FotMob Daily Briefing: Four things to look out for in the final of EURO 2024

FotMob Daily Briefing: Four things to look out for in the final of EURO 2024

So here we are, the 30th and final day of the European Championships in Germany, and the day when either Spain, or England, will leave with the trophy.

By Ian King

Lamine Yamal is more a goal provider than a goalscorer

The 17-year old (as of yesterday) wunderkind’s blistering goal for Spain in their semi-final against France may have been one of the defining moments of this tournament so far, but focusing on this to the exception of the rest of his game is mis-direction. 

Yamal has three assists so far in this tournament, the most of any player, while he’s also attempted 30 dribbles with the ball, a number only bettered by four others. Against England’s weakened left-side, creating for others may well end up being his role rather than repeating his semi-final goalscoring act of brilliance. 

Nico Williams is more than an just attacking threat

While attention has been lavished upon Yamal since Spain’s semi-final win, the youngster isn’t even the only potentially mortal threat that they have on the wings. On the left-hand side is Nico Williams, but while Williams can get forward it’s his defensive support that has increasingly caught the eye as Spain have progressed.  

Against Croatia in the opening game, he made eight ball pressures in their defensive third of the pitch. That number rose to ten against Germany in the quarter-finals in the 90 minutes of normal time and then 13 against France, the second-highest number of any of Spain’s players.

England will remain dependent on “moments”

Asked about the prospect of beating Spain, Gareth Southgate began his reply by saying, “We’ll need to get the ball off them first.” Not only is this a recognition on the England manager’s part of the immense challenge of getting the ball off Spain in the first place, but also by extension a tacit admission of how important it is that they take the chances they get. 

With a cautious set-up, England have been dependent on ‘moments’ throughout this tournament, arguably more than any other competing team. The good news there is that they arguably have more players capable of producing or creating them than any other. Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and Ollie Watkins have all already proved themselves plenty capable of either providing or finishing off these ‘moments’. Whether they can do so tonight may determine whether it comes home or not. 

The bar to win the Golden Boot is pretty low

One of the most striking statistics to have come from Euro 2024 so far has been how low the bar is to finish as its top scorer. Going into tonight’s final, six players are tied on three goals each in the race for the Golden Boot and only two of them – Harry Kane and Dani Olmo – are still in the competition. 

In 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrick Schick led the way with five each. In 2016 it was Antoine Griezmann, with six. We have to go all the way to 2012 to see statistics similar to this year, when – as this year, going into the final – six players tied for top scorer on three each, and that was a 16-team tournament with a whole round less of matches. 

Should Olmo and/or Kane fail to score tonight, this almost anomalous-looking statistic could be repeated, but from a greater number of matches than 2012. No European Championship finals has ended with such a low top goalscorer since there were only eight entrants in 1992. 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
How Néstor Lorenzo Turned the Tide for Colombia

How Néstor Lorenzo Turned the Tide for Colombia

On July 6, 2021, Argentina faced off against Colombia in the Copa América semi-final. Argentina got off to a quick start as Lionel Messi found Lautaro Martínez for the opener within seven minutes, but Los Cafeteros would respond on the hour-mark as Luis Díaz latched onto a long ball, rode the contact from his opponent, and delicately placed the ball into the side-netting. After both teams failed to find a goal in the remaining 30 minutes, the match went to a shootout, where Emiliano Martínez would come up clutch from the spot by producing three saves in São Paulo and willing the Albiceleste to a 3-2 win on penalties.

By Zach Lowy

Colombia would go on to beat Peru 3-2 in the third-placed match, whilst Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in their own backyard to claim their first major trophy since 1993, kicking off a golden period that has seen them win their first World Cup in 36 years and reach back-to-back Copa América finals.

Argentina have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Spain 2008-2012 and win three major tournaments in a row, and they’ll be taking on Colombia in Miami in a Copa América Final that will pit two of the most in-form teams in world football against each other. Whilst Argentina have won all but two matches in regulation since their World Cup victory – a penalty shootout win vs. Ecuador in the Copa quarter-finals and a loss to Uruguay in World Cup qualifying – Colombia boast the longest unbeaten streak in the world. Their last defeat came on February 1, 2022 in a 1-0 loss to Argentina that saw Lautaro Martínez open the scoring within a half-hour. Colombia would bounce back by closing out their World Cup qualifying campaign with victories against Bolivia and Venezuela, but it was too little, too late: the damage was already done.

Darkest Before the Dawn

Colombia returned to the World Cup in 2014 after a 16-year absence and reached the quarter-finals, where they would lose to hosts Brazil, and they would follow it up by making the Round of 16 in 2018 and losing on penalties to England. But after making their mark in Brazil and Russia, Colombia would miss out on the 2022 World Cup after a dreadful second half of 2021 which saw them draw to Bolivia and Paraguay and beat Chile, before failing to score in their next seven competitive matches. Whilst Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Ecuador booked their ticket for Qatar, Colombia would watch from the sidelines. It seemed that La Tricolor’s golden generation had run its course.

Desperate for a fresh start, the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol parted ways with Reinaldo Rueda and hired Néstor Lorenzo, who became the fifth Argentine to manage the Colombia national team. Lorenzo got off to a strong start with friendly wins against Guatemala, Mexico and Paraguay before drawing to the US and South Korea, and his Cafeteros would build on that momentum by beating Japan, Iraq and Germany. However, he would have to wait 14 months before overseeing his first competitive fixture with Colombia on September 7, 2023, with Rafael Santos Borré scoring immediately after the restart and paving the way for a 1-0 win vs. Venezuela.

