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Set Piece Problems: The Saga Continues

March 25, 2019




What happened in the Hungary game was no fluke.

For nearly 9 months, the Vatreni have been conceding goals – and I mean a lot of goals – through set pieces.

At the World Cup, Croatia conceded nine goals during their run to a silver medal. Of those nine, two were from the penalty spot vs. Iceland and France. Of the remaining seven goals Croatia conceded, four came through set pieces. Whether they were free kicks, throw-ins, or junk balls coming into the box, Croatia could not handle them.

Exhibit A: Throw-In by Denmark



Exhibit B: Free Kick Header by Russia



Exhibit C: England Free Kick by Trippier



Exhibit D: Mandžukić Own Goal vs. France



Exhibit E: Corner Kick vs. Hungary



For nearly a year, Croatia’s Achilles Heel has been the set piece. Free kicks, corners, throw-ins – it doesn’t matter, the Vatreni end up getting burned. And it happened again against the Hungarians on Sunday.

It’s evident there is a problem here that manager Zlatko Dalić needs to address. The Croatian backline usually towers over their opponents. This shouldn’t be an issue, however, it is.

Fix the set piece problem.



Ante Kvartuč
Posted By: Ante Kvartuč 47 comments

  1. Poglavnik says:

    Tons of set piece goals at the WC in general.
    Most teams would say that’s their Achilles Heel.

  2. Casual fan says:

    I don’t recall having problems defending set pieces when Stimac, Bilic and Jerkan were playing, they were real Croats, now, all our players are little skinny idiots scared to take a hit and to put their body on the line, like Kalinic the keeper how scared is he to take a hit. It has to be fear why he sucks on crosses and corners, because goalkeepers are a protected species, you just got to be willing to take a hit and Kalinic I’m afraid isn’t.

    Fuck Kalinic off and try someone else. What the fuck happened to Josip Posavec, I remember him playing some blinders for Palermo in Serie A TIM?

  3. Anonymous says:

    The game has evolved to more and more teams beginning to put emphasis on set pieces. Something like 20 to 30% of goals historically come on set pieces, yet teams haven’t traditionally spent much time training for or against set pieces. Liverpool even has a throw in coach now. Teams (like evidently Croatia) that aren’t keeping up with the evolution of tactics, are paying the price in giving up goals.

  4. Casual fan says:

    To be honest I am more interested in the clothes that the players WAGS are wearing than set pieces. I mean did you see Mateo’s wife wow what stunning ankle boots.

  5. Medo says:

    Set pieces will always be a nightmare to defend for any team.
    A free kick swung into the box then flicked on is impossible to defend theoretically…how can you when the guy flicking on the ball really has no clue where it’s going.
    7 guys moving around in the box with a ball flicked on into a crowded box which hits a defenders shin,thigh or any other part of the body then lands in the back of the net,after landing in front of the opposition to slot home.
    We are not even talking about the times it’s flicked on into a defenders arm for a PK.
    Isn’t this what happened to Perisic in the final.
    It’s controlled chaos,and unless you have a van Dijk and Bilic clearing every ball away at the moment of entry you’re doomed to fail eventually.
    I didn’t even mention the times a defender is just beaten and man handled I.E. Leovac on our last goal vs Hungary.

  6. Maminjo says:

    We just need to get back to playing to our strengths.

    We are a VERY offensively capable team (one of the best in the world), so just try and stream roll every team with goals.

    In the World Cup knockout rounds, we were BEHIND in every game….and we came back in every single one of them.

    I don’t know if that has ever happened in World Cup history… Where a finalist was actually losing in each of their games, and came back.

    At no point during the World Cup did I ever feel like the game was over after we were scored on. I knew we would come right back, with the aggressive way we were playing.

    We were never good at scoring, and then sitting back to try and protect the lead. It’s painful to watch.

    We need to stop doing this and continue to push forward and score more goals.

    If we lose while playing our game (like we did against France) at least we do it with honor. Losing the way we did to Hungary was just not right.

  7. Oliver says:

    Casual fan this is a sports site I’m sure you can find other sites to satisfy your fetish of mateo’s wife’s feet while pulling the pork!

  8. CRO Jersey King says:

    @Maminjo Croatia did have the most attacks on goal at the World Cup so we are a very attacking side. Ivan Perisic also covered the most distance at the World Cup. It’s only one loss as we know we can defeat anyone on our day and we can lose to anyone on our day nothing new.Look forward as the Great Bill Belichick does.

