In this analysis piece by Rob Styles we look at how Wales turned the game around against a fast starting USA team who led the game 1-0 at half time. USA came out flying and didn’t allow Wales to get a foot hold in the game until the second half when the tables were turned with Wales getting more possession and territory in the USA half.
Wales Deep Block
Wales set up in a 3-5-2 on the team sheet, but in reality, it turned to a 5-3-2 very quickly. Williams and Roberts were pinned back early, and struggled to find the balance between supporting the midfield, and covering the full back positions.
Wales sat back, and initially looked to hit the USA on a counter attack, the game plan evidenced by the selection of Dan James ahead of Kieffer Moore, emphasising pace over power in their attacking plan. With USA pinning the wingbacks in, the midfield and forward line sat deep.
When Wales won possession, they struggled to get up the pitch. The distance for the wingbacks to make up to support the attack was too great, and without a target man to hold up play and give time to get players up in support, possession was coughed up too easily. Sloppy passing, due to nerves or a lack of options, ensured that the USA had the majority of both possession and territory in the 1st half.
USA Space in Midfield
The USA looked comfortable in possession in the first half, and enjoyed unpressured possession until the halfway line. By playing their wide players, Weah & Musah, high and wide, they pinned the Welsh wingbacks in, leaving their attacking midfield players, particularly Christian Pulisic, to find spaces on either side of the Wales midfielders, particularly Ethan Ampadu.
With Pulisic in possession, he combined regularly with his wide players, looking to find possession in the half spaces, or to play wide to get crosses into the box. USA were effective in attack, with both Pulisic and the wide players impressing. It was noticeable in the second half that their influence diminished as Wales secured possession higher up the pitch, starving Pulisic and co. of their stable possession in the Welsh half.
2 Sides of USA
The US players had a clear game plan coming into the game, and the set up of the Wales players certainly played into that. The USA looked composed on the ball, and were comfortable getting their attacking players in possession. An argument would be that they should have been more clinical in the final third, and Sargeant looked short on quality at times.
In the 2nd half, under increased and significant pressure from Wales, the composure of the USA seemed to crumble. They struggled to find passes into midfield as Wales stepped up to press, and Pulisic struggled to gain meaningful possession.
Target Man For Wales
The sight of Kieffer Moore readying himself for the 2nd half showed the change in the Wales game plan. An old school number 9, Moore has caused problems for defenses both domestically and internationally over the past few seasons, scoring important goals for clubs and country. While we didn’t score in this game, his effect on the game was arguably more important.
His hold up play solved Wales’ territory issue from the first half, allowing players to get around him, and move up the pitch. Ramsey came into the game more, playing in the opposition half where he prefers to operate. The wingbacks grew into the game, and started to get crosses in from wide areas.
The physicality of Moore caused issues for the US defenders, and created space for Bale to start to grow in influence. The quality of Bale, Ramsey and the Welsh midfield started to show, and the goal was well deserved.
Pulisic vs Bale
The most influential players on the pitch had an even share of the game. Pulisic comfortably took control in the first half, finding space and wreaking havoc for the Welsh defence. His assist for the opener summed him up. Picks up the ball in space, and playing a beautifully weighted pass through to Weah. His influence diminished as the game went on, while Bale’s grew.Despite his efforts in the opening half, Bale struggled to influence the game. But as Wales gained more possession and established themselves in the attacking half, Bale grew into the game. With Moore alongside him, he grew into the game, and as he so often does, produced the goal for Wales.
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