Tuesday, June 29, 2021

EM 2020--Day Seventeen Recap

Your Syndicate Daily is proudly presented by "Bündnis 90" and the European Greens.

With warm preemptive congratulations to Kanzlerin Baerbock :)

Your friendly bookie wholeheartedly endorses a German velvet revolution. Let's go Europe!

Day 17: Recap



Bookie’s Stats—

Spread: 14-30

Straight up: 19-17-8

Ach du Scheiße! Well, gentlemen. As your friendly bookie is so often fond of reminding you, he absolutely hate being proven correct. With solid conviction that the time had come when Gary Lineker's legendary quote would meet its match, I tipped England. So it was. 

Not a shocker. Not at all. The  citizens of the Bundesrepublik knew that we'd be lucky to escape the group. When we barely managed to do so, it wasn't worth investing too much hope in this incarnation of our beloved Nationalmannschaft. This was merely a year set up to be an awkward transition. 

Ugh. It's finally over. Relief reigns. Your friendly bookie won't deny that all the usual emotions associated with tournament football are here. There is pain. There is hurt. In terms of degree, however, they pale in comparison to the feelings experienced after the 2018 group stage exit. 

I actually find them less intense then when sitting down to write the obituary for the women's team two Summers ago. Mostly, we're all just relieved that this Löw Era didn't end in total disaster. A new Era, and indeed a new tournament, are but 18 short months away. 

 S.S.S. Salute to Fallen Vaterland 

4 games played

6 goals scored

 Previous Germany Tactical Coverage:

-Group F Preview

-Day Five Recap

-Day Nine Recap

-Day Thirteen Recap

For obvious reasons, the order gets reversed tonight. The sendoff section comes first as the bookie bids farewell to his beloved home country. If you're just joining us, you can review the back-posts to confirm that Germans were never truly optimistic about this team. 

Okay, that's the case every year if you wish to be accurate about it. This year was a bit different in that we actively tempered our expectations from the start. No hopes for the semi-finals. None. Just get Jogi out without a complete shitshow. 

I suppose you could say that this reasonable objective was met. The tournament was by no means a catastrophe. Despite the fact that--as we shall cover shortly--Löw bowed out with one last tactical fuck up, today's result could have swung either way. 

As expected, the match was incredibly tight. Our XI put forth and admirable effort and got their chances. One can't really call into question the amount of determination and motivation from the Jungs. They fought as becoming representatives of our country.

Predictably enough, Löw messed up a chance to outmaneuver his counterpart. In so doing, we missed a chance to make a deeper run into the tournament on the far weaker bracket. That stings a bit. 

 Lineup—Germany—Match Four (3-4-3) (6/29/2021) 

Nope. Wrong. Not even close. Löw would have surely received heavy criticism initially had he, just like in the 2012 Euros, employed wholesale changes in the knockout phase. That would have mattered not as this wasn't the right selection. The solution was screaming at him the whole time. 

In grading the Jungs in the previous three fixtures, the bookie has had to repeatedly point out that Kai Havertz hasn't been great the ball. The 22-year-old has scored twice. This is immaterial. Löw needed to drop him after the last performance. He had justification too as Havertz sat on a yellow. 

Müller also hasn't been fantastic. One couldn't really justify dropping "Herr Radio", however, as his veteran leadership would be needed on the pitch. The self-evident answer, then, would be to pocket him central. Sané and Gnabry could then flank him on the top axis, as drawn up in the latest Lines section. 

Kimmich and Goretzka also needed to be reunited in midfield with the back-three disposed of. Ginter can play at right back. For that matter, so too can Emré Can and even Niklas Süle. Had Löw rightly assumed-- like most of us did--that Southgate would line up in a back three, we would have retained advantages at every position. 

The constellation ultimately rolled out gave Germany a much slighter advantage man-to-man. It was always likely to be one that evaporated quickly once the Three Lions settled into their new set-up. As it turned out, the firmer control by the Germans in terms of the possession game lasted only 14 minutes. 

"Turbo Timo" might have been the right selection to serve as lead-striker if he hadn't come off a confidence sapping club campaign. The link-up play just didn't work. Müller and Havertz were miles off when attempted to service him. The timing on all the runs was way off. 

