Esfalsa played to an exciting 3–3 draw with Brodlancia in the IUFA Men’s Football World Championship, but the Gold Stripes were undoubtedly hoping for a win to start their campaign.
The youngster was by far the best attacker on the pitch for the Gold Stripes today. Though he didn’t score, his intelligent runs in behind the Brodlancian defense proved to be key in creating spaces for his teammates to exploit. It’s hard to believe he’s just 23 years old with the footballing intelligence he demonstrated, and it’s in no small part thanks to his efforts that the Esfalsans managed to score three goals.
In the first half, it was clear that the Esfalsan team was struggling with sluggish transitions and build-up play. After coming on at half-time, Connor proved to be the missing spark in the Esfalsan team, running at the opposition energetically from deep in midfield. It’s no surprise that he was rewarded for his efforts with two of the Gold Stripes’ three goals.
It wasn’t a great game all around for the defense, but without Pavic’s commanding presence on the back line, the result could easily have been a loss. At 34 years old, Pavic was hardly the most agile or acrobatic player on the pitch, but it’s clear that his experience translated into a superb ability to read the game and marshal his fellow center-backs Douglas Headrick and Victor Johnson into a defending unit.
Under longtime head coach Felix Grosvenor, the Esfalsan national team is known for its tactical flexibility. But after hinting at moving to a 3-at-the-back system for the final group stage match against Izaakia, here’s how our editors predict the Esfalsan team will line up and what tactics they will employ.
But what tactics will the players use? Here are our predictions:
With Thomas Connor and Calvin Hall in central midfield, the Esfalsan team will be lining up with a lot of pace in midfield. Undoubtedly, they’ll try to make use of that with rapid transitional play to surge forward once possession is won. Esfalsa hasn’t played as a counter-attacking team so far this tournament, and have been confident in their ability to have players surge forward without needing to draw them forward to attack first.
Wingbacks Douglas Headrick and Harrison Love love to push extremely wide, drawing apart opposition defenders. Look out for Connor and Hall pushing forward to exploit the central space that opens up as a result, and for Zachary Sutton to drop deep in the no. 10 shirt. This Esfalsan team has not been afraid to crowd out the center of the pitch. And if their opponents respond with a central block, Headrick and Love are always ready to provide a cross to the tall and imposing Thomas Newman.
With numerous players in central midfield, Esfalsa press quickly after losing possession in attack, closing down space in an attempt to win back possession far up the pitch. And in the event that they are unsuccessful, keeping three center-backs and a defensive midfielder allows for greater defensive solidity further down the pitch even when much of the team is pressing high.
Speaking to the media today, Esfalsan national football team manager Felix Grosvenor shared some of his thoughts on the team’s upcoming game against Gianatla.
“It goes without saying that it will be a challenging game,” the coach said. “Obviously, Gianatla won all three of their games in the group stage. And they have impressive history having won the tournament twice in their history.”
Gianatla entered the tournament ranked third-best in the world in the IUFA/SPIT Ranking, but Esfalsa was not far behind in sixth place. But the ranking didn’t tell the full story, as the latter didn’t even qualify for the 2020 Men’s Football World Championship.
Grosvenor, however, said he was confident his players could rise to the challenge. Despite a tough group stage that saw the Esfalsans secure two draws and just one win on the last matchday, Grosvenor said he believed his team could keep that spark going into the knockout stages.
Asked about what tactics he might employ, Grosvenor was more tight-lipped. “I think you will have to wait and find out when the game starts,” he said. “Honestly, I still haven’t decided myself!”