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Day 20: Recap
Straight up: 22-17-10
Ah hell. Yes, this is one of those semis that's going to leave a lot of spectators with mixed feelings. Most xG calculations have the Iberians on top of the Italians by a factor of three. The infinitely better in terms of possession, tactics, and chance creation lost.
So it goes sometimes when only one moment of magic can make the difference.
Take a bow, son!!
No way the Squadra would be in the Final without this. Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata missed their chance to be heroes. As you know, gentlemen, there's no consolation third place playoff in Europe. We thus have to bid our Spanish friends an emotional farewell below.
S.S.S. Tactical Breakdown
At this stage in the tourney, we'll bring back the bookie's projected lineups as a means of emphasizing some didactic points. Unlike in the previous two elimination rounds, we've some time and space to explore them here.
Time and space, by a curious coincidence, were at a premium for as Roberto Mancini actually got away with a poor set of instructions here. How does one compensate for the loss of Leonardo Spinazolla? Bookie assumed like this.
Lineup—Italy—PROJECTED (4-3-3) (7/5/2021)
The reasoning here, as explained in the latest Lines section, was that the flat midfield axis would be maintained so as to accord Emerson Palmieri a little space to operate on overlaps of his choosing. Mancini instead returned to the spread he used in the first two matches.
Lineup—Italy—Match Six (4-3-3) (7/6/2021)
Di Lorenzo often slid back to function as a third center back. This was the only precautionary measure taken to allow Palmieri bomb forward on enterprising runs. There won't be a full set of grades assigned this time, but it's the bookie's opinion that Palmieri, Jorginho and Verratti all played a very poor match.
The new left-back was the worst of them, as illustrated by several genuinely selfish and myopic forward carries straight up the gut. Verratti and Jorginho get a bit more of a pass as they were understandably confused by Palmieri's movements. Di Lorenzo also seemed to be; one reason his synchronization was awful.
It didn't get much better at all as the match wore on. Chiesa's opening goal--completely against the run of play--masked more poor choices by Mancini. He yanked Immobile in favor of Domenico Berardi in the 61st and left his team without a central target until Pessina came on 13 minutes later. Rafael Toloi also came on in the 74th to play right back with di Lorenzo switching left.
It's highly unlikely any of this was going to produce much of anything unless--out of nowhere--Chiesa buoyed the team with that piece of individual brilliance one minute before the first substitution. Chiellini and Bonnucci had a well below average day, as evidenced by several Spanish breakthroughs.
The Azzuri produced only two legit offensive chances: Chiesa's goal and Berardi's 68th minute test of Unai Simon. They were otherwise tentative as all hell, with no one feeling confident enough to pull the trigger. The miffing of that Unai Simon walkabout in the first half was downright painful to watch.
Oh well. Players who turned in an epic performance can always fall flat on their face in a shootout. Conversely, a player who had been messing up distribution all night is just one hop, skip, and jump away from being a hero.
Yep. It's your day again, wopsters. A boy from Brazil carries you through. Feel as confident or apprehensive about the Final as you wish.
Don't need to remind you that all bets are off.
S.S.S. Salute to Fallen Comrades
Spain—"La Furia Roja"
-6 games played
-13 goals scored
Previous Spain Tactical Coverage:
I know, La Roja enthusiasts. It hurts your friendly bookie too; both in the wallet and the chest. Hardy a result that did your efforts justice. Just as we were prepared to herald Dani Olmo's silky smooth performance and Alvaro Morata's steely resolve....
...no one will remember them. Such a horribly cruel thing these shootouts. Your friendly bookie shall do his level best to ensure that some of the evening's magic is preserved for all posterity in these pages.
Visual images nevertheless remain more easily summoned despite the fact that published words carry the same permanence. Horrible, horrible, horrible fates select one at random. This is true as much in football as it is in life.
Given how thoroughly dominant Spain were in the first half, one has to call Enrique's selection into question. There's no question that the Spanish trainer won the tactical chess match against his counterpart. It wasn't even close. The Italians looked completely listless pinned back in defense.
Yes, the bookie has to show you his lineup now. Enrique designed very well. It's worth noting that I built one to go for the jugular.
Lineup—Spain—PROJECTED (4-3-3) (7/5/2021)
Honestly. Put wingers on their natural sides in a match of such huge consequence. Oyarzabal belonged on the left. Sarabia on the right. Ferran Torres was clearly exhibiting a form dip. As we've said dozens of times in this summer's sportsbook, there was no real justification for benching Morata beyond a heedless kow-tow to the armchair critics.
Don't get me wrong. What we saw was innovative and had the effect of ensuring that the Spaniards racked up confidence-building points. The only points that matter, however, are the ones that go on the scoreboard when the ball finds the back of the net. That's why we'll need to ultimately accord both plaudits and thumbs down to this:
Lineup—Spain—Match Six (4-3-3) (7/6/2021)
I'll begin by saying that myself and millions of other tactics-heads experience chills down our spine when we figured out that Dani Olmo was being used as a false-nine. We like to see this sort of thing tried deep into a tournament. It at least demonstrates some inventive spirit on behalf of a manager.
