mercoledì 20 giugno 2012

Inside Bento's thoughts

Although Paulo Bento stuck to a 4-4-2 during his stint with Sporting Lisbon, he learned the lesson. His Portugal became even more Morinhesque. Bento don't believe that Portugal must monopolise possession. His team is usual to adopt a contrasting approach. There’s no doubt that Josè Mourinho got his mark to contest Barcelona via a compact defence and strong fast-break. But his big deal was to convince the public that it was the right approach and that you have to don't try to dominate the match against better sides. Bento picks counter-attack over possesion. A team like Portugal has the individual quality to dominate but they got no results with this play style. So Bento wanted his Portugal to be disciplined, organised and ready to break. Despite many teams attacking mainly inside, Portugal tried to find space through the flanks, where are playing their best players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. There were and are concerns about Ronaldo’s defensive performances, with opposite full-backs running over him but Bento built a 3-men midfield in which the interior midfielders are set to slide laterally in the way to cover the gaps between Ronaldo and the Portuguese full-back on his flank. Moving Joao Moutinho or Raul Meireles out wide is a Mourinho's thought.
"We have three attacking players, but I don't want them chasing fullbacks and making themselves tired. That's why I have a triangle in midfield, which slides laterally to do the defensive work. So, for example, Robben might not defend when their fullback comes forward with the ball. That's OK, because Lampard will go across and challenge him and the other two midfielders will cover for him." (Josè Mourinho)
 That allows the forwards to not expend much energy defending. But leave gaps on the middle if the rivals are able to move quickly the ball from the outside to the inside and to avoid the cover coming from the other central midfielders. The most important thing in Bento's eyes is Portugal's defensive shape. If you can control possession or position, but can't do both, Portugal's head coach stayed with position control.
"We didn’t want the ball because when Barcelona press and win the ball back, we lose our position – I never want to lose position on the pitch so I didn’t want us to have the ball, we gave it away. I told my players that we could let the ball help us win and that we had to be compact, closing spaces.” (Josè Mourinho) 
In fact, Portugal had 43% of ball possesion against Germany, 40% against Denmark and 38% latest Group match. On defensive side, Bent did not load Ronaldo with special defensive duties. On this phase, Portugal switches from the 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation.
He didn't track his full-back and the benefit is that Portugal has two players up top during the fast-breaks. Even if every goal Portugal have conceded has come from Ronaldo's flank that's happened because Fabio Coentrão don't have specific defensive abilities and the interior midfielders on the Ronaldo's side wasn't able to cover laterally helping Madrid's full-back. On the other side, Portugese full-backs rarely went forward to help the attack: the work to help the attacking trio is allowed to the box-to-box midfielders in the middle. Things was different against Czech Republic. With the need to attack against a reactive team, Bento sent his full-backs forward: so Fábio Coentrão played 43 passes and João Pereira 40. In this case, they utilized a classic movement of the wings coming inside leaving free spaces on the flanks for the overlapping full-backs.
 About the way to control opponents' attacking midfielders Portugal played in a zone mode in the middle of the pitch. That changed a bit against Czech Republic, when Veloso tried to chase Czech's attacking midfielder Vladimir Darida with the Portuguese midfielders trying to follow man-to-man the players on their zone with the ball on the strong side. When the rival's attacking midfielders has the ball on a flank, one of Portugal's central midfielders chase him, leaving the other two covering the spaces in front of the back four. On the corner-kicks, they utilize a zonal-marking coverage. They have a man covering the first post; another covering the zone in front of the first post; a 5-men line covering the goalkeepers' area; 3-men in a zonal coverage inside the pelaty box. That was against a corner coming from the left with a right-footed player sending the ball inside. No one of their central midfielders is a true playmaker but all play simple passes. As said earlier, while this EURO Cup was played mainly in the middle of the pitch, the overall Portugal's strategy is to rely on the flanks. Despite his tactics was often criticised, Bento has defended the playing style of his team: that's the way he utilized to get out results.


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