In the most recent world cups, a lot of emphasis and a lot of column inches have been given to individual players. Despite having teams like Germany, Spain and Holland who have all employed interesting and innovative tactical setups, it seems the newspapers are often much more interested in stars and big names than coaches choices and the ideas unpenning the football that wins the biggest of the big tournaments.
We have had world cups defined by breakout performances like James Rodriguez, we have had moments boiled down simply to one players being better than other, narratives have been constructed around Messi and Ronaldo rather than their teams and so much was made of the fact Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in the last world cup that it is hard to remember much about the way Germany set up or how they kept Lionel Messi quiet.
Luckily, in Russia, we are set to get more sophisticated analysis with much more thought given to positions and how games will go tactically rather than who is the best player on each team. We have websites like SBAT predictions which are writing well informed, tactically useful and team based articles which help give betting tips about one of the most open world cups around. Teams like Belgium are sitting at 15/1 with European Champions Portugal at 28/1, it is hard to work out what will happen which is why nuanced prediction sites are so useful.
There are some very innovative and exciting coaches new to the international scene whose teams will be trying new and different ways to lift the cup. Julen Lopetegui of Spain has brought back the slick style that won Spain the cup in 2010 but given more license to his midfield to push forward.
England under Gareth Southgate seem far more progressive than ever and ready to try out playing three at the back at a major tournament. England has always been behind the tactical curve so it is very exciting to see them trying something new. The pragmatism that has dominated English football looks like it could be a thing of the past.
Brazil looked stodgy and rudderless under former World Cup winning coach Dunga but suddenly, under Tite, look far more organised, more creative and able to get the best out of their star players. Coaches can release players with their ideas and Tite has done this. Belgium under Roberto Martinez, a manager often derided but one who is willing to attack and try things, will be fun to watch. Jorge Sampoli’s Argentina team will try and use his ultra heavy pressing to put other teams under strain.
These newbies to the World Cup will be joined by last times winner Jogi Low as well as Fernando Santos who won the European title with Portugal. All of these things combined, all of these excellent managers on the biggest stage are likely to make this one of the most tactically exciting and gripping world cups in recent memory.