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AS Roma
CSKA Moscow
5
1
FT
Game Details
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
1
0
FT
Game Details
Ajax Amsterdam
Paris Saint-Germain
1
1
FT
Game Details
Barcelona
Apoel Nicosia
1
0
FT
Game Details
Chelsea
Schalke 04
1
1
FT
Game Details
NK Maribor
Sporting Lisbon
1
1
FT
Game Details
Athletic Bilbao
Shakhtar Donetsk
0
0
FT
Game Details
FC Porto
BATE Borisov
6
0
FT
Game Details
Blackburn Rovers
Derby County
2
3
FT
Game Details
Nottingham Forest
Fulham
5
3
FT
Game Details
Fleetwood Town
Barnsley
0
0
FT
Game Details
FC Magna Wr. Neustadt
Rapid Vienna
1
5
FT
Game Details
SV Grodig
SC Rheindorf Altach
3
3
FT
Game Details
Montreal Impact
New York Red Bulls
1
0
LIVE 76'
Game Details
Bayamon FC
America
1
8
LIVE 76'
Game Details
Municipal
Real Espana
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Huachipato
U. Católica
2
0
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Universitario de Sucre
César Vallejo
2
2
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
River Plate
Godoy Cruz de Mendoza
2
0
LIVE 69'
Leg 2Aggregate: 3 - 0
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Libertad
Barcelona
2
0
LIVE 69'
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
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San Lorenzo
Defensa y Justicia
1
2
FT
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Nueva Chicago
Boca Unidos
0
0
FT
Game Details
Huracán
Crucero del Norte
0
2
FT
Game Details
Aldosivi
Douglas Haig
1
1
FT
Game Details
Guarini A. Franco
Ferro Carril Oeste
1
0
LIVE 86'
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Patronato
Atlético Tucumán
1
0
LIVE 74'
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Sarmiento de Junín
Santamarina
1
1
LIVE 81'
Game Details
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
Instituto de Córdoba
0
1
LIVE 45'
Game Details
Independiente Rivadavia
All Boys
0
0
LIVE 45'
Game Details
At. San Luis
Correcaminos
3
0
LIVE 81'
Game Details
Irapuato
Altamira
0
1
LIVE 75'
Game Details
Oaxaca
Lobos BUAP
1
1
LIVE 69'
Game Details
Chiapas
Veracruz
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Queretaro
U.A.N.L
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
U. de G.
Atlas
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Cruzeiro
Atletico Paranaense
2
0
FT
Game Details
EC Vitória
Fluminense FC
3
1
FT
Game Details
Figueirense FC
Criciúma
1
1
LIVE 83'
Game Details
Sport
Internacional
0
0
LIVE 82'
Game Details
Botafogo
Bahia
1
1
LIVE 42'
Game Details
Coritiba FBC
São Paulo
0
0
LIVE 42'
Game Details
Palmeiras
Flamengo
0
2
LIVE 40'
Game Details
Alianza Lima
Inti Gas Deportes
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
12 de Octubre
Nacional
1
1
FT
Game Details
FC Seoul
Western Sydney Wanderers
0
0
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Bay United
Mamelodi Sundowns
Postp
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Chippa United
Orlando Pirates
Postp
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Free State Stars
Moroka Swallows
Postp
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Mpumalanga Black Aces
Ajax Cape Town
Postp
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Silver Stars
Pretoria Univ
Postp
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SuperSport United
Bloem Celtic
Postp
Game Details
Alajuelense
Belen
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Patriotas F.C.
La Equidad
(4) 2
(3) 2
FT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 2
Game Details
Atlético Junior
Llaneros
11:00 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
Boyacá Chicó FC
Once Caldas
12:30 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
Deportes Tolima
Independiente Medellín
12:30 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Independiente Santa Fe
Cucuta
12:45 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
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 Posted by Michael Cox
Jun 29, 2014

Prolonged possession a must for U.S.

DaMarcus Beasley says the U.S. gave Germany too much respect and can't do the same against Belgium.

One of the most common Sunday League rallying cries makes absolutely no sense to a first-time viewer of football. "Still nil-nil, lads" is the call, made immediately after a goal has been scored.

The concept is relatively simple. At some point, "still nil-nil" became a shortened form of saying "Despite the fact we've just scored, we shouldn't let that affect our game plan. We should continue with our starting approach, which resulted in us going ahead in the first place."

That's something of a mouthful, however, and so it's "still nil-nil." But only when it's not. If the score is 0-0, no one needs reminding that it's still 0-0.