Three straight draws against Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador would follow before Colombia made their first real statement victory under Lorenzo, erasing an early deficit and winning 2-1 via a late brace from Díaz to secure just their second win against Brazil in the past 33 years. Borré would kick off proceedings with an early penalty as Colombia pulled off a 1-0 win against Paraguay, a victory that puts them third in CONMEBOL’s table with one-third of the World Cup qualifiers being played (the top six head to the 2026 World Cup whilst seventh heads to the World Cup qualifying playoffs). 

Los Cafeteros have won 12 of their last 13 matches and have advanced to the Copa América Final for the third time in their history. They lost in the 1975 final to Peru before returning in 2001, a tournament that was fraught with controversy and drama from start to finish. On July 1, CONMEBOL announced the cancellation of the tournament due to security concerns over host nation Colombia, only to immediately reverse its decision. This unexpected U-turn triggered two last-minute substitutions: Canada, having disbanded its training camp, would be replaced by Costa Rica, whilst Argentina pulled out over alleged terrorist threats to their players. Honduras were invited to fill their spot and made the most out of their opportunity by reaching the knockout stage, where they would pull off one of the greatest underdog runs in the tournament’s history by beating Brazil 2-0 in the quarter-finals and edging Uruguay on penalties in the third-place match. As for Colombia, they beat Peru and Honduras before seeing off Mexico 1-0 in Bogotá courtesy of Iván Córdoba’s second-half goal, sealing their first and only Copa América title.

Lorenzo’s Tactical Approach

Sometimes, you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can reach the top. That’s proven true for Argentina, who had to suffer through three final defeats in three years before finally putting an end to their trophy drought in 2021, and that might just very well be the case for a Colombia side that finds itself just 90 minutes away from winning their first silverware since 2001. It was less than three years ago that Colombia couldn’t buy a goal, but today, they find themselves clicking on all cylinders and finding the back of the net for fun with 12 goals this tournament – no other team has more than 9. Bit by bit, Néstor Lorenzo has been able to transform Colombia into a well-oiled machine capable of holding down the fort defensively whilst also posing a formidable threat in the final third, but just how has he been able to do it? I spoke to Simon Edwards, an Englishman based in Medellín, Colombia who works as the South American Director for the ISC player agency.

“In terms of goals, I think there have been a couple of important factors. There has been a shift to a more dynamic approach with lots of positional interchanges. Out of possession, there is discipline and intensity in the press, but on the ball there is a lot more freedom. Quick, short passing combined with quick runners offering in behind makes Colombia unpredictable and really plays to the strengths of the side.”

Wilmar Barrios had been a key man anchoring the midfield but he has not been included at the Copa América while other Russia-based players such as Jhon Córdoba and Jorge Carrascal have. I think this is because Lorenzo wants all his midfielders to be able to progress the ball and play with forward-facing creativity. He has managed the transition very well and the group looks very united. The style of play suits the Colombians very well and you can see how much they are enjoying playing together.”

“During the long run without scoring, all of the big chances fell to the 9. Colombia had some top strikers at that time, but it really put pressure on the centre forward to win the game with a more rigid structure. Now, the 9 [Córdoba] plays as a facilitator, leading the press but also with a more collective role, bringing others in and holding up the ball. This has been key in improving attacking output: Colombia win the ball higher and have more players arriving quickly in the box before the opposition can get set.”

Lorenzo’s attacking style of play has bore plenty of fruit for Colombia, whose 8.5 expected goals and 15 big chances are second only to Argentina (11.1 and 22), whilst their 6.2 accurate crosses per game are bettered only by Uruguay (6.6). Colombia have found the right balance in attack and managed to buttress their backline with an organized approach on and off the ball, and it could very well result in an epic victory in Florida. However, if they are to shock the world and come away with the title, they’ll need James Rodríguez to be at his very best.

James Rodríguez: The Man With a Plan

It has been one decade since James Rodríguez burst onto the scene for Colombia, guiding them to the last eight in Brazil and winning the World Cup Golden Boot with 6 goals. Since then, James has won two league titles apiece at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, two UEFA Champions League titles with Real, as well as one Copa do Brasil title with his current club São Paulo. After a short-lived spell at Everton, the Colombian playmaker had seemingly fallen by the wayside, bouncing around from Qatar to Greece to Brazil, but he has nevertheless found a second wind in this Copa América and delivered a tournament for the ages. James (8.29) is FotMob’s second-highest-rated player of the tournament after Venezuela’s Jon Aramburu (8.52), whilst he leads all players for goal contributions (7), assists (6), and chances created (17). Only Federico Valverde (1.8) has more expected assists than Rodríguez (1.7), whilst only Lionel Messi (7) has created more big chances than him (5). Two days after turning 33, James will play the biggest match of his entire career as Colombia take on an Argentina side that is looking to surpass Uruguay with the most Copa América titles in history and secure a record 16th trophy. 

Lorenzo has engineered a succession plan at Colombia with various veteran players like Wilmar Barrios, David Ospina and Radamel Falcao making way for younger options, but he’s nevertheless built his new-look team around James, whose national team exploits speak for themselves. His 90 appearances put him seventh amongst all Colombia players, whilst only Falcao (36) has found the back of the net on more occasions for Los Cafeteros than James (28).