Duh. These players don't ordinarily play together. Even club teammates Havertz and Werner don't regularly feature on the pitch at the same time at Chelsea. Axes, axes, axes. They're of such tantamount importance when a national side finds itself in transition. 

Don't couple non-teammates on planes if they haven't had time to accrue experience together on the national side! Also, don't pick someone like Werner if he's having trouble with his scoring touch!

Huge missed opportunity here in the 32nd. What are you doing, Timo? You've got to lift it over the keeper, son! You're instinct and intuition just aren't working this year are they? I don't think Gnabry would have failed to score this. 

Cognizant of this fact, Löw probably should have pulled Werner for Gnabry at the break. Instead, we just got this lame structural re-format. Blah. This ensured that--apart from Havetz's distance effort in the 48th--neither side would get a chance until Sterling scored the opening goal in the 75th. 

 Lineup—Germany—46th minute (5-3-2) 

Also wrong. You can clearly see what the idea was here. Reverse thruster the wingbacks and pull them in. Flatten out the back-three and generate some centralized builds. It could have worked. The fact that Löw didn't react when it didn't constitutes a failure. 

We got our first substitutions in the 65th. Southgate brought on Grealish for Bukary Saka. Löw introduced--far too late--Gnabry for Werner. The plan for the stretch run can be represented thusly: 

 Lineup—Germany—66th minute (3-4-2-1) 

Wrong again. Too much complexity. Too many directional shifts. Way too crowed on the central vertical axis. You've got the wingbacks forward again, depleted after fighting numerous midfield ground and aerial battles. They'll have some trouble catching up if England can string a few passes together. 

Your coverage is in trouble on the track back. Watch out.....

Ups. As they said at Wimbledon earlier in the day, "Game. Set. Match". Your friendly bookie watched the final 15 minutes with effectively zero hope for a comeback. This was just one of those tight duels in which the first goal would decide it all. 

The commentators, understandably swayed by the events of yesterday, treated it like a contest until the final second of injury time. I was in no way surprised to see this:


Even the best find it difficult to execute laser focus when they suffer the deflation of a critical goal in a tight match like this one. Harry Kane adding a second also counted as fully expected. This was the 2006 WM semi-finals all over again. 

To our last set of grades. Twelve of them this time as only Gnabry factored in off the bench. 

 Grades—Deutschland (Match Four) 

Manuel Neuer

A- (2,5)

Mats Hummels

A- (2,5)

Antonio Rüdiger

B (3,0)

Toni Kroos

B (3,0)

Leon Goretzka

B- (3,5)

Kai Havertz

B- (3,5)

Joshua Kimmich

C+ (4,0)

Thomas Müller

C (4,5)

Robin Gosens

D (5,0)

Matthias Ginter

D (5,0)

Timo Werner

D- (5,5)

Serge Gnabry

F (6,0)

As I said, there were some bright spots. Liked the early save from Neuer and the monster goal-saving tackle from Hummels. Our returning center back and keeper actually turned in "A" level performances insofar as I'm concerned. 

Rüdiger at least kept Saka in check. Kroos and Goretzka won some important duels and passed well. Havertz had that one effort. As usual, however, he was nowhere near consistent enough with his touches. The same applies to Müller. Ginter was pretty awful defensively. 

Pretty quiet game from both Gosens and Kimmich, who did have to deal with too many tactical reassignments. Werner and Gnabry were very much the victims of Löw's selection mangling. The latter regrettably has to receive failing marks for doing almost nothing but turning the ball over. 

So there we have it. The final set of grades for the final match of Jogi Löw's Bundestrainer Era. 

The future? 

We don't have all that much time, but I believe that we're in good hands. Hansi will have no qualms about bringing in the right mix of in-form veterans and promising youngsters. 

The U21 side that just won the European championship actually isn't as exciting as the one that did it in 2017. It nevertheless features a pair of players I genuinely thought that Löw should have brought with him this time. 

Just wait until you meet Florian Wirtz. Even better than Havertz was at the age of 17.

Our new staring right-back, Ridle Baku. I love watching this kid play! Löw should have brought both him and Wirtz along

Unfortunately, we got this next kid a German passport a little too late. 