Among Jurgen Klinsmann's various methods of preparing his U.S. side -- the rigorous scouting of opponents, the high-quality physical preparation and the effective use of different formations -- maybe he's neglected a vital part. When the United States go ahead, there's no one screaming to the players that it's "still nil-nil."

Jurgen Klinsmann's preparation for this World Cup has been impressive.

The U.S. games against Ghana and Portugal were highly eventful, with the "game state" changing every time a goal was scored. In the 2-1 win over Ghana, the U.S. went ahead, then Ghana drew level, then the Yanks were ahead again. Including the starting 0-0 scoreline (which didn't last long), there were four different game states. Similarly, the draw against Portugal saw five different game states -- 0-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2 -- although the last goal was scored so late that there was barely any play at 2-2.

When the game state changes, the approach of both sides inevitably changes too. The Americans' problem, however, is that they have been too easily affected by this, especially when they've gone ahead.

An easy, if basic, way to measure this is by considering the possession statistics during the various changes in game state. For example, when the U.S. were leading 1-0 against Ghana for 81 minutes, they had just 38 percent of the possession. When Ghana equalised, the U.S. suddenly sprung into life, and in the buildup to John Brooks' famous header, they had 59 percent of the ball. But once the goal was scored, it immediately dropped back down to 28 percent. When needed, they could dominate the game, but they were too submissive when ahead and invited lots of pressure.

There was a similar situation in the Portugal game. At 0-0, the U.S. started with a respectable 40 percent of possession but quickly went behind and were forced to dominate. At 1-0 down, they had exactly 50 percent of the ball, and when spurred on by Jermaine Jones' thunderbolt, the U.S. recorded 52 percent of possession in the buildup to Clint Dempsey's goal. But then, at 2-1 up, they had just 21 percent of possession.

- Tim Howard examines Belgian attack
- Carlisle: Belgium vs. U.S. -- Five questions
- Alvarez: Heat doesn't let up in knockout stage

The pattern is obvious. The U.S. have proved capable of competing against, and dominating, very good sides. But whenever they go ahead, they become too passive. If you can outplay Ghana and Portugal, it seems silly to retreat into your shell merely because you're leading.

It's inevitable that teams dominate more when they require a goal, but not to this extent. The U.S. are perfectly capable of retaining possession to put themselves ahead, but they have yet to prove they can retain possession to ensure they remain ahead.

The point isn't that the U.S. should always attempt to dominate possession. At this World Cup, there has been little correlation between possession and results, so sitting back and defending deep is a perfectly reasonable strategy.

The problem is that the Yanks aren't particularly suited to this style of play. They defend extremely narrow in midfield and force the opposition out wide but then appear nervous when defending crosses.

That was particularly obvious against Portugal -- see Geoff Cameron's mistake for Nani's opener and the fact Cristiano Ronaldo crossed for Silvestre Varela's late equaliser. Against Germany, too, there was a big problem when Jerome Boateng received the ball out wide, with Thomas Muller allowed a golden chance in this respect and Omar Gonzalez producing a Cameron-esque slice when trying to clear.

Geoff Cameron and the U.S. defense have struggled to defend threats from wide areas.

Nor, in fact, are the U.S. suited to counterattacking. The ball carriers like Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya have performed competently, but no more. Michael Bradley, who has excelled at club level over the past three years with his ability to convert defence into attack smoothly, has covered a lot of ground but contributed little in possession. Up front, the absence of Jozy Altidore means the U.S. don't really have an out-ball -- no one to hold it up, no one to sprint in behind. They're just not suited to being a reactive side. They're more suited to playing high up the pitch, passing the ball well and getting the full-backs forward.

When the U.S. play football, they have been excellent. When they purely defend, they are never entirely confident. In the group phase, they allowed the opposition 55 shots -- along with Ecuador, more than any other side in the competition. It seems strange when you consider how much quality the U.S. have shown and their ability to (in spells) outplay Ghana and Portugal quite comfortably.

They're capable of outplaying Belgium too, and considering Belgium's tendency to start matches slowly and depend on late strikes from substitutes, it wouldn't be surprising if the U.S. went ahead in their round of 16 clash on Tuesday in Salvador. If that happens, the call from the bench should be simple: Still nil-nil, lads!

Michael Cox

Michael Cox is a freelance writer for ESPN.com. He is based in London and writes the Zonal Marking blog about football tactics. He also writes postmatch analysis for the Guardian and contributes regularly for FourFourTwo. You can follow him on Twitter @zonal_marking.