FIFA World Cup 2010: Is Defense Ruining the World Cup and Football?
Parking the bus. Anti-football. From Italy's 1970 Catanacio to Inter's 2010 mighty defense.
Defending sure has lots of names these days, and many players, coaches, teams, and fans are complaining about it.
But aren't all the people who are actually complaining so quite when their beloved team wins something? They just call it pure smart tactics!
Actually the last time we encountered a World Cup that was blessed with attacking football was back in Mexico 1986, where teams never had to think about the double pivot option in the midfield, or about defend-tell-you-drop tactics in order to get a point or maybe a win if they are lucky.
At that time we saw the attacking-minded Argentina with the little genius, we saw Brazil's Zico, and we enjoyed France's Platini.
Even new teams like Denmark were so joyful to watch, and they took the world by surprise. Well, until Spain gave them a taste of their own medicine and thrashed them in a show of pure attacking style.
The Argentines came to play a whole different role in this World Cup. They came with a lousy team and a 100 percent dependency on the master himself, Diego Maradona.
They managed to reach the final by playing defense, and only defense, and waited for what Maradona would do on the other half of the pitch.
And it actually worked. Even teams like Brazil in that World Cup, Argentina surprised everybody by playing two defensive midfielders in Donga and Alemao,and three central defenders (Ricardo Gomes, Ricardo Rosha, and Mozer). But even though they had lots of defenders in the team, they actually played a full attacking-minded team with Jorginho and Branco as full backs.
Italy, on the other hand—who always were accused of defensive mentality, and the sole reason for teams to adapt that style—produced a really good attacking team, and never played a double pivot the whole tournament.
They had Anceloti as the single defensive midfielder, and the stylish playmaker Giannini in front of him with