Football is a game of manipulating space. The pitch is a certain size, but because of the offside rule the area of play is functionally only between the last but one players of the opposing teams (usually the outfield player closest to the goal as the goalkeeper rarely ventures far out of the 18-yard box). Within that band the two teams try to either create and exploit space for themselves to operate and thereby get a chance to score a goal, or seek to deny the other team that space. This is where tactics come in. If the coach is a smart tactician he or she will seek to arrange the team on the field in such a way as to maximize their space for creativity but minimize the opposing team’s space. Of course, every player good enough to be in the World Cup can do most everything if given all the space in the world, and the greatest players can work miracles in even the tightest spots. Tactics can get you far, but individual skill can win or lose games just as well.
That said, here are three interesting articles about the first few matches.