Greece has long gone home and, as expected, has not left a lasting impression on the tournament. Except for one scene.
Their equalizer against Germany was a perfectly executed counter-attack that will stand the text-book test of time. The attack took some three seconds to do away with the advantage Germany had built up in arduous work over the previous hour or so.
Where did this pace come from?
A surefire way to lose pace in football is when your player receives a pass facing his own goal, forcing him to turn around first before play can pick up pace again with his next pass. When there is an opponent closely marking him it’s actually a decent chance to lose the ball altogether, as very few players are able to execute this move with a marker in their back. To keep up the pace of an attack you must eliminate moves that slow down your players or the ball.
No less than five players were involved in Greece’s high speed counter-attack but not a single one of them had to turn towards the goal while on the ball. That’s why it all happened so fast. It really is text-book material. No German defender came anywhere close to interception, just like on the training pitch where you begin by studying the moves with only the ball and no defenders.
After winning possession, a central striker drops deep to receive a vertical pass from the player who has won the ball. All he does is offer himself for the wall pass to a second midfielder. Meanwhile, two wingers overrun the opposing full-backs. They’re able to do so because the full-backs still need to turn 180 degrees while the wingers don’t, the key edge here. One of them receives the pass from midfield, takes it further down the pitch at full speed and crosses it into the box where the other finishes it off. Done.
Figure one 1: A text-book counter-attack. Fasten your seat belts and click on the button in the centre of the pitch to take off.
Greece’s goal proved no turning point for the match, obviously, as the side continued to sit deep, allowing a lot of long-range shots and crosses. More German goals were inevitable.
In the years to come Greece have the opportunity to build up a new team around a new generation of players who are hopefully able to put more emphasis on possession, at least if and when a tournament or match requires it. For now, it has impressed with a single attack, beautiful in its simplicity. I’m going to remember this one.