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[av_heading heading=’Russia’s exit from Euro 2016: Analysis of game plan and goals in the group stage matches’ tag=’h1′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

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Author: Mattia Fontana

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They were placed in the complicated “B” group with teams like England, Wales and Slovakia. But there is no doubt that – despite the mitigating circumstances – Russia’s performance at Euro 2016 was disappointing. Not so much because they were eliminated in the first round, but because of some problems that came out related to their game plan.

These are issues that Coach Leonid Slutsky was unable to resolve and that could be more than a bit worrisome in view of the 2018 event, when Russia will be called on to host the World Cup.
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Slutsky varied the base formation very little, setting it up in all three matches with a rather static and basic 4-2-3-1. The only changes came in the last match, when Russia had to win against Wales, with a new halfback and Shirokov as offensive midfielder. However, not even this was enough to brighten a formation capable of scoring two goals in three matches, conceding no less than 6.
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Russia’s primary source of play was the long pass from the back by the two centres, Ignashevich and especially Vasili Berezutski. The two switched positions back and forth in order to be able to take best advantage of their play direction changes, looking for one of the two outside midfielders, Kokorin or Smolov. All of this led to the lack of involvement for a halfback, in any case, not very high quality, with Golovin and Neustadter.

And above all, it made team captain Berezutski’s passing statistics soar. If he completed 51 out of 63 passes in the first match against England, against Slovakia those numbers went up to 104 completions out of 112 passes. These are positive statistics on an individual level. But it made the team very predictable in the ball possession phase.
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Slovakia’s goal, where the fall of Russia in France began. Hamsik takes possession of the ball at midfield and passes deep to the left wing, Weiss. Smolnikov, the Russian back, does not follow him and the two centres barely get there in time to cover. But then they are easily beaten in dribbling. As long as they had to defend deep against England, life was easy. When the time came to build up a play…
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The need to win led to a loose defence in the last match against Wales. In fact, the three goals seem to be photocopies of one another. A midfielder moves up the centre corridor and challenges the Russian backs, then turning and making a through pass to a teammate approaching from behind the lines. In all three cases, the defence should stall and fall back in order to prevent a frontal attack.

But it does the opposite, freeing up the shooter for the goal. Ramsey and Taylor’s goals also began in both cases from a ball lost by Kokorin, resulting in fatal counter attacks. A formation that is too static and unable to handle a forward-playing defence is to blame.
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Mattia Fontana
Mattia Fontana, Eurosport Italia editor.
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