10 years after making the move to Real Madrid for £63 million, where James became the most expensive Colombian player of all time and forced Ángel Di María to seek a transfer to Manchester United, James has the chance to spoil the final match of Di María’s international career and pull off an improbable victory in Miami. However, in order to do so, he’ll need to do something that no team has been able to achieve since Brazil on July 2, 2019: beat Argentina in a knockout round match at a major tournament.

Greater Than the Sum of their Parts

In contrast to Argentina, who boast a star-studded array of players from Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and more, Colombia’s line-up will include just three footballers who are currently plying their trade in Europe’s top five leagues: Liverpool winger Luis Díaz, Villarreal left back Johan Mojica, and Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma. Lerma opened the scoring in the 39th minute, rising above the defense and meeting James’ world-class delivery with a bullet header. However, Lerma’s club teammate Daniel Muñoz would throw Uruguay a lifeline before the break after elbowing Manuel Ugarte in the chest and receiving his second booking. Colombia were forced to dig deep, but they managed to hold on with 10 men and give Uruguay their first competitive defeat since September.

Colombia’s starting line-up will likely feature four players currently suiting up in the Brasileirão – Bahia’s Santiago Arias will fill in for Muñoz at right back, Fluminense’s Jhon Arias and Palmeiras’ Richard Ríos should compose the midfield alongside Lerma and Rodríguez, whilst Krasnodar striker Jhon Córdoba will lead the line. Galatasaray’s Davinson Sánchez and Genk’s Carlos Cuesta will form the central defensive pairing, whilst Atlas’ Camilo Vargas will start between the sticks.

“Out of possession, James plays centrally to coordinate the press with Díaz from the left and Córdoba moving to the right,” stated Edwards. “James isn’t a great defender but he is very intelligent and is effective at forcing mistakes. Behind that you have three midfielders with a lot of energy and aggression – Rios and Arias are very aggressive, sharp, tough and they snap into tackles, whilst Lerma is also athletic and defensively strong. This enables Colombia to defend on the front foot and force longer passes. The backline has plenty of pace to deal with that and they are strong in the air. Against Uruguay, they showed they can also stay compact in a deep block but generally, they have benefited from playing on the front foot and engaging higher up the field.”

From Mexico to Türkiye, from Belgium to Russia, these players have come from far and wide to represent Colombia in this summer’s Copa América. Rather than bask in the despondency of their 2022 World Cup embarassment, they have used it as a catalyst to turn their performances around and give Cafeteros fans something to cheer about. They have rode the wave of confidence and made it all the way to the finish line, and they have the chance to write their name into the history books and put an end to Argentina’s golden era.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Copa America live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
One key direct battle to watch for in the EURO 2024 final: Fabian Ruiz vs Kobbie Mainoo

One key direct battle to watch for in the EURO 2024 final: Fabian Ruiz vs Kobbie Mainoo

A month in Germany comes down to one night in Berlin: England and Spain meeting in the Euro 2024 final, the pass masters and the comeback kings, the best team of the tournament and perhaps the most dramatic one.

By Karl Matchett

Gareth Southgate has had to hone and redevelop his team as the competition has gone on somewhat, while for Luis de la Fuente it has been a first-choice plan throughout, save for injuries and suspensions. They come together now with the teams finally looking set and some key battles all over the pitch, but one in particular which could make or break the final.

That comes in the centre of the park, where one of Southgate’s switches will face De la Fuente’s constants: Kobbie Mainoo and Fabián Ruiz.

They are not necessarily always going to be in direct conflict, of course; Spain’s dynamic pivot of Ruiz and Rodri don’t stick to channels, but insofar as one will be left-sided, it will be the PSG man. His left foot adds balance and immediate ability to play infield when La Roja recycle across during spells of sustained pressure and he prefers to attack that channel.

And while Declan Rice is predominantly the more defensive-minded, deeper-sitting of England’s pair, it’s Mainoo who tracks back into their right channel, pitting him right in Ruiz’s path in stretches where Spain are on the front foot – which could be much of the match.

There are two important factors to this from a Spain attacking perspective, and one from England’s.

On the latter, it’s simplistic but will form an important part of the Three Lions’ approach and route to victory in the final: if Spain enjoy more possession, Mainoo is the best option through the middle in changing the pace of England’s play. He is the one who can take the ball on the turn, alter the tempo with a change of direction and pass, he’s the ball-carrier centrally and can manipulate the ball in tight spaces where others are less-adept and where Spain may converge their press, opening spaces elsewhere for the likes of Phil Foden to exploit – if Mainoo can ride that initial challenge and make the pass.

Going the other way, Ruiz has been outstanding for Spain at the tournament. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest he has been better for his national team than at any point during PSG’s Champions League campaign last year, with his influence in ball retention and creativity clear to see.

Quite aside from two goals and two assists at the tournament, he’s averaging three shots a game, has created three big chances and nine overall, yet has also pitched in with four interceptions, 11 dribbles and a whopping 40 recoveries – higher than 96% of players at the tournament.

Where he has been instrumental is in his positional play high upfield and timing of when to make his regains: winning possession back 2.4 times a game on average in the final third of the pitch, Ruiz has been the best player at the tournament in that particular regard. He is the king of Spain’s press, regain and reset, and the inexperienced Mainoo will have a mammoth task in stopping him doing so in Berlin.