If you had asked me during the first 15 minutes whether I thought it was the right call, I'd have answered with a resounding yes. Pedri was on with his passing. Olmo dipped back into space perfectly. Chances would be generated. Things proceeded in a promising direction.
It began to look less intelligent when we got our first look at the finishing touches of Olmo and Torres, a sense of foreboding set it. Between the first quarter of an hour and the half hour mark one could see that the ideas dried up. More importantly, a Spanish side on back-to-back 120 minute matches were tiring themselves out with their own possession.
Oyarzabal and Torres both missed late first half chances that, arguably, might have been finished had they been stationed on different sides. Olmo also skied a distance effort. Mancini's men looked genuinely awful, yet remained right in a match that stood 0-0.
Subbing off Torres for Morata in the 61st led to only the slight tweak of moving Olmo left. Can't criticize this obviously, as it led to that brilliant one-two give-and-go on the equalizer. Those of us who follow Olmo every week in the Bundesliga were oh so pleased that our boy got to turn a trick on the grand stage.
Pretty big moment for a guy who's been defending Morata all Summer too. If only the extra momentum-- which unequivocally lasted from the 80th minute tally until the 110th minute in extra time--could have been parlayed into the goal needed to avoid the penalty lottery.
Then the far better team on this day would have won.
Uff. Now everyone's off their 23:45 Dinner in Pamplona.
A bookie can offer assessments on some of Enrique's later moves. Pulling Koke in favor of Rodrigo Hernandez really made no sense at all, considering that the latter is much more of a defensive midfielder. I would have like to have seen Oyarzabal switched left rather than pulled in favor of Moreno in the 70th. As the Bundesliga watchers know, Olmo can be effective from either side as well as the ten-spot.
Two of the remaining three subs were meaningless like-for-likes. Pau Torres and Thiago Alcantara essentially came on for the shootout. A shame that Marcus Llorente (on for Azpilicueta) didn't produce much of anything. It was definitely the right idea. Some will argue that Adam Traoré could have been given a run out. Bookie thinks not as he didn't really have his tournament legs this time.
Tough one to take today. The future nevertheless looks exceedingly bright.
Just imagine another 12-14 years with this kid running the midfield. We all enamored with 18-year-old "Pedri" Gonzalez, especially after another monster performance today. Had Ansu Fati not gotten hurt, Spain's two teenage phenoms might have carried them all the way this time.
They'll get plenty more chances over the next 6-8 tournaments. We could even see La Roja add another star to their crest in 18 months time. All of this is naturally little consolation when a fabulous chance to capture an incredible third European title in four tournaments just got squandered today.
I know. It sucks.
Dammit, Alvaro! You can't go low-right from the spot twice in one tournament! I know it's all part of the "does he know, that I know, that he knows, what I know" part of the game-theory-conundrum.
In a tournament.....with a rookie keeper replacing a legend...it's probably safe to assume that he's going to follow the notes.
“Riffs of the Day”—Day Twenty
Reader: Hey. That Roman dude is back again!
Vicey: I see him 36-M. Bookie sees him.
Wonder if he's showered since the round-of-16. Unclear if we're going with the ancient Roman or modern Italian hygiene-concept. Big difference there.
Reader: The car is back! The Car is back! Oh sweet Jesus the car is back!!
Vicey: My sentiments exactly, 23-M. I thought it had left our lives forever.
And the tournament comes full circle. We end as we began. Football and remote controlled cars. The little boy in us can ask for nothing more.
I promise I find a way of buying you your own for your schwag pack. It shall be done.
Reader: Fucking Alvaro Morata. Now what do we do?
Vicey: I don't know, 78-M. Wait for Ansu Fati to get fit or Adama Traoré to find a new club I assume.
No, no, no, no.....NOOOO!
Absolutely not! Never again. I can't stand this godamned striker carousel anymore. If anyone even attempts to broach this idea, I'll have that Roman guy up there crucify you.
Reader: How have you Bundesliga guys been keeping Dani Olmo from us this whole time?
Vicey: Your friendly bookie hasn't been keeping any of the world's best football league from anyone, 117-M. I pimp it. It's my job. Over 1,000 articles this season. Tactical draws ups for Olmo and Leipzig almost every week.
It's not my fault you won't switch over from Sheffield vs. West Brom on a boring Sunday afternoon!
Alright. Admittedly, we've got some crap too. You have my permission to miss out on "El Plastico". Moreover, if you can't get hyped for Arminia Bielefeld vs. SpVgg Greuther Fürth this year...I promise not to tell anyone.
Reader: Phillytown erupts. Forza Italia! We are the Champions.
Vicey: I'm sure it's a veritable bunga-bunga, 5-M.
Easy on the Lambrusco tonight, brother.
I already have enough kids from you to buy presents for.
Denmark vs. England
Bookie will leave it open. LAST CALL FOR ALL BETS!
THE LINE: Denmark +1 Goal (holding)