How to score when you don't have the ball? Portugal conceded the ball to Spain, who stroked it around for long periods waiting to penetrate the Portuguese defense and then they did. The Queiroz approach was to wait for a Spanish mistake and then punish them. For that to work, you have to have a perfect game where no one makes a mistake and everyone does everything they supposed to do. Portugal was not able to play a mistake-free game. But Paraguay did. The problem with Queiroz approach is that he has players far better than his tactics acknowledge. It was painful to watch Ronaldo, overrated though he may be, starved of a ball that would allow him to do his fancy footwork. He has survived another major competition without even approaching the justification of his celebrity status. The Queiroz approach--ten players without the ball perfectly defensively positioned--is the riskiest one. It entirely depends on not allowing the other team to score. If the other team scores, the Portuguese are entirely helpless. Paraguay is the best team playing that way, because they're entirely aware of the hopelessness of conceding a goal--they know they could never equalize, so they indeed play a perfect defensive game. Today against Japan they made no mistake, waiting for Japan to make one. And they did, very late. Hard to watch, but entirely admirable.
Aleksander Hemon is the author, most recently, of The Book of My Lives and The Matters of Life, Death, and More: Writing on Soccer.