  9. The truth says:

    Glad to see this site jumping on a theme I’ve highlighted

    If memory serves me correctly, perisic handball vs France came on a set piece as well. And let’s not forget England should’ve scored a goal against us off another set piece of vrsaljko wasn’t in the perfect place to head it off the goal line

    If i recall correctly, England two goals in nations league also were off set pieces

    England actually brought in a coach to coach set pieces for the wc and were incredibly successful

    Smart teams will focus in on this. Let’s hope dalic and crew are not cave men

  10. Oliver says:

    Medo your analysis makes a lot of sense but a crazy goalie who is aggressive and willing to take a guys head off would help the defenders also>Oliver Kahn comes to mind
    Our keepers are pussy’s

  11. Andrej L says:

    Hungary is not a terrible team and they defended well. There are no more easy games against European nations especially the ones in our group. Strategy and training methods are no longer trade secret in world football.

    Kalinic has dipped in form and Dalic gave him a shot with the repka to regain his confidence. I thought that Livakovic played real well against England in the fall and maybe deserves a shot for the next international break but I don’t watch Dinamo enough to say. For those inquiring, Posavec (Hajduk) played for U21s in 2-2 draw against Italy. LB Sosa started the game as did Uremovic at RB.

    The fact is that after Barisic went out, we dropped in form for a bit and Hungary were all over us. Vida was caught out of position on a beautiful through ball by the legendary Hungarian captain. Nice play, but probably could’ve been saved. Though goal but lost because they were better than us as a team.

    The 2nd goal, Kalinic could’ve tried to punch it and Leovac could’ve been tougher in the air. Although, that could’ve been called a foul since Patkai had both hands on Leovac’s shoulders.

    Lovren was rusty and we were a bit sloppy. However, we dominated possession and played okay. Brekalo was brought in because of his good play on Thursday. Petkovic was rewarded for his good play as well plus we needed a true target man. Shame we couldn’t get in Vlasic because of Barisic’s injury.

    Overall, tough game and can’t complain too much. We should be fine and have enough depth to compete throughout the qualifiers. Kalinic’s days may be numbered. And ya teams score on set pieces sometimes like we did on Thursday.

  12. Anonymous says:

    As I mentioned above, focus on set pieces is an evolution in tactics that has been happenening. A disproportionate amount of goals have always come from these relatively small number of opportunities.
    Some teams have begun to embrace this, and are really focusing on it; approaching set pieces into almost American Football style plays, instead of the traditional “launch the ball into the pack of guys and see what happens”. There are coaches specializing in this (like throw ins coach at Liverpool), doing video analysis and coming up with detailed plans for set pieces.
    Teams (like evedidently Cro so far) that don’t keep up with evolving tactics, pay the price. Defending against these super planned and choreographed and honed set piece experts may be very difficult, but the first answer may be to start spending more time stepping your own set piece game up yourself (countering an offensive tactical advance not with defending against it per se, but with stepping up your own goal conversion rate on your own set pieces to make up for it).

    Nice try Truth Troll. Still waiting on your proof that you guaranteed or predicted anything. MAYBE does NOT count.

    Coincidentally, I predicted the stock market MIGHT go down at some point this week, MAYBE even yesterday. It did in fact go down yesterday. I’m always right. Everyone on here crapped on me for it, but I told you all the stock market would go down.

  13. Maminjo says:

    Can’t tell if Truth is trolling or not about England being incredibly successful in the world cup as a result of bringing in a set piece coach.

    They won 3 lost 3 and drew 1. The wins were Tunisia, Panama and Sweden.

    If they had to face Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland… they would have lost all three games.

    If England ever beat Argentina 3-0 in a World Cup… It would be enshrined in history. Most Croats have already forgotten about our 3-0 victory, lol.

  14. Maminjo says:

    The set piece examples in the video above aren’t great.

    The long throw-ins definitely are an issue.
    Both Denmark and England (during the Nations League) scored on us using them.

    However, the other ones above were largely from poor goalkeeping and (in the Russian example) Mandžo being completely exhausted that he could not even jump to defend.

    The Hungary one was due to Leovac not being National Team caliber. He’s not good enough to play for us, and if that was Barišić instead of Leovac there, then it would not have been a goal.

    We just need to go with our U21 talent the next time we are decimated with injuries. A hungry young talent will do better than some older less talented players like Livaja, Čop, Leovac, etc.

  15. CRO Jersey King says:

    Humgary almost defeated Portugal in the Euro 2016 game 4:3 but it ended 3:3. Hungary ended up winning their Euro 2016 group but got knocked out to Wales but they have gone worse since that Euro 2016 and now are below average side. Most of their players are below average.

  16. The Great Anonymous Doom says:

    Posavec was letting goals in left and right at Palermo. He might well become a brilliant keeper, but Livakovic is currently our best (he consistently plays a very solid goalkeeping game, whether in the league or in European competition).

