game

The end of the possession game
Spain’s departure from the World Cup is the final repudiation of the famous F.C Barcelona ‘tiki-taka’ strategy of constant passing and the possession game in international football. It is quite clear that opposing teams have learnt that it is find to have much less possession, and be completely and totally outpassed. Spain recorded over a thousand pass completions in the match against Russia, more than five times more than the Russians. Yet, the Russians with a rigid defence just let Sapin pass aimlessly across the midfield, and with no combination of frontmen that could unlock a defence like Uruguay’s deadly-duo of Suarez and Cavani.
Despite outpassing the Russians, Spain managed few shots on goal, in the first half they had no shots on target, their only goal being a deflection off a Russian player for an own-goal. While European club football still rewards possession as the success of the Pep Guardiola coached Manchester City showed in England last year, this World Cup is proving that teams can defend in depth and absorb the pressure. That is not the key to success over a long fifty-game season of football, but is surprisingly effective in a short tournament like the World Cup where teams can only play a maximum of seven games. Despite the memes about Vladimir Putin, the Russians are almost certain to come up against a more effective offensive team sooner or later. In the meantime, the 2018 World Cup continues to surprise.


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