And so the two keys for Mainoo: escaping that press as the first out-ball for England, but also then having the athleticism and drive to get beyond Ruiz who, for all his technical attributes and work rate, is not the quickest.

For England the big benefits on having settled on the Manchester United midfielder as the partner to Declan Rice is twofold on this occasion: he is fearless, and he is relentless. He will not be cowed by Spain’s prowess, by the size of the occasion or the experience of those he faces. He’s also strong across his (admittedly fewer) minutes in the tournament so far on interceptions (1.8 per 90), duels won (62%) and pass success rate (94%) – all key traits he’ll have to rely on to get the better of this Spain midfield, even if it is only sporadically, even if it is only for part of the match.

By performance levels and consistency, Ruiz is a very worthy contender for team of the tournament and is one of the key Spain players who, if they play well, the national team will go a huge step towards winning Euro 2024. Mainoo is the one who must rise to the occasion, in the biggest game of his career so far.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Preview: Spain vs. England

Preview: Spain vs. England

Once there were 24, but now there are two. England play Spain in the European Championships final in Berlin, a match between two teams who have taken wildly different routes through the tournament to reach this final showdown.

By Ian King

Spain have already set a tournament record by becoming the first nation ever to win six games out of six while receiving widespread plaudits for their progressive expansive football. Their star player only turned 17 yesterday, and is already being hailed as a generational talent

England, on the other hand, have scrambled there, requiring a stoppage-time equaliser and a penalty shootout to get through their quarter-final and a last minute winner against the Netherlands in the semi-final, all set to a deafening din of criticism at their style of football.

In truth, Spain aren’t quite as good as they’ve been hyped up to be and England aren’t as bad. Spain needed a goal a minute from the end of their quarter-final to beat the host nation Germany, while the way in which they took their foot off the gas during the second half of their semi-final suggests that they could also be suffering some degree of the same fatigue that has been so evident in England’s performances in previous matches. 

There has been an inherent contradiction throughout this tournament, regarding Gareth Southgate’s team this summer, in that cautious play has come about while they have something of a patchwork defence. This, it seems, is the most likely way in which they lose, with wingers Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal tormenting their defence.

Yamal already has more assists to his name than anyone else. Williams has been helping out in both attacking and defensive positions. Rodri has been one of the players of the tournament in the heart of midfield, controlling the tempo of games and demonstrating a boundless passing range. 

Is there any hope for England? They start as underdogs, but this is a team of talent and it is reasonable to say that they have incrementally improved as they have progressed. The first half of their semi-final demonstrated a sharp upward step in their improvement trajectory, and if the psychological benefits of late goals and shootout wins are worth anything, then the mood of the players themselves should be buoyant.

This is a daunting challenge for a team that has lost five and won just two of their last eight meetings. England may take some heart from the fact that they won 3-2 in Sevilla, but they may take a little less from the fact that this was almost six years ago. 

If the match is tight, then England definitely have a shout. They have plenty of players who’ve already demonstrated that they can do this, but whether they’ll get another opportunity to do so this time around is a different matter altogether.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss in Preview
Lamine Yamal: The breakout star of EURO 2024

Lamine Yamal: The breakout star of EURO 2024

Just over a year ago playing in the semi-final of a European Championship against France ended in heartbreak for Lamine Yamal. 

By Ben Bocsák

Back in May of 2023 in the remote village of Felcsut, Yamal’s Spain had taken on the French at the U17 European Championship. 

Just as he did in Germany earlier this week, Yamal scored a sensational goal on the night, cutting in from the right onto his left foot and hitting a shot that careened off the post into the top corner of the net. 

But that night, France ended-up scoring three goals in the space of twenty minutes and knocked Spain out of the tournament. 

Yamal crashed to the ground with his head buried in his hands after the final whistle. This was still just a 15-year-old boy, already playing an age-group above and already dominating. 

Despite the tournament ending in disappointment Yamal finished as the competition’s joint top-scorer and took plenty of plaudits for his individual performances. 

Already, he was showcasing the kind of qualities that now a whole continent has gotten to know over the course of the last few weeks at Euro 2024. 

“That’s one of the things about him, he is always so relaxed. Whether he is playing in the U15s, U17s or the senior team, he is never fazed.” Former La Masia coach, Albert Puig, who worked with Yamal in two different age groups, recalls to FotMob with a smile. 

From a young age, Yamal has been identified as a potential talent at Barcelona. He mesmerised scouts at the club’s academy on a trial at just six years old, while he was already playing against boys who were a year or two older than him. 

Within the club’s ranks he progressed through the age-groups at rapid speed and made Barcelona bend their academy rules in order to accommodate his development. 

 “The progression was like nothing we have seen before,” Puig says. 

“Three years ago, he was still playing with guys of the same age. The main change started two years ago. The academy director at La Masia didn’t believe in putting players in higher age-groups but in Lamine’s case we were obligated to do it. 

“Everyone knew he was wasting his time playing with guys of the same age. He needed a challenge in front of him. So, he was one of the first players who our academy director decided to put into older teams. But that only happened around two or maybe three years ago. So, he started to play U16 when he was only U15, and he was still the best in the U16 team. And then the following season he started playing with the U19 team.” 

By 15-years-old Yamal was regularly training with Barcelona’s first team and last year became the youngest player to play for the club in a century at just 15 years and 290 days old. 

