HomeSoccerHow international football has changed tactically in recent European Championships

How international football has changed tactically in recent European Championships

Over the last few years, modern football has been criticised for how its tactics have evolved. With less emphasis on creativity, sides like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have picked up the majority of silverware by playing a game that is focused all on control. Naturally, teams have had to follow this blueprint in order to compete.

As we look ahead to this summer, particularly Euro 2024, it will be interesting to see how many teams adopt the possession-based style that has defined the last few years of football across the continent.

Indeed, the favourites for the competition with Euro 2024 betting odds all have their tactical approach, with France, England, and Germany all capable of lifting the trophy. But how has their identity changed when looking at previous winners of the Euros?

In this article, we look at the last few champions of Europe and assess the tactics that proved successful throughout recent editions of the tournament. Read on to find out more.

Euro 2020 – Italy

We start with the current holders of the Euros, and Italy’s defensive displays played a big part in their victory over England on penalties at Wembley three years ago.

Roberto Mancini established an experienced side with hundreds of international caps. It may have lacked pace and physicality but created chances by utilising set-pieces, and then kept clean sheets with the leadership from the centre-back partnership of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

The two former Juventus defenders were rocks at the back, and the Azzurri conceded just three goals all tournament.

Even when trailing to England in the fourth minute, it never looked as if they would panic, and the control of Mancini’s 4-3-3, which focused on covering wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, went a long way to winning the big games for the Italians.

Euro 2016 – Portugal

When Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning penalty to earn Real Madrid an 11th Champions League in the spring of 2016, those using a bet on Euros offer would see Portugal’s odds slash, but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner couldn’t have done it alone.

Ronaldo was the heartbeat of that Portugal side that won in2016, but stylistically their game plan focused far more on long, direct balls to compensate for their midfield.

The drop-off in quality from the bench was apparent for manager Fernando Santos, but Ronaldo’s injury against France in the final forced his hand to make changes, and it was a substitute in the form of Eder that won the game for the Portuguese.

Santos’ approach was to play forward quickly, changing his wingers to strikers in a diamond at the business end of the competition to have a numerical advantage – which worked when Eder got his goal in the 109th minute.

Euro 2012 and 2008 – Spain

The Spanish team from 2008-2012 were perhaps one of the greatest international sides of all time – and it was a combination of Guardiola’s intricate tiki-taka fused with José Mourinho’s winning mentality that was integrated by Spain boss Vicente del Bosque, as he won back-to-back Euros as well as the World Cup in South Africa.

Spain became so successful because of their ability to transition and play in multiple positions. An elegant midfield of Sergio Busquets, Xavi, and Xabi Alonso meant that Andrés Iniesta changed role, playing as a left winger, while David Villa and Fernando Torres had to come to receive the ball more often than they would have for Valencia and Liverpool respectively.

There was a slight change to personnel at Euro 2012, with Jordi Alba replacing Joan Capdevila at left-back, and Cesc Fàbregas leading the line for a side that scored 11 goals and conceded just one on route to thrashing Italy in the Kyiv final.

Looking ahead to this summer, it will be interesting to see if any national side incorporates tactics that are used in the following domestic European seasons.

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