Our new starting left-back, Borna Sosa. He's a real treat to watch too. Sorry, Croats. He's ours. You will rue letting him get snatched up by us. Just you wait.

Speaking of kids we snatched up, sorry England. Jamal Musiala put on a clinic in brief action in the second match. He's ours too. 

Too bad. So sad. Wait until he exacts revenge on you next time. 

....there's one more thing..... 

He's coming. A little injury set back doesn't mean he's going away for good.

If Youssoufa Moukoko can manage to stay healthy, you can forget about all this talk of Kylian Mbappe being the natural heir to Ronaldo and Messi. This kid has mad skills like you wouldn't fucking believe. 

We'll catch you in Qatar, Limeys. I'll draw it up for you next time. That's all the time we have for today.

“Riffs of the Day”—Day Seventeen

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Reader: Mats Hummels is simply unreal. 

Vicey: The bookie and 16-M share a common appreciation of a top class precision tackle.

Jesus-fucking-h-christ. Margin for error = 0.000001% That was even better than the one against Mbappé!

Reader: Gosens with a bit of Trippi-air.

Vicey: Afafafafafafa. Syndicate member 51-M with some zinging word play during Gosens' booking in the 72nd. We should trot out the Thomas Müller gif for that one. 

....more like Kieran "Trip-i-ay"

Müller? More like Mïssler!


Reader: How long before England fans start hating Sterling again?

Vicey: That's a bit of a low blow, 128-M Let them have their day. 

Okay. Maybe we can do a bit better than these guys. 

There we are. By the way, ladies. I think those guys up top are still single. 

Reader: Catch the crying German girl on the broadcast?

Vicey: Catch her, 11-M? How could you miss her? I did more than catch her, friend. She's my very special guest; here to take up the task of the closing photograph when there are no lines to check in on tomorrow. 

It's okay, Maus! Everything will be okay! Don't worry my little Liebchen. We'll be back to take what is rightfully ours from the fat baldies with the un-sculpted chins from the Isle. 

This incredibly German looking father and his sweet little daughter bid you a solemn Kraut farewell until the next round of Lines!

Monday, June 28, 2021

EM 2020--Day Sixteen Recap

Your Syndicate Daily is proudly presented by "Bündnis 90" and the European Greens.

With warm preemptive congratulations to Kanzlerin Baerbock :)

Your friendly bookie wholeheartedly endorses a German velvet revolution. Let's go Europe!

Day 16: Recap



Bookie’s Stats—

Spread: 13-29

Straight up: 18-16-8

Holy Lord, gentlemen. It doesn't get much better than that. Fourteen goals in just two fixtures. Drama galore and a shocking upset. Thought that the never-ending domestic league campaign would leave these players too fatigued to deliver this Summer? Think again. 


That's one of Vicey's "Bundesliga Buddies" Yann Sommer of Gladbach carrying the day. Your friendly bookie had the Swiss farewell section all outlined and ready to type all that way up until Sommer pawed away Mbappé for the only save of that shootout. 

I also already had the day award to a a Spaniard I've been repeatedly defending throughout the course of this year's chapter. Overshadowed a bit by the "Sommer brings the Summer" Sensation, Alvaro Morata deserved some recognition too. Way to shut up all the damn haters!

Very much a day for the ladies as you get two heartthrobs to gush over. Everything should be well on syndicate member relationship fronts. Guys get the cuties in the stands while their girls secretly fawn over the actors on the pitch. Life returns to normal.

 S.S.S. Tactical Breakdown 

The Spanish advance--never doubted for a second by the bookie--comes attached with a bit of "catch up work". Although I've been tipping the highly talented Iberians in the Lines sections, we've not drawn it up for "La Furia" since the Day Four recap. 

This actually works out well as I get to graphically show you why I was never truly concerned. Luis Enrique had the whole thing planned out all along. 

 Lineup—Spain—Match Two (4-3-3) (6/19/2021) 

At this juncture, we were still place holding for Sergio Busquets. Enrique knew that his midfield talisman would return fresh, fit, and eager after being forcibly sidelined with symptom-free COVID. No real reason to tinker with the system. 

"Rodri" could simply take over as a mimicker until the Barça man got back. Other concerns would be worked out in the meantime.I have Morata as a true nine in this one even though he fluctuated back and forth out of the suppressed pivot. 

