The UEFA Euro 2016 game between Belgium and Italy was described by many as a winner-takes-all game.
That, in other words, meant that whoever won the fixture, would be in pole position to top the group after the group stages of the competition. And whoever lost the game risked being behind (and being knocked out too) in a group that seemed so complex.
So much at stake.
In the end, Italy won the game thanks to plenty of teamwork, great tactics and a great first half of football.
One name was behind the scenes, successfully pulling all the strings that made the Italian puppet outperform its Belgian counterpart. His name?
The Italian, with his usual 3-5-2 formation, was on top tactically throughout the first half. His formation successfully frustrated the Belgians during the period, forcing them to make shots from outside the box.
In anticipation of his move to Chelsea, I’ve analyzed the tactics Conte used against Belgium and how it can be implemented/utilized at Chelsea.
– Plenty of Dynamism & A Compact Defense
Against Belgium, the Italian players moved around the pitch as a unit, especially in the first half. When going forward, there was always that support play. Defensively, he seemed to assign two players to one Belgian, anticipating every second move made by the Belgians. The players covered for each other with names like Giacherrini and Candreva dragging back to defend. This made the Italians HARD TO BREAK DOWN. And even when they were broken down, they made sure they CROWDED OUT the opposition player in their 18-yard box. Throughout the first half, the Italians forced Belgium into making shots from outside their 18-yard box. With this kind of technique, they were caught on the counter ONLY ONCE!
– Loads of Wing Play
Emanuele Giaccherini and Antonio Candreva were Conte’s wings men in the 3-5-2 formation. They were also his tool of rattling the Belgian defense. These two players troubled Ciman and Vertoghen while freeing up space for Eder and Pelle (and Immobile when he came on). A run-in behind the opposition defense by Giaccherini made him to score the opening goal.
– Counter-Attacking Football
The Belgians came out firing on all fronts in the second half, trying to get the equalizer. They were now applying all their strength and numbers on this stubborn Italian defense system. They bolstered their attack line and ignored their defense, leaving them vulnerable. Instead of bringing in another defender to complement his team, Conte brought on Immobile and De Sciglio. Fresh legs to take advantage of the Belgian defense. This move paid off within minutes as Immobile’s first shot on target forced Courtois into making a save. In the 90+3 minute, 4 Italians were up against 3 Belgian defenders in a counter-attacking play. The end result? Pelle scored the second goal of the game in style, dashing all hopes of a Belgian comeback.
…who are great passers of the ball. In the build-up to the tournament, several key names in Italy’s midfield got injured. Veratti, Montolivo. Pirlo was absent. It seemed the Italians would not be able to connect defense to attack. But Conte had other ideas: defenders with an eye for defense-splitting passes. Their responsibility would be to thread balls over the top of opposition defenders and into the path of strikers (or any player available) who would have found their way behind the last line of defense without triggering the offside flags. Their first attempt at this technique led to the game’s first goal.
– A Striker That Won’t Stop Running At the Opposition
This in a way was some sort of “counter-attacking” play. Antonio Conte, in his 3-5-2 set-up, fielded Pelle and Eder up front. Eder was given a mandate of running at the Belgian defense whenever they had the ball. This was to unsettle the Belgians and force them into launching the ball into the air, thereby turning their ball-possession into a “free-for-all” possession. Then the Italians would either win possession or “bully” the Belgians into giving it up. By the time Eder was exhausted, Conte subbed him off for Immobile to continue the running.
Even though it was Antonio Conte’s first game at the Euros as a coach and Belgians like Fellaini made things easy for the Italian, Conte has showed signs of how much he’s bringing to the Stamford Bridge.
Now imagine a Chelsea side with NO EUROPEAN COMMITMENTS and ALL THOSE TRICKS UP THEIR SLEEVES…
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.