Top 3 dark horses in World Cup 2014

With the World Cup soon to kick off in just over two months, rather than looking at the favourites, let’s take a look at three of the dark horses in the competition who could end up surprising everyone and going far in the tournament, maybe even winning the whole thing in Brazil if things go their way.



Without doubt, the most popular dark horses, Belgium are seen as one of the genuine teams who could shock some of the favourites this summer. Taking part in the World Cup in what is seen as their golden era with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Kevin Mirallas, Jan Vertonghen and more, expectations are high for manager, Marc Wilmots’ team. With that said though, this is their first tournament since 2002 and their squad is pretty inexperienced and young, despite the depth they have.

Captain Vincent Kompany believes they will need more than just talent to do well – “There are teams that have more talent than Belgium. Based solely on our talent, I do not think that we will win the World Cup. That can only be done with some luck, if everyone plays very strongly and if we have a strong team spirit.”



Colombia, like Belgium, are playing in their first World Cup in a while, with their last appearance being in 1998, and are also going through a golden era boasting the likes of Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado, Luis Muriel, Fredy Guarin, Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez and more.

Star striker, Falcao – regarded as the best #9 in the world – was seen as a doubt after an injury sustained playing for Monaco, but with reports stating that he could be back in time for Brazil, the Colombians really do have a good chance of upsetting the odds. Unbeaten in their last 5 games – both competitive and non-competitive – including opposition such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Chile and Paraguay, Los Cafeteros could be a match for any side.



The first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Japan have made a lot of progress ever since qualifying for their first World Cup in 1998. A team filled with quick and technical players with bundles of energy, Japan will be looking to the likes of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Yuto Nagatomo and company if they stand any chance of reaching the quarterfinals – which would be their best performance in World Cup history.

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger who used to manage in Japan, believes they can go a step further – “I don’t think they are a candidate to win the World Cup today, but when you look at their youth teams, Japan are dominant forces in the international tournaments. That means that their next step is to reach the semi-finals or final of the World Cup.”

Do you think any of these teams can surprise in Brazil?

Role of the Attackers: 1st/ 2nd/ 3rd Attackers

Role of the First, Second and Third Attackers

A team in possession can always be referred to in terms of who has the ball and who is in near proximity to the ball. The player in possession is the first attacker. The players one pass away are the second attackers and the players more than one pass away are the third attackers.

Therefore, for the attacking team, there is always one first attacker, at least one second attacker, and the rest of the players are considered the third attackers.

A team that understands the attack and thinks in terms of these roles can think clearly about where to be on the field. This un-complicates a complex attacking scheme making it easier for the players to be effective on the field.

Role of the First Attacker: Maintain possession, attack space

The first attacker must maintain possession of the ball. The first thought on the first attackers mind is getting to open space by moving forward. This can be done by taking on a defender or by dribbling to space where the defenders are not. The role of the first attacker then is simple; maintain possession and attack space going forward. The training on the technical side of dribbling on the attack, dribbling for possession, and short and long passing are the skills required of the first attacker. At any time any player can be the first attacker so the entire team should possess the skills of attacking and possessing with the dribble.

If a player does go at a player, their next thought should be “how can I engage the defender”? Usually by going at the defender (on a diagonal) forces the defender to commit to the ball. By going on diagonals the attacker has the option of going right or left. Now the attacker has engaged the defender and he is forced to make a decision. The attacker then has the option of beating him with the dribble, turning away from the defender or playing a pass into the seam previously created and now further exploited by the stepping of the defender to the ball. When attacking a defender with the dribble, attack the heel of the front foot, get past him quick by changing speed and then keep him behind you.

Role of the Attackers

Role of the Second Attacker: Support

The role of the second attacker can be summed up in one word: support, meaning support of the ball by the team in possession. This is done in many ways and not simply from the front. The more options the first attacker has the more dangerous he is therefore there should be support from different angles at different positions.

The role of the second attacker is to move into dangerous space previously made by creating good shape. As the first attacker is engaging the defender the second attackers need to be moving towards the ball in the seams. Examples of this are forwards showing to the ball from fullback, center midfielders showing to outside midfielders closing pace on a defender and creating a wall pass, and the left and right fullback positioning themselves outside and wide of the center fullback in possession of the ball to support from behind so the center fullback can turn away from pressure and play a back ball.

The key to being the second attacker is filling empty space in a manner which gives the first attacker options that are dangerous and threaten the defense. Read more »

Attacking: An Overview

Attacking is the term used to describe the movement of the team in possession of the ball. It is not simply the act of shooting on goal or the play of the team in front of the net; it is more complex than that; it is the movement of the players and the ball for the team who has possession. Therefore, any time a team is in possession they are in the attacking phase.

Before a team can properly attack in the attacking phase there must first be an understanding of shape, possession and combination play. The collection of these concepts will form a teams patterns and principles of play. Shape describes the position of the players in relation to the ball and their movement within that shape.. A team that understands shape has the ability to possess the ball and as the concept of shape is understood possession will then follow. Usually, the team that has the possession advantage will find itself in a much better situation to win the game. Therefore training a team in basic attacking shape directly leads into training a team to possess which ultimately puts a team in a position to be win the game.

Shape can best be described as the position that the players take on the field and movement they make in relation to the ball. Good attacking shape as three distinct qualities: Length, width and depth. The goal is to make the playing area as long (length) and as wide (width) as possible while giving as many options of support (depth) to the player on the ball. A team that instinctively attacks with great shape will open the field by spreading the defense apart creating seams to play into. These seams can be used for the attacking team to exploit the defense. As this shape is used properly the team can then possess and attack efficiently.