The striker whom most everyone always preferred over Diego Costa got a goal in the second fixture, yet still found himself the recipient of heavy criticism. Bookie didn't find it warranted. It was always lazy analysis at best. 

 Lineup—Spain—Match Three (4-3-3) (6/23/2021) 

We were tinkering slightly. Now we're cooking. With Busquets back, Enrique deployed his preferred triplicate striker line. Nearly everyone but Morata scored in this one. The criticism continued. Good on Enrique for completely ignoring it. 

Before getting to today's fixture, we'll need to praise Enrique for a another solid move. Benching Marco Llorente, whom many of us thought had earned his starting right back place with amazing performances, surpassed many of us. 

That move puzzled, as did some of today's selections. 

 Lineup—Spain—Match Four (4-3-3) (6/28/2021) 

Azpilicueta retained his place over Llorente. Ferran Torres took over for Moreno while Sarabia moved over to the opposite flank. To my knowledge (admittedly the bookie doesn't speak Spanish) Jordi Alba wasn't hurt. Jose Gaya took over at left fullback for no apparent reason. 

Looking back at this second consecutive five-goal-fiesta, the bookie can't rightly say that Spain ever looked the worse team. Sure, there was a period of navel gazing after that "meme city" own-goal, but Enrique's men shook it off comparatively quickly. 

Exquisitely executed flank rotations among both the forwards and the fullbacks meant the rolling charges kept coming from the switched points-of-attack. The one ultimately leading to Azpilicueta converting Torres' buttery smooth cross constituted perhaps the best example. 

The team kept up a balanced and creative set of approaches on the rush. Torres' 71st minute finish came after still another unstoppable one. The two late Croat goals didn't result from any serious defensive lapses either. 

Anything could have happened during that goalmouth scramble in the 85th and there was little hope of defending Pasalic's inch-perfect cross seven minutes later. After Morata's super-slick skillful work on the go ahead goal, substitute Oyarzabal actually could have scored a hat trick with his chances in the final 20 minutes.

Oh, to be on a European avenue this evening. It's been nine long years since the "victory caravans" roamed the streets. It doesn't matter where in Europe one is. The horn-blaring buses and kiss-blowing snenioritas are out in full force tonight. 

Some things bear repeating. Ten tallies in the last two games. An incredibly dangerous triplicate striker line featuring a confident anchor and five interchangeable parts. After much of the pre-tournament training took place in isolation, everyone forgot that the team would a somewhat sluggish start to find their form. 

Now they click at precisely the right time. Little matters more in tournament football. Speaking of things that everyone conveniently forgets, the 2008, 2010, and 2012 squads weren't anywhere near this explosive. Here we have an even better team, people. Don't doubt it. 

All should like their chances against the lot we're about to discuss.

 Lineup—Switzerland—Match Four (3-4-1-2) (6/28/2021) 

Vladimir Petkovic reverted to basically the same tactics we saw in on Day Two. Unsurprisingly, they were just as ineffective. Switzerland's first goal resulted from Steven Zuber effectively bucking his positional assignment and tearing forward in search of yet another assist. 

After the Seferovic strike put the Swiss ahead in the 15th, all the players fell back to these positions. It was a highly defensive schematic. They probably would have defended for 75 minutes had the three French second half goals in quick succession forced Petkovic to throw everyone forward in a 4-1-5. 

The late press (from the 80th minute) onward was interesting in that Freuler filled in at left back in order to allow Seferovic, Fassnacht, Gavranovic, Embolo, and Vargas to operate as a full five-striker-set. Hells bells was that an all-in desperation football gamble! Despite 100 to 1 odds, it worked. 

That piece of sheer unadulterated balls-to-the-wall stuff, La Nati pretty much did everything they could to lose this match. History only remembers the winners. The poor tournament favorites go crushing out with so much splendor soon to be forgotten. 

In a year's time, will anyone remember Hugo Lloris' crucial penalty save on Ricardo Rodriguez?

What about Karim Benzema's touch on the French equalizer moments later that left everyone scraping their jaws off the floor?

Er....hello? You can't fucking drag a ball with you like that and still finish!! What about Paul Pogba's tally?  Bookie doesn't care what anybody days. That was the goal of the tournament!

