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Jun 22, 2014

Tactics Board: Fabian Johnson on the attack against Ronaldo

Johnson
Fabian Johnson attacked Cristiano Ronaldo to almost keep him quiet.

PORTUGAL 2-2 UNITED STATES

A battle between attacking full-backs and wingers who don't always defend is invariably intriguing. The pivotal duels were between DaMarcus Beasley and Nani on the American left and, in particular, between Fabian Johnson and Cristiano Ronaldo on the right. It was a battle that the United States won as they were rewarded for their boldness.

Johnson likes to bomb forward and the USA were at their most penetrative on that flank -- indeed, Johnson got to the byline and centred for Michael Bradley when the Toronto midfielder had a shot cleared off the line by Ricardo Costa -- but a full-back runs a huge risk in leaving the reigning Ballon d'Or winner in space behind him.

The guarantee was that Ronaldo would not retreat to mark Johnson. Portugal's captain is spared all defensive duties. The approach Germany took was to field a defensive right-back, in Jerome Boateng, who remained in his own half. The gung-ho Johnson took the other approach. He played his natural game and his touch map shows how advanced he was.

Perhaps that was because, after the concession of an early goal, the United States needed to chase the game. Perhaps it was a consequence of the insurance policy Jurgen Klinsmann built into his tactics in the shape of holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman.

When Beasley and Johnson advanced, he dropped deeper so a 4-2-3-1 formation became more of a 3-3-3-1. The actual change in shape came from Portugal when brought Silvestre Varela on for central midfielder Raul Meireles and removed Ronaldo from that wing and into a free role behind striker Eder.

His cross from the right led to the substitute's 95th-minute equaliser; Beasley, who lost Nani for the opener, didn't cut out the cross for the leveller.