At the time of making his debut Yamal had yet to sign a professional contract for the club. Puig believes his debut was an incentive for him to stay at Barcelona with plenty of clubs circling around him from the rest of Europe. 

“Barca has economic problems so it’s normal that they turn to La Masia for quality players to try to bridge the gap in the quality of the squad. In that special moment I think Barca also wanted to show him real evidence that they believed in him in order for him to sign his first professional contract.

“He had a lot of options to go to other big clubs away from Barcelona for bigger amounts than he got at Barca but the club wanted to fight against this and offered him the opportunity to train with the first team and also make his debut. 

“Lamine is a smart guy. He knew the best options for him and for his development was to stay here at Barcelona.” 

The choice to give him his debut may have been motivated by ulterior motives, but Yamal took the opportunity handed to him and he’s shown over the course of last season what he is capable of – breaking records and putting in eye catching performances week in week. 

Not just for Barcelona, but for Spain as well. Where the beginning of his career had similar undertones. 

“He made his debut for Spain a little bit like why he made his debut at Barcelona,” Puig explains.

“He came because he also had the option to play for Morocco and to make him choose the Spanish side the Federation called him up to the first team. Maybe in that moment they didn’t believe a lot of him at that level. It was like a ‘gift’ to convert him to the Spanish side. But after a few matches it was obvious it’s not only a gift, Lamine showed he can play at that level and he could be a starter for Spain almost immediately.” 

Since making his debut Yamal has 10 goal contributions in 13 international caps for Spain averaging a goal or assist every 80.4 minutes. At Euro 2024, only his fellow compatriot, Dani Olmo, has more goal contributions than the teenager. As per FotMob statistics, he has also created more big chances (6) and chances (16) than anyone else at the tournament. 

12 months on from the disappointment against France in Hungary, Yamal got his revenge in the semi-final of Euro 2024 and has put himself as one of the emerging faces of football’s new age in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo and post-Lionel Messi era. 

On the eve of the final, he will turn 17-years-old, and he will hope to celebrate with a win against England. But no matter what happens, Puig knows this is just the beginning for his young protégé.

“This is a big chance for the national team. They have beaten Italy, Germany and France with conviction. Now you have in front of you maybe one of the favourites of the competition. So, we will see.

“But I know Lamine is by far the most special and different player I ever coached at La Masia. I hope he will remain in Barca and become the biggest player of the team for many years.” 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
A tournament to forget for Kylian Mbappe

A tournament to forget for Kylian Mbappe

And just like that, France went out of Euro 2024 not with a bang but with a fizz. It was ultimately a disappointing campaign for Les Bleus, getting knocked out by Spain in the semi-finals having only scored one goal from open play, but no one will be as disappointed as Kylian Mbappé.

By Alex Roberts

After almost single-handedly dragging his side to the World Cup trophy at Qatar 2022 before falling at the final hurdle and losing to Argentina, the hopes of a nation were firmly set upon the 25-year old’s capable shoulders. 

He started well. Mbappé was dangerous in their opening game against Austria despite playing as a more traditional number nine instead of his preferred left-wing, registering four shots and an xG of 0.81.

Then, it happened. Mbappé was forced off in the final minute of normal time with a gnarly broken nose following an aerial duel with big Austrian centre-half, Kevin Danso. Still, France managed to get the 1-0 win thanks to an own goal from Max Wöber.

The scramble to see if he could play the next game against the Netherlands started. A mask was fitted and chosen before UEFA inevitably ruled against him wearing one painted with the red, white, and blue of the Tricolour. 

Unfortunately, Mbappé wasn’t ruled fit in time, and France missed him. It ended 0-0, France had most of the possession with 63% and more shots, 15, than the Dutch but they missed Mbappé’s clinical edge, his ability to score from almost any angle.

With their qualification on the line, Mbappé was brought back for their last game of Group D against Poland. Again, the French didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory. The main man’s 56th minute penalty was cancelled out by Robert Lewandowski’s in the 79th and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

The group stage had come and gone; France made it out in second place with Austria finishing first having only scored one goal of their own. Defensively they were solid, conceding just once, but their attack left a lot to be desired.

Fans thought, ‘surely, they were just conserving energy? Saving themselves for when they get to the big time’. Belgium awaited in the round of 16, the golden generation may have come and gone, but they’re certainly one of the big boys. Perhaps this would be when France and Mbappé really turn up. 

Mbappé was back on his preferred left-wing with Marcus Thuram playing as the number nine. Everything was lined up for him, but he never really affected the game. A 0% shot accuracy and zero chances created tells you all you need to know. 

Once again, France were through by the skin of their teeth. 37-year-old Jan Vertonghen’s own goal was eventually enough to see them progress to the next round. Own Goal was now their top goal scorer, a spot usually reserved for Mbappé at major tournaments.

Ahead of their next game against Portugal, Mbappé addressed his poor form. When asked about why he no longer makes any runs in behind he said, “It depends on the team. When we had Paul Pogba, I could just blindly make a run and he would find me. Now I have to adapt to a different situation.”

He was right. No one in the French midfield had the ability to pick out a pass like Pogba could. Adrien Rabiot is mobile and hardworking but doesn’t really have an eye for a pass, N’Golo Kanté is arguably one of the best midfielders of his generation, but for totally different reasons, and Aurélien Tchouaméni is an intelligent defensive midfielder, but his best asset is his positioning and reading of the game, not passing.