One could go on all night. Mbappé's seemingly infinite amount of near misses. Kingsley Coman's last second effort that missed the net by millimeters. It's sad. The human brain only has so much capacity. 

Even someone with the stamina of your friendly bookie will fall victim to selective memory compartmentalization at some point. We will forget; some of us as soon as its time to write the post-mortem. 

These are the only scenes anyone will remember. Sommer leading his team to the FanKurve. 

...and the snapshots of their arrival at the corner flag. 

Madness. Absolute madness. You can't not love football after this.

I'm happy for my Southern German Alpine kin. Regrettably, there had to emerge a winner here and another amazing performance will get undeservedly forgotten. 

 S.S.S. Salute to Fallen Comrades 

 Croatia"Blazing Vatrenti"

-4 games played

-7 goals scored

 Previous Croatia Tactical Coverage:

-Group D Preview

-Day Eight Recap

-Day Twelve Recap

We're all caught up with Croat tactics. This came courtesy of the fact that your friendly bookie felt compelled to chronicle some of the identity issues this team was going through after the retirements of Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic.

Could there be another retirement on the horizon?

I really don't think so, even if the 2018 Ballon d'or winner's tears on the sidelines might suggest so Thanks to the year that humanity was forced to press the collective pause button, there's another major international in 18 short months. 

There will be few, if any, retirements after this competition. Zlatko Dalic may still figure out a more stabile and workable role for Luca. Of course, he summarily failed to do that this tournament. 

 Lineup—Croatia—Match Four (4-1-4-1) (6/28/2021) 

Bookie saw no real reason to return to the 4-1-4-1 here. The 4-2-3-1 from the last two group stage fixtures seemed on the cusp of solidifying. Perhaps Dalic couldn't resist hitting the panic button when he learned that his only reliable winger tested positive for corona. 

Indeed, that was a huge blow. Problems finding the right personnel for the flanks has been the main issue plaguing this team throughout the tournament. It still could have been easily addressed by simply starting Rebic on the left. Dalic did this, but pulled Modric back for no discernible reason. 

Figuring out what to do in light of Dejan Lovren's suspension was never going to be easy. The bookie encountered a tough time with it in the Lines section. Not trusting Caleta-Car at all, I moved Gvardiol in to play center back and started Barisic. 

Thinking that might have worked better, though no one could truly anticipate what a terrible game Gvardiol was going to have. Was Vrsaljko injured? Bookie honestly doesn't know. Probably, as there could be no other explanation for this:

 Lineup—Croatia—85th minute (5-1-4) 

Yeoouch. The late 5-1-4 press (a bit different from the late 4-1-5 press that enabled the Swiss to score two late goals) is what both saved them and killed them. I personally couldn't believe my eyes. That's Wolfsburg's Josip Brekalo--ordinarily a left flank attacker--filling in at right fullback of all places. 

This is what happens when you poor attackers on in search of a miracle. Someone has to track back to cover the defensive position you've left open. Brekalo fucked up royally on both the Spanish goals in extra time. A deserved loss, one has to say.

 France—"Les Bleaus"

-4 games played

-7 goals scored

 Previous France Tactical Coverage:

-Group F Preview

-Day Five Recap

Back to the "underserved loss" So very, very, very sorry mes ames. Welcome to your own version of Germany's post 2018 tournament hell. No one remembers that we actually played well in that tournament too. That includes the players themselves, who promptly forget how to play for the next three years. 

So, here's the issue. Even if this early elimination wasn't totally Didier Deschamps' fault, he still has to go. The 2018 group stage debacle wasn't entirely Joachim Löw's fault. There nevertheless existed plenty of evidence that our Bundestrainer showed signs of losing his grip. 

Care to see how your head-coach is experiencing similar issues? Your friendly bookie will gladly show you via the "catch up work".

 Lineup—France—Match Two (4-2-2-2) (6/19/2021) 

Hitherto only talked about it the Lines sections, these are the nonsensical tactics from the second match. Exceedingly difficult to place Griezmann in this one. He was all over the damn place. You won't see a shape like this often. France are one of the few squads that have the speed to pull it off. In this case, they didn't. 

