NIU Men's Soccer World Cup Blog



June 16, 2014

The biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup, kicked off last week in Brazil and through the first 11 games a total of 37 goals have been scored, the highest pace since the 1958 cup. With preseason for the Huskies a little less than two months away, the NIU Men’s Soccer staff will provide thoughts and analysis to throughout the tournament.

Monday, June 16, 2014

NIU Head Coach Eric Luzzi on the opening trends of the tournament…
It is always fascinating to me to see the trends in the game, to see what the players and coaches at the highest level are doing. In a lot of recent tournaments there has been a heavy emphasis on one system that everybody has been playing. Going back to ’94 (World Cup) everybody was playing 3-5-2, or at least 80 percent of the team. In 2010, and the 2012 Euros, 85 percent of teams were in a 4-2-3-1.

One thing I have found interesting in this tournament is there hasn’t been a common system. There have been teams in a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2 with a diamond (in midfield), a 4-1-3-2, I can’t even describe what Italy was doing. They had a hybrid where they overloaded the midfield on one side and didn’t have much on the other side. We have also seen a reemergence of what most people would call a 3-5-2, but it really looks more like a 5-3-2, that has been pretty interesting.

The other interesting thing for me has been the set pieces. I have always heard between 30 and 40 percent of all goals are set pieces, but it seems like in this tournament it has been more like half. At the highest levels, the margins between teams are so tight that set pieces take on a greater importance and they already do. The other thing has been flank service. We haven’t seen a ton of goals through combination play at the top of the box or rockets from 25-30 yards, which the World Cup is usually good for.

The one other obvious thing has been all of the goals. It is great for our game in general and especially here in America because your average American gets turned off by a 1-0 or 0-0 scoreline. But when I look at the poor quality of the defending it has been alarming.

Set pieces, flank play, defending, all things Coach Luzzi notes and things to watch for during today’s USA-Ghana match!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Monday, NIU head coach Eric Luzzi gave us his thoughts on the World Cup thus far, including the importance of set pieces (see the second goal by the U.S. against Ghana). Today, NIU assistant coach Mark Jones takes a look back at the U.S.-Ghana game and a brief look at today’s big match between Brazil and Mexico.

NIU Assistant Coach Mark Jones on the US-Ghana match …
“Despite what Jurgen (Klinsmann) said, I thought the U.S. definitely played to win, and they played to their strengths, which is going to be the counterattack. The first 10 minutes I thought they showed they could possess the ball, but due to, I think, a lack of confidence they resorted to sitting in and were pretty uncomposed on the ball.

(Going into the game) I didn’t think much of John Brooks (as a player), but to come out with a tremendous goal like that was well-timed. Quite honestly, if our future is riding on performances like that then we are in for quite the display of goalkeeping and are going to need an even better backline performance because I don’t know that we will be able to withstand that punishment and get out of the group  if that is our strategy going forward.

On going into the Portugal match …
“If you get a tie you will nearly lock yourself into the next round. We talked about how much they sat and how much possession they gave to the opponent and I can only see that getting even greater, trying to get one point against Portugal. It’s good that Portugal will be down a couple of players on the backline, that is favorable to us. I think it would be good if Chris Wondolowski got 30 minutes or so, to show why he is dangerous around goal, but we are going to have to be good with the opportunities we do get, we are going to have to score.

On Brazil-Mexico today …
“I think it is going to be a very inspired game. I think Mexico is going to come out looking to play, which will be a nice change. I don’t think you are going to see them sit in a lot, I don’t think they will sit-and-counter; I think they will open the game up. My guess is they will attack down (Dani) Alves’ side, Brazil has shown some weaknesses that I think Mexico will try to exploit.

“I think it is going to be a good game. I think Brazil will come out on top due to their individual talent, over the course of time they will probably wear Mexico down, but I think Mexico will give them a battle. They will show some of the weaknesses that Brazil has at this World Cup.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

NIU head coach Eric Luzzi is back on the Huskie World Cup blog talking about the two biggest disappointments thus far in the World Cup, Spain and England, as well as a look ahead at the big United States-Portugal match on Sunday.