After the excitement of Germany and Spain’s high octane football bonanza, the France vs Portugal game brought fans back down to earth. It may well have been the most boring game of the tournament, and that’s saying something.

Mbappé was once again inoffensive. Of his five shots on goal, three of them were from outside of the box, and the two that were inside were blocked by Portuguese defenders. He was eventually brought off in the 106th minute as the game went to penalties.

Diogo Costa was unable to replicate the penalty heroics that saw Portugal through in the previous round and France were somehow in the semi-finals. There, they faced their biggest challenge yet, Spain. 

In the first 20 minutes, Mbappé and France were looking like they should. Some lovely movement from Mbappé fooled Jesús Navas and he was able to deliver a pin-point cross for Randal Kolo Muani to head home.

Then, 16-year-old, Lamine Yamal scored what may be the goal of the tournament. A beautiful long-range curling effort left the stadium stunned and took all the wind out of France’s sails. Just four minutes later they were behind thanks to some lovely footwork and a fantastic finish from Dani Olmo.

France had their chances but none of them came from Mbappé. Only one successful dribble throughout the entire game and only 29 touches mean he was barely involved at all.

Their tournament ended there, disappointed by what could have been. Now all Mbappé has to look forward to is finalising his move to Champions League winners, Real Madrid. It’s a tough life.

The football may not have been great, but Mbappé will be remembered for what he did off the pitch, speaking out against the French far-right before their election. Given the gravitas of his voice, that’s the most important thing he could have done.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Euro 2024: FotMob Team of the Round for the Semi-Finals

Euro 2024: FotMob Team of the Round for the Semi-Finals

We have our Euro 2024 finalists. Spain and England came from behind in their respective semi-finals to claim 2-1 wins over France and the Netherlands to book their place in Sunday’s showdown clash in Berlin. Both games were fairly tight, edgy and, as a result, with the exception of two standout performers for La Roja, players struggled to really catch the eye. But who did enough to land themselves a spot in the FotMob XI across the semi-finals and why?

By Sam McGuire

Goalkeeper: Bart Verbruggen 

The 21-year-old was beaten in the very last minute by a stunning Ollie Watkins strike that arrowed right into the bottom corner. Everything about the finish was perfect and that is why the Brighton shot-stopper hasn’t been criticised. He was the highest-performing goalkeeper across the two mid-week matches having made two saves while completing almost 80% of his passes. His use of the ball was a huge positive for the Dutch with the goalkeeper helping his side play out from the back on multiple occasions.

Right-Back: Jules Koundé 

The Barcelona full-back made his way into the FotMob XI once again. Koundé has gone under the radar at this tournament, perhaps due to the fact France have struggled to really impose themselves at Euro 2024. They failed to live up to the pre-competition hype. But the 25-year-old has quietly gone about his business and he did exactly that in the loss to Spain. He completed 76% of his passes and 100% of his dribbles. He won all three of his tackles, recovered the ball on six occasions and was only dribbled past once. Koundé also won 10 of his 16 duels, doing a fairly decent job up against Nico Williams. 

Centre-Back: Kyle Walker 

Walker, deployed on the right-side of a back three, was solid enough for the Three Lions in their comeback victory over the Netherlands. For starters, he finished with a pass success rate of 93%. He also finished with a 100% dribble success rate, albeit he only attempted one. The Manchester City man won all of his tackles and 67% of his duels. The England No. 2 did fairly well up against an in-form Cody Gakpo. 

Centre-Back: Virgil Van Dijk 

Van Dijk put in a big performance for the Dutch in their defeat to England. The Liverpool skipper completed 92% of his attempted passes, he made six clearances and recovered the ball on three occasions. The 33-year-old won 100% of his ground duels and 50% of his aerial duels in what was a fairly dominant showing. Van Dijk also tested Jordan Pickford late on in the second half and will probably be disappointed not to have done better with the attempt on the England goal. 

Left-Back: Marc Cucurella 

Eyebrows were raised when Luis de la Fuente named Cucurella in his squad. It was an even bigger surprise to see the Chelsea full-back in the starting XI in place of the in-form Álex Grimaldo, but the decision to go with the former Brighton man has been an inspired one. He’s been a key cog in the Spain team and the 25-year-old did another solid job for La Roja against France. He was positive and accurate in possession, completing 85% of his passes and 80% of his long passes. He won 100% of his tackles, three of his five ground duels and made four ball recoveries. 

Midfield: Lamine Yamal 

What can you say about Yamal? 

A 16-year-old should not be doing what he is doing in men’s football. He scored one of the goals of the tournament to level things up for Spain after picking the ball up on the right, cutting inside and curling an effort past Mike Maignan from distance. He also carved out two chances and was heavily involved without the ball, winning five of nine duels. 

Not many manage it, but Yamal eclipsed Kylian Mbappé on Tuesday evening and it wasn’t even close. 

Midfield: Dani Olmo 

Olmo was only starting due to an injury to Pedri but, just as he has done throughout the competition, he made a huge difference for Spain. The RB Leipzig man scored what turned out to be the winner after a brilliant piece of skill to latch onto a William Saliba clearance before dancing past opponents and rifling an effort into the bottom corner, albeit there was a deflection off of Koundé. He also completed 85% of his passes and completed two of his three dribbles to cap off a fine display in the heart of the midfield for Espana. 

