The case for attacking pivots and the ins and outs of substitutions provided key topics for the UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 technical team.
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The UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 technical observers flag up tactical trends from the first 16-team EURO.
In the 11-a-side game, one of the aspects that intrigued UEFA's technical observers at UEFA EURO 2020 was the effectiveness of fielding a false 9 as opposed to the traditional centre-forward. At UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 in the Netherlands, UEFA's technical observers Miguel Rodrigo and Mato Stanković flagged up a similar debating point. Was the striker-less 1-4-0 set-up less effective than the 1-3-1 formation with a 'pivot' as the reference point in attack?
"I wouldn't say that one system is intrinsically better than the other," Rodrigo said. "Almost all the teams we have seen at this EURO have played in both formats. For the coach, the key point is when and how you use them to have an influence on the run of play."
Futsal EURO 2022 at a glance
"We have seen teams playing 1-4-0 with a fairly flat line," Stanković added. "The coach can do this to give certain players a breather or to break up the rhythm of their opponents by hiding the ball from them. But I didn't see too many big chances being created when teams were playing this system."
Portugal, as they completed a hat-trick of two successive EUROs and a FIFA World Cup, provided a prime example. The 1-4-0 structure was basically the default setting for a squad that contained only one out-and-out attacking pivot – Sporting CP's 20-year-old Zicky, whose impact on the team's performance earned him the UEFA Player of the Tournament award.
The champions' striker-less play in 1-4-0 formation ticked all the boxes: high-tempo ball circulation; accurate passing; sprint speed off the ball movement, enough ball skills to play out of high pressing. Portugal had it all – except the cutting edge that the presence of Zicky added to attacking moves. Even though he played an average of 15 minutes per game, post-tournament stats reveal that 60% of Portugal's goals were scored while he was on court.
"Portugal, along with Spain – and also Russia when they were using Artem Antoshkin – operated the 1-4-0 system with greater freedom," explained Rodrigo. "But at this tournament we have also seen some of the teams' coordinated movements in this formation have become predictable and much easier to defend against."
Stanković agreed, adding: "Especially if the opponents are defending zonally, when it becomes very difficult to find space behind them."
The ins and outs of substitutions
You're the coach. You have – Covid permitting – a dozen outfielders to manoeuvre on and off court during the 40 minutes. How do you handle that?
At the tournament, quarter-finalists Finland and Kazakhstan offered contrasting answers. Mićo Martić, coach of the former, opted to change all players practically every minute: Kaká did exactly the opposite, keeping Kazakhstan's key players in action for as long as possible. During the 5-3 defeat by Ukraine, star performer Douglas Junior was on court for 37'02 and played the second half in its entirety.
Stanković reflected: "You can ask whether, after playing 30 minutes or so in each of the group games, he was fatigued against Ukraine when Tynan and Edson, who usually support him, were suspended. But, personally, I like to use my best players as much as possible and I don't like the system of pre-arranged plans for fielding different quartets."
"There are pros and cons," Rodrigo added. "If you have time to prepare your squad, players should be physically equipped to stay on court for more than one minute. On the other hand, I find it hard to accept that a single player can be on court for virtually the whole game and still maintain a very high level. It's a point we can discuss for a long time."
Along with other tactical topics such as 1v1 skills, marking methods or goalkeeping techniques, these issues will be addressed in greater depth in the upcoming technical report on UEFA Futsal EURO 2022.Group stage tactical trends