We'll now head over to that 2-2 draw with Portugal. In fairness, this halfway decent idea got scrambled with the stoppages and the Hernandez/Digne problems. Still a bit of a reach, though. Many will agree. 

 Lineup—France—Match Three (4-4-2) (6/23/2021) 

Tolisso is only just returning from injury and Mbappé had no clue how to work a split-stagger with him. Griezmann as a service striker at least made more cogent sense than....whatever role he was supposed to play in the previous encounter. Bookie fears it still would have been infinitely smarter to bench him until something could be figured out. 

At long last turning towards the present, the opening set-up was simply inexcusable. Rabiot worked as an emergency left back in the Portugal fixture. He came nowhere close to doing well at it either. To roll out a novel back-five at this stage was just silly, as was a fourth novel role for Griezmann and the choice to pull Pogba and Kanté apart.

 Lineup—France—Match Four (5-3-2) (6/28/2021) 

I think this was how it was supposed to work. Lenglet in the inverted pivot role directly led to the first goal. After that, it would appear that no one on the pitch gave much of a shit about how it was "supposed" to work. Very weak first half. Yanking Lenglet for Kingsley Coman gave the team a far superior structure.

 Lineup—France—46th minute (4-4-2) 

Simply stated, what we should have seen from the beginning. Bookie might have even started Tolisso in place of Griezmann. A sincere tribute to how well this performed is given in the section above. It remains a pity that the team ended up going home. Not fully deserved at all. 

That notwithstanding, Deschamps wasted a valuable 45 minutes with his poor planning. The World Champions needed to start this team off on the right foot and they didn't. Moreover, your coach is evolving into a "player pleaser." 

Someone less concerned with player feelings might have dropped Griezmann from the start. Coman injured himself and needed to be subbed off in favor of Marcus Thuram much, much sooner. There should have been no discussion. 

It reminds one a lot of the corner Löw ultimately backed himself into. In point of fact, our trainer eventually backed himself into multiple corners; ones our suddenly cynical football populace still can't get out of. 

The longer a national team trainer stays in the job, the more promises are made. Parts of Deschamps' tinkering with all his talent in this short tourney had to do with promises, parts were wholly unrelated to that issue. 

It doesn't matter. He can't fix it now. It will only get worse until--right on schedule--the team suffers another French implosion in Qatar. 


Let someone else come in and try to pick these guys up.

“Riffs of the Day”—Day Sixteen

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Reader: Holy shit. Frank Laboeuf in studio! Where has he been all tournament?

Vicey: Damn right, 15-M that's a good get!

"Our team is shiit. Life is shiit. Now I shall give a Gauloises to a bebey"

Reader: How the hell did the Frogs manage to fuck this one up?

Vicey: By only playing with Joi d'vive four 15 total minutes. Sorry, 23-M. It's been a long tournament and that's the best I can do. Vicey's trademark linguistic flair has gone the way of the "half-assed culture minute." Someone find a charging station to hook me up to, please.  

Reader: Petkovic is shouting at his players in German, but Granit Xhaka is hyping everyone up in English. 

Vicey: Good spot, 42-M. One wonders how in the hell the Swiss players themselves keep track of what language they're supposed to be communicating in. 

Let's see here. We've got an Albanian from the German part who plays in England, a Cameroonian from the French part who plays in Germany, a Congolese-French dual heritage guy from the Italian part who....oh fuck it. Everyone just grunt. That'll work. 

Reader: Enjoy this German fan girl as you get ready for the big match tomorrow.

Vicey: Gee, that's very nice of you 131-M.....except for the fact that you've GOT THE WRONG COUNTRY. Right colors. Wrong country.

Those are vertical black, yellow, and red stripes. Furthermore, she's wearing "red devils" headgear. 

That's a Belgian girl. She's hideous. I want nothing to do with her. 

Reader: I'm too damn out of breath to say "long live football" today, Vicey.

Vicey: Well I'm not, 72-M. Besides that, you just said it.





England vs. Deutschland


If you thought betting on this would still be open, you're not a syndicate member. Oh Christ, it's going to be a bad fucking day tomorrow. 


Sweden vs. Ukraine


If you think I'll be watching this one live, forget about it. There's a semi-coherent rant to write.