Midfield: Xavi Simons 

What a goal by the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder. Simons reminded everyone exactly why he’s one of the most in-demand players in Europe this summer with a sensational strike to open the scoring in the game between the Netherlands and England. The 21-year-old bounced Declan Rice out of the way before firing an effort beyond Pickford and into the top corner from 20-yards out. The Dutch No. 7 also created one chance in Dortmund last night and could’ve perhaps won the game late on when he mistimed a half-volley. Still, it was a good showing, with and without the ball, as the former on-loan RB Leipzig man won five of his seven ground duels and two of his three attempted tackles.

Attack: Harry Kane 

Kane wasn’t heavily involved for England but he certainly made it count when he was. The skipper won a controversial penalty and scored from the spot to level things up for the Three Lions. He landed both of his efforts on target and created an opportunity. The Bayern Munich hitman also completed 72% of his passes in what was a well-rounded, old-school centre-forward’s display. It won’t make his personal highlight reel but what he did was so important for the team. 

Attack: Randal Kolo Muani 

Kolo Muani scored his first goal of the tournament to get France off to a flyer in their semi-final clash with Spain. He expertly guided a header into the corner after a fine Mbappé cross. He was neat and tidy in possession, completing 75% of his passes, but France really did struggle to get him as involved as they perhaps would’ve liked. Still, he did enough to justify his inclusion and vindicate Didier Deschamps’ faith in him. 

Attack: Álvaro Morata 

The Spain skipper grafted without the ball and led by example in the comeback victory over France. He involved himself in 15 duels, recovered the ball on three occasions and won 100% of his tackles. He also assisted a goal, all while completing 89% of his attempted passes in what was a selfless display. He wasn’t as much of a threat as he might’ve wanted to be but he ensured Spain remained active in the final third. So, he took one for the team and it paid off. 

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
James Rodriguez is enjoying his renaissance at the Copa America

James Rodriguez is enjoying his renaissance at the Copa America

It has, in fact, been a very long time since James Rodríguez got fans all over the world on the edge of their seats with two assists and a goal in Colombia’s opening match at the 2014 World Cup. It has now been a full decade since he went on to push Colombia to the quarter-finals, falling short to hosts Brazil despite a goal from Rodríguez that ended with him as the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals and those two assists.

By Jon Arnold

“Hopefully he’ll continue to progress because he’s very young,” legendary Uruguay manager Óscar Washington Tabárez said at the time.

He didn’t. At least, not really. The amount of times Rodríguez has attempted to mount a bounce-back campaign really is remarkable.

Yet, a decade after making the Best XI at the World Cup, Rodríguez once again is in the position of competing for the Best Player award at a major tournament. Yes, Rodríguez has turned back the clock, but what’s striking is how effortless everything looks when compared to how difficult things have been for him in the interim.

After the World Cup, he moved to Real Madrid from Monaco on a huge transfer but was unable to earn a regular place in Zinedine Zidane’s XI. That saw him head to Bayern Munich, where his first season was satisfactory but his second season again saw him fall flat. Then it was in to the footballing wilderness with quick stops at Everton, with Al-Rayyan in Qatar, with Olympiacos and now with São Paulo.

It would be easy to think that things are clicking for Rodríguez in Brazil, but the truth is that it appears the Colombia national team is his happy place. Even with São Paulo, he is playing rarely and isn’t scoring or setting up goals when he does. Instead, manager Nestor Lorenzo has made him very comfortable during the Cafeteros’ current 25-match unbeaten run, taking him back to that warm, safe place.

The Copa América has been a continuation of World Cup qualification, in which Colombia sits third after six matches with three wins and three draws.

In the United States, Rodríguez has registered a goal from the penalty spot and five assists in four matches. Critics will say he’s running up the numbers against opposition less daunting than many of the teams his rivals are facing. Supporters will say that not even those good numbers don’t tell the full story.

More often than not, Rodríguez is setting up the move, enjoying being the focus of the Colombia attack and finding scoring chances that recall the brilliance of 2014 when he had the ball and the whole world at his feet.

It’s a rotating cast of players in front of Rodríguez who are benefitting from his placement on set pieces or from the run of play. Three Colombia players have a pair of goals in the tournament, and five others have one for a total of eight scorers so far – many of them on the scoresheet thanks to Rodríguez’s magic.

It’s enough to make everyone think back a decade and feel the nostalgia of a different time. The effect is so strong, a reporter in the mixed zone after the match insisted on asking Rodríguez only bizarre otherworldly questions. “Do you sleep with the lamp, genie?” “Are you aware you’re not a human-being when it comes to soccer but an alien?” When Rodríguez laughed it off when an “I don’t think so”, the Colombian insisted, “I do.”

“The hardest part is still to come, the semis and hopefully we can get to a final that we all want,” Rodríguez said during that exchange.

When Rodríguez does sleep – in a lamp or a more conventional bed – he has to be dreaming of what it would mean to deliver his country its first major trophy since long before his own World Cup high point. The 2001 Copa América, played in Colombia, is the only time Colombia has been able to win a major competition.

If it can get past Uruguay in Wednesday’s semi-final and win in the final, it will no doubt be thanks to Rodríguez and the way he is pulling the strings, setting up attackers, turning back the clock and reminding everyone the good ol’ days aren’t so far gone after all.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Copa America live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss in Colombia, Copa America, league_44, SendAsPush, team_8258, Trending, World News
Preview: Uruguay vs. Colombia

Preview: Uruguay vs. Colombia

The second Copa América semi-final pits arguably the two most rousing teams at this tournament against each other.

