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Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs Croatia

Mr Antun Bačić, head coach of Croatian giants FC Split, brings another futsal tactical analysis to our readers! After Champions League Final Four tactical recap, Mr Bačić will take a closer look in how Czech Republic and Croatia played-out their decisive match-up for the World Cup and what tactical mentality and finesses did the two selectors use. Enjoy the text!

One more time futsal showed all of its attraction and beauty – this was another duel in which millimeters and seconds were literally decisive. One moment you're in, the other you're out – penalty roulette in the end and better, luckier, more dexterous Czech Republic is going to the World Cup. Czechs take everything, Croats are left with nothing!

40 minutes in Zadar and 50 minutes in Brno (+ penalties) offered us a true drama in clash of two completely different futsal philosophies. On one side, an attacking Croatia with much more individual quality, much more talent and better roster (just take a look in which clubs Croatian players are playing), while on the other side we had a warrior’s, defense-orientated Czech Republic, without excessive quality, but very well-coordinated team with fighting spirit which knew in every moment exactly what, how and why.

>>> Czechia qualifies to the futsal World Cup after a penalty drama!

Croatia's individual quality proved to be not enough

For most of the match-up, Croatia relied on individual quality of its best players (Marinović, Jelovčić, Novak…) and their improvisational skills. In all of 90 minutes of the duel, Croatia played in 3-1 system with classic pivot (usually Perić, littles less Đuraš, while Marinović and Luka Suton played a few minutes on this position as well). But in the last third of the court, in the so called ‘danger-zone’, Croatia switched to 2-2 system in order to break through Czech’s block by creating surpluses in 1on1 game or by putting the ball on pivot who would lay it down for a shot from outside or would finish the play himself (Đuraš, goal in Zadar for 2-2).

It is my impression that Czechs have been very well prepared for that kind of game and that their defensive lines were very narrowly set, so even when Croatian player would pass his defender, another Czech defender would show up in the block or with a sliding tackle helping his teammate. Also, Czechs were very aggressive while guarding the pivot and did not allow them to position themselves how they wanted.

>>> Czechia - Croatia: Highlights and post-match interviews

On the other side, Czech Republic strived for a running game in both directions, trying to compensate that lack of individual quality. They knew they couldn’t outplay Croatia, so they lowered their defense all the way to the center of the court, especially in the first match in Zadar. They were very well prepared and they knew what were their advantages in this duel, so they relied on counter-attacks and set-pieces (two goals from set-pieces and one from counter-attack). Czechs often played in 4-0 system, without a classic pivot and tried to retain possession and run into empty space behind opponent’s back. Many times in the match, we saw a long ball across the court sent by the goalkeeper. With that, Czechs showed that they didn’t want to take many risks in the attack and that they believe they can win on counter-attacks and set-pieces (this was especially clear in Zadar).

Although similar in result, these two matches were very different in my opinion. Croatia was far better competitor in Zadar – they dominated, creating much more opportunities (Novak missed the penalty, while Czech goalkeeper Němec was probably the best player in the match). To win in the first match, Croatia was missing a little bit more luck, calmness in the final phase of the play, but also much more defensive responsibility, energy and fighting spirit (everything that Czechs were great in), because most of the runs without the ball and most of the ‘no-one’s balls’ went to Czech Republic. After the first 40 minutes in Zadar, ball possession, impression and opportunities were on Mato Stanković’s team side, but it was the Neumann’s Czechs who had a better result for the return leg.

Brave and prepared Czechs secure the Futsal World Cup

Czech Republic entered the second leg much braver and with four players in line realizing more possession than in the first match. In Brno, we saw a balanced match, but general impression was again on Croatian side, although not as much as in Zadar. Croatia was not good enough, not aggressive enough and not ‘hungry’ enough in pressing (playing mostly individual pressing). As the match got closer to full-time, Czech’s attacks looked better and their self-esteem also rose with it. It seems to me that both teams got more careful after 30th minute, which is understandable in regard to the importance of the match-up.

>>> All teams qualified for the 2021 World Cup so far...

However, I think that Croatia was the one that had to take more risks because they had more quality in their roster and because they were ‘OK’ with any draw with more goals (3-3, 4-4…). In the end, fatigue was present among Croatia’s star players because couple of them played 40 minutes of the match in Brno (similar like in Zadar), and that was very evident in slower flow of the ball in transition and especially in extra-time.

At the very end of the match penalties and drama. Croatia had to score the penalty to reach the World Cup, but Czech goalkeeper Vahala parries it. Then Czech Republic had the penalty to win it, but now Croatian goalkeeper saves it. Later on, Czechs did not miss their second chance – Czechs celebrate, Croatians grieve. Croatia definitely did not have the luck and when these two matches add-up, I think that team with better quality, who were better in these two matches, team that deserves to be on the World Cup based on its impression and quality – got knocked-out. That special ‘something’ was again missing for Croatian. That ‘something’ that Czechs had – team spirit, energy and fight. And yes, a bit of luck on their side, but as it is said – luck needs to be earned!

>>> Futsal Champions League Finals: Tactical Analysis... Part One!

>>> Futsal Champions League Finals: Tactical Analysis... Part Two!

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Antun Bačić

Columnist

Antun Bačić

Columnist

This article was written by Antun Bačić, emerging young futsal coach, head coach of FC Split from Croatia and UEFA Futsal B License coach.

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