NIU head coach Eric Luzzi on the struggles of Spain and England…
“I think it’s obviously a surprise that likely both of those countries World Cup’s are over after two games. Spain, to be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of them. I think that some of what they do is attractive and pleasing to the eye, and good for fans. But I also think that at some point there has to be a threat with what you do with the ball. People will forget about this quickly and they will be remembered for winning three big tournaments in a row, so obviously they have been outstanding, but over time it caught up with them that they were willing to keep the ball purely for the sake of keeping it. Over time teams figure out how to play against that and there was no plan B.

“England is interesting. I think they are in a tough spot as a soccer nation. They are so spoiled by the success of the Premier League, but the problem is that there are not that many top-level England players in the Premier League, most of those top players come from other countries. It’s great for the fans in the Premier League to week-in, week-out see those top players, but it comes at a cost because they haven’t developed the players that they should have. They are coming out of what was supposed to be a Golden Age, but that group didn’t win any trophies and never got beyond the quarterfinals (of a major tournament). If that group didn’t win a trophy, the group they have now was going to struggle.

“I do think it’s interesting for a football nation like England, they seem to have a different standard. If you look at Holland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, etc., if they don’t make it to at least the quarterfinals, it isn’t a successful World Cup. Right now for England, if they would have made it out of the group it would have been successful. So the whole perspective of where they are as a football nation has changed a lot.

Luzzi on this Sunday’s US-Portugal match…
“I am cautiously optimistic. I think that there could be something to the level of confidence with our guys and the lack of confidence that is probably going on in the Portugal camp. But I also know that those things can be flipped very easily. Portugal can easily use their struggles and adversity as something to rally around and it’s also very easy for a team to get one good result and just be content and satisfied and not come out as hungry. The U.S. didn’t play really well (against Ghana), it’s not as if we played this amazing game and got a result, we found a way to get a result.

“The big thing for me will be Michael Bradley. His game against Ghana was a poor game by the standard we have for him, and I think that our team can go as he goes. If that was a one-time, just an off day and he is back to normal Michael Bradley, he is able to will our team, physically, emotionally and with his soccer, to get a good result. But if that is where his form is and what we can expect out of him for the next week or two that makes me nervous. So Bradley is the key, and obviously Tim Howard has to maintain his standard for the U.S. to get out of the group and maybe win a game after that.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Following the conclusion of the group stage, NIU volunteer assistant coach Ross Brady shared his thoughts on the United States performance against Germany and looked ahead to the Round of 16.

NIU volunteer assistant Ross Brady on the United States in the group stage…

“It wasn’t that pretty to be honest, going 1-1-1, but they went through so looking to the next round maybe Jozy Altidore could come back (from injury). They haven’t released too much information on how extensive his hamstring injury is, but the U.S. play on Tuesday, so that gives him a little bit more time to continue the recovery process and maybe (head coach Jurgen) Klinsmann will reevaluate then what his lineup might look like against Belgium.”

On other teams heading into the Round of 16…

“Germany looks very good. They only scored the one goal against the U.S. but they knew that would get them through and their goal differential was plus-five, so they didn’t really have to push for another one. The French were pretty decent in the group stage and the Netherlands were very good. I thought Brazil had moments, but hasn’t been everything I would expect from Brazil and I would say probably the same thing about Argentina.

“The interesting thing is that a European team has never won the World Cup in South America, but the European look pretty good right now while the South American teams, Brazil, Argentina, etc., still aren’t quite there yet. If you look at Argentina, Messi has been stifled a little bit, even though he has managed to score a couple of goals. Uruguay was doing well, but now without Luis Suarez, who knows how they will do against Colombia.

“Overall, I think the Round of 16 is interesting with some good matchups, Brazil versus Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, and one that is very interesting is the Netherlands and Mexico. Mexico looked pretty good in the group stage and that should be an exciting game.”

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