    I agree with Maminjo—the key to our success is to attack, attack, attack! We could have won that Hungary game if we had played the entire match with the same thirst for goals that we had after the 2-1 and the Brekalo substitution. That was exciting football, and we were penetrating their box like mad. The problems hit us when the players decide to relax, to make passes into the center, dribble opponents individually in our own half, etc. Actually, Modric and Rakitic played very well the whole game, always moving the ball forward. The weak links were our defenders minus Jedvaj (he played well) and Ivan Perisic, who played so lazy that we might have been better with only 10 men.

  17. The Great Anonymous Doom says:

    As far as development goes, the 3 in the back experiment that Dalic tried this time out of necessity actually worked pretty well. Lovren does a remarkable job of negotiating that 3-man defense system (I have seen Liverpool go into the same formation), and it plays to our strengths to get more players forward so that they can attack the box and keep the opponent packed in.

  18. CroatiaU14 says:

    I made this in the last article…I’d be glad to hear any changes you would make.

    I made a few changes from the one I posted in the last article…

    I’d say we bring on Rebić, Jedvaj, Brozović as subs

    Maybe bring up Moro or even Palaversa (debatable) for our June game versus Wales….we need some youth in that midfield….maybe even consider Lovro Majer or Antonio Marin as a surprise

  19. CroatiaU14 says:

    I’m all about giving the youth a chance…we have a lot of talent in our 17-19 year olds

  20. CroatiaU14 says:

    @The Great Anonymous Doom

    Brekalo changed that game for us…too bad nothing came from it…that’s why I say start him…Rebić would be an incredible sub

  21. Soul Champ says:

    “To be honest I am more interested in the clothes that the players WAGS are wearing than set pieces. I mean did you see Mateo’s wife wow what stunning ankle boots.”

    That’s funny!

    I’d let Modric fuck me up the arse.

  22. Budala says:

    On that second Hungary goal, Kalinic should have easily come out and grabbed that high cross right in front of his net.

  23. Lovro says:

    @Budala – true. That was like a pop up in the infield that a shortstop would have time to put down his eyeshades, light a cigarette and scratch his ass before it came down.

  24. The truth says:

    If only the Croatian players can learn from Modric how to source their football from their soul.

    Croatia would perform better in the future if they can learn from Modric.

    In my opinion that’s the problem with the Croatian players, they’re not sourcing their football from their soul like Modric.

    Need to bring the fresh young legs.

    Get rid of the scrubs.

    Surround Modric with young beasts, put the horses in their courses and the rest will be legend.

    All the Croatian players are world class even the scrubs that I wanted gone after Euro 2016.

  25. Goku says:

    Well bosnia imploded today vs the Greeks blowing a 2-0 lead. finished 2-2. pjanic red card too.

    Good to see those turks fail ;D damn balije

  26. Anonymous says:

    Do you know why Muslims are called Balije?

    Because when it’s winter and they get a runny nose their snot/bale get frozen onto their long beards, it’s a site to behold, and they don’t care when you let ‘em know either. Muslims are funny like that.

  27. Goku says:

    Was talking to a yugo girl from cro, told her my family is from mostar and that i believe hercegovina and mostar should belong to Cro. She called me an ustasa and blocked me… merp

  28. Anonymous says:

    Some Muslims do care about their personal appearance though, they’re the ones that keep the upper lip shaved. Did you know that the beard with the upper lip shaved was invented in Croatia, because Croats weren’t shy in letting some Muslims know about the snot frozen into their beards.

    Cetniks can’t be helped, did you know they don’t even shower, they were exposed on Seinfeld in the episode about the showerheads.

    Croats also invented the crvat!

  29. Anonymous says:

    So some Russian league player says he believes National teams shouldn’t allow foreigners (after a brazilian debuted for russia). He got labeled a racist and got fined heavily

  30. Anonymous says:

    SOMEONE’S RETARDED CALLING us hrvats mental doubt cetnik udba propaganda they borrowed from soviet communist techniques giving bad press to just cros not any of the other ex Yugo republics through their payed trolls constant bs jasenovac lies since ww2.By the way 3 Hrvats not cetniks out of 30 OF THE MOST INTELLIGENT PEOPLE IN THE WORLD IQ are CRO.MISLAV PREDAVEC,IVAN IVEC,NIKOLA POLLAK .Some of our leaders need a tune up that’s all.Fecken if crackhead toronto ex mayor alcoholic rob ford can do it so can us cros,god rest his soul.

  31. Anonymous says:
    From a few years ago but still,trying to get a point across ….we are better than we think and good # of cros I grew up with friends relatives are are actually to smart to talk to and hold extremely difficult elite technical positions.But there are dumb dumbs in every culture.

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