Possession is the ability of a team to keep control of the ball thru accurate passing and dribbling; the quicker the better. Good team shape is the key to possession as a team that spreads the field creates the space needed to possess the ball. An effective way to train players to play quickly and effectively is by training them to use principles of play. The principles of play will be easy for the players to remember during the game. Soccer is a game that flows and moves quickly so there are no set plays. Instead there are patterns of play and organized movement which comes from the shape of the team. A team that understands principles of play will play organized, quickly and efficiently. Furthermore they will be able to quickly adapt and react during the match as they will have a set thought process of how to attack and how their teammates will be attacking.

Once the team understands possession and shape it is time to progress to the roles of the first, second and third attackers in relation to the ball.. A team that understands how to use shape and possession will create attacking opportunities. As opportunities present themselves it is important for players to understand the different roles in attacking. This refers to the players roles in relation to the ball. Naturally, the first, second and third attackers have different roles and responsibilities. The first attacker refers to the player who is on the ball and his main purpose is to maintain possession while attacking space.The second attackers are the players in immediate support, meaning one pass away from the ball. Finally the third attackers consist of the rest of the team; players who are more than one pass from the ball. Their role is to unbalance the defense making room for their teammates while at the same time presenting dangerous options to the first and second attackers. Their role is to make runs, working off the ball, to create dangerous opportunities either for themselves or for their teammates by placing themselves in the most dangerous space.

More advanced tactical training focuses on the difference attacking patterns in the various thirds of the field. The thirds are the attacking third, the middle third and the defending third. Within in these thirds exists different roles and responsibilities for different players. Training in thirds moves into very position specific patterns and movements of the players attacking in these thirds. Attacking in the attacking third is far different from attacking in the defensive third. When attacking in the defensive third success is defined by getting out of the back and finding the open space, while success in the attacking third is defined by putting the ball in the back of the net. So, before training a team in the six different types of play in thirds, it is essential to understand what the six are and how success is defined in each third. After this is understood a focused detailed practice plan is essential for a successful session. A successful session leads to understanding. When this happens the team will understand how to move in different thirds of the field. When this is combined with basic tactics and technical skill they will have the ability to be a truly dangerous team.

Attacking Tactics: For Beginners

Tactics is the movement of the players and the ball; it is the principles of play behind the game. Soccer is a game of continuous motion and unlike many other sports there are no timeouts or breaks to call plays every five seconds. Once on the field, the players must understand how to move and what to do. Teaching this movement is called the training of tactics.

Therefore the coach must train his players how and when to move when on and off the ball. He must teach his players to understand patterns of play and patterns of movement. Unlike football where a coach calls a play every ten seconds, or basketball where a signal indicates which play the team is going to run, soccer is a game of continuous flow, of patterns and organized movement. This movement is tactics.

The training of tactics has three basic phases that must be understood; attacking, defending and transition.

Attacking Tactics

  • Attacking:  The time of play when your team is in clear possession of the ball.
  • Defending:  The time when your team is not in possession of the ball
  • Transition: The time when neither team possesses and it is unclear of who is attacking or defending

Teams who are trained to be successful in these three tactical areas are the teams that will find success. So, train your teams to be successful in these areas and you will find success.

As a final note on tactics it must be understood that without technique there can be no tactics so skillfully training technique is an important requirement to successful tactics. First train players to be skilled technically then move on to the tactical sessions. This is not to say that tactics must wait until technique is perfect, however technique must be good enough such that tactical session does not break down.

Match Report: Fulham vs Liverpool

Fulham 2 – 3 Liverpool

It seems that at every single twist and turn, this Premier League season flatly refuses to stick to the script. Liverpool visited Craven Cottage on a storm-wracked February evening just days after ripping a gaping hole in the side of then-league leaders Arsenal’s title challenge with a 5-1 drubbing at Anfield. Meanwhile, Fulham sat rock bottom of the table, in spite of a thrilling 2-2 draw with Manchester United over the weekend. Surely Liverpool would have it all their own way?

As a matter of fact, they were lucky to escape with three points in the end. The encounter started miserably for the Reds, as in a moment of pure comedy the veteran Ivorian defender Kolo Toure scuffed the ball frantically into the back of his own net.

For much of the first half, Fulham’s 1-0 lead looked relatively watertight, as indeed it was until Liverpool and England skipper Steven Gerrard demonstrated his true class, sending a beautifully weighted pass into the path of Daniel Sturridge with the outside of his boot from the half-way line, putting the striker into a one-on-one position from which he seldom misses. Remarkably, this was Sturridge’s eighth consecutive appearance on the score-sheet in a Liverpool shirt. If the two players can link up in this way for England at the World Cup, we may be in with a better chance than we think…

Fulham vs Liverpool

Going into the second half at 1-1 it was all Liverpool, in spite of a sustained effort from Fulham, led by the outstanding Lewis Holtby (pictured above) in midfield. Suarez hit the woodwork with one particularly sweet effort, whilst his side persistently menaced the Fulham goal. But then the Reds were caught napping… After a weak Skrtel clearance led to a Fulham throw-in in the danger zone, the Reds’ defence wascaught napping, with Skrtel weakly diverting the ball into the path of Fulham striker Richardson in the 6-yard box. 2-1 to the home side. Had you packed Liverpool at this point with Coral football you would have had a nice surprise come the final whistle!

The joy for Fulham fans was to be short-lived however, with Liverpool’s playmaker Coutinho scoring a deflected goal soon after Richardson’s opportunistic strike. Fulham dug in admirably right into injury time, but a needlessly wild challenge on Daniel Sturridge in the penalty area set up a spot kick for Liverpool skipper Stevie Gerrard, who finished emphatically. The result: a ruthless 3-2 win for Liverpool which seals their credentials as dark horses for the title. Meanwhile, it’s more misery at Craven Cottage, although there was a degree of hope to take from this admirable performance.