By James Nalton

Uruguay scored nine goals in the group stage, and Colombia scored five in their quarter-final against Panama alone. We’ll gloss over Uruguay’s quarter-final against Brazil and hope the… let’s say different kind of entertainment in that game, was an aberration.

Uruguay are coached by Marcelo Bielsa and have Darwin Núñez leading the line. This can lead to some entertaining unpredictability and bursts of all-out attacking play, and they’re not afraid to go long to the bustling striker.

The directness of Manchester United winger Facundo Pellistri has also stood out in this regard.

At the same time, Bielsa’s side have one of the best defensive records in the tournament so far. The one goal they did concede was a 95th-minute consolation strike scored by Panama’s Michael Amir Murillo. 

Watch this Uruguay team and wonder why midfielder Nicolás de la Cruz has never played in Europe, then see his collection of trophies won with River Plate and consider he might not have needed to.

The impressive Venezuelans were the highest-rated team at this tournament, but Uruguay aren’t far behind them.

Colombia aren’t bad, either.

If you hadn’t watched any of the Copa América so far and were reading a preview of a Colombia knockout game exclaiming James Rodríguez the star of the show, you might think the article is from ten years ago. But this is happening here and now, and it is to be savoured.

This isn’t just some nostalgia trip, or a manager playing a player in their thirties because they feel they have to. 

Colombia coach Néstor Lorenzo is utilising James in such a way that it has led to the most productive tournament from the attacking playmaker since he starred in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

James leads the way for assists in this tournament with five, goals plus assists combined (6), chances created (15), and has the highest FotMob rating of any player at this Copa so far.

Only Lionel Messi has a higher expected assists score, both in total and per 90 minutes, and if James’s stats were attached to Messi, the Argentine would be receiving tremendous plaudits.

There’s a focus from James to go with his world-class technique which is especially apparent at set pieces. This, combined with the quicker, direct, tricky players such as winger Luis Díaz and midfielder Richard Ríos, has formed an attacking unit for Colombia that can be unstoppable.

Both Díaz and Ríos are among the top dribblers at this tournament, while in defence, right back Daniel Muñoz of Crystal Palace has also stood out.

Both these teams have been well supported at this tournament, so on and off the pitch this promises to be a passionate semifinal match in Charlotte.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Copa America live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss in Preview
FotMob Daily Briefing: Four things to look out for in the second semi-final at EURO 2024

FotMob Daily Briefing: Four things to look out for in the second semi-final at EURO 2024

The Netherlands and England will face each other on Wednesday for the privilege of setting up a meeting with Spain in the Euro 2024 final.

By Graham Ruthven

Both teams have made the most of landing on the perceived weaker side of the bracket to make a run to the semi-finals, but now must lift their performance levels to take the next step and move within one match of Euro glory.

Will Cody Gakpo prevent Bukayo Saka from playing his own game?

Without Bukayo Saka, England likely would have exited Euro 2024 in the quarter-finals. Indeed, the Arsenal winger produced a moment of magic to draw England level against Switzerland and posed a threat throughout down the right side through his dribbling and willingness to drive at defenders one-on-one.

In Cody Gakpo, though, the Netherlands boast an attacker who will be just as dangerous on the same wing. Gareth Southgate’s decision to stick with a back three would put pressure on Saka to help out Kyle Walker and stop him from being isolated by Gakpo which in turn could limit the England winger’s effectiveness getting forward.

Midfield battle will focus on Kobbie Mainoo and Tijjani Reijnders

Kobbie Mainoo has given England some much-needed dynamism through the centre of the pitch at Euro 2024 and the same could be said of Tijjani Reijnders for the Netherlands. Both players will be tasked with carrying the ball through the lines on Wednesday, but which midfielder will fare better?

While Mainoo will have Declan Rice alongside him to provide security, Reijnders will have Jerdy Schouten. With neither team expected to truly open up, it will be on these two ball-carrying midfielders to create overloads and create pockets of space ahead of them. This will be a barometer of the Netherlands and England’s performance level during the match.

Would a fit again Luke Shaw change England’s balance as a team?

The left back position has been a constant point of discussion throughout England’s Euro 2024 campaign. That is because until recently The Three Lions didn’t have a fit and available left back with the right-footed Kieran Trippier filling in. Luke Shaw, however, could start against the Netherlands having come off the bench in the quarter-final.

Having Shaw – a natural left-footer – in the lineup from the start could give England better overall balance. This was apparent in the 32 minutes Shaw played against Switzerland when his overlapping runs provided greater options to Phil Foden and Eberechi Eze. His energy could help England exploit any space behind Denzel Dumfries.

How will England handle the physical threat of Wout Weghorst?

Wout Weghorst is frequently a social media punchline, but the 6ft 6” striker has made a serious impact for the Netherlands at Euro 2024. He changed the game off the bench against Türkiye in the quarter-final and gave the Dutch a much-needed focal point in their attacking line. Weghorst could start against England.

Marc Guehi and John Stones haven’t faced a physical threat at Euro 2024 like Weghorst whose movement inside the penalty area is better than most appreciate. Ronald Koeman might opt to start with Memphis Depay as his centre forward, but Weghorst will surely feature at some point. He gives the Netherlands a different dimension.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every game from Euro 2024 live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss