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Spain scrapped through Group B like a car running without tires. They beat Portugal on goals scored. GOALS SCORED! It was that close. Tactically Spain were sound but the sacking of Julen Lopetegui brought a disastrous effect on the morale and mentality of the Spanish players. Playing a goal fest 3-3 against Portugal and a victory against Iran pushed Spain into the knockout rounds. Even Morocco pushed La Roja into a 2-2 draw.
Isco Alcaron was Spain's most productive player in the knockout rounds. Only scored 1 goal but completed 2.7 shots per game, 2.3 key passes per game, and a whopping 4.7 dribbles per game. That triples Ronaldo's 1.3 dribbles per game. Nacho put in admirable performances for La Roja through his possession play. And to top it off Diego Costa rounded up the team with three goals.
Key Component- Andale Andale, Attack, Attack
Spain have a stellar squad but their danger lies in their attack. David Silva who has been so illustrious and creative for Manchester City this season was provided the task to come deep play out wide and cross. Silva was more of a semi wide deep playmaker compared to Isco but the Madrid star is much more dynamic. He takes on opponents like no tomorrow and he provides the Reds with the firepower they need.
Diego Costa was the perfect target man for Spain. Good with his feet, strong, physical, and zestful, Diego gave Spain the tip of the sword they needed. And he showed by scoring three goals. Spain are a bright and talented team with a bright future ahead of them. But the breakdown of attitude and lack of concentration almost cost them World Cup glory. Spain need to step up in the future.
The Portuguese will definitely be remembered in this World Cup. The pure power of the direct attacking football they played was scintillating. Sure their defense wasn't a brick wall but they got the job done. They could've won the group if they hadn't drawed that crucial match against Iran.
Ronaldo was and will always be the standout among tiny Portugal. He scored 80% of the Navigators goals with Ricardo Quaresma contributing to the other one. Pepe did a solid job at the back but he is showing age and a lack of ability to keep up with the game.
Key Component- Direct Football
Portugal had one simple task. Get the ball to Ronaldo so that he can score and unsurprisingly it worked. Santos used the width of the field to his advantage by using the fullbacks to overlap the wingers and cross to Ronaldo. Mario and Silva were viable options as well as they were comfortable on both feet and could cut inside as well as cross. This directness led to Portugal averaging 11 shots per game, with Ronaldo taking 5 of those.
Portugal's accomplished attacking side have benefited them with the glory of the knockout stages but they face a tough challenge as they play against Uruguay in the round of 16.
Iran were expected by many people to finish bottom of the group. But they didn't. Team Meli put in an impressive 4 points during the tournament. A strong win against Morocco and draw against the Portuguese, but a hard fought loss against Spain.
What was impressive about Iran was their spirit and their counter attacks. Iran were always motivated to win and never gave up no matter what. If Iran had beaten Portugal in the last match, they would've topped the group. The counter attacks were like cannons though. Releases of Iranian spirit in small rapid fire shots. It proved effective for Iran as it caught out many defenses.
Key Component- The Counter
Iran were very comfortable with not having the ball. They averaged only 33.6% possession per game. Team Meli adapted to sit back in their 4-1-4-1 formation so that they could spring into counter attacks. Having a holding midfielder allow the wingers to push forward and play to Sardar Azmoun. Or he could receive a long ball from the goalie, Beiranvand. Iran have qualified for the last two World Cups in a row and they should be proud of that. Heart, soul, and tears binded this team together to give everything they got.
Morocco did finish bottom of Group B but they played like a team who could go to the knockout rounds. Overall Morocco had exemplary possession football but they were overpowered by the likes of Spain, Iran, and Portugal. Only managing a 2-2 draw against Spain. But still Morocco will go home with their heads held high.
Morocco's strongest players consisted in their attack. Nabil Dirar, Hakim Ziyech, and Nordin Amrabat all contributed to the Lions's attack. Their defense was led by Medhi Benatia who couldn't protect his team from attacks. Morocco have a strong willed team, but a little more quality around the pitch could take them far in the future.
Key Component- Short Linkage
Morocco played short and compact football. The wingers and the No. 10 stood close together for short linkage play. If the Lions were unable to link up they would play long to the striker or wait for the perfect pass. Morocco under Herve Renard have really refined themselves. 2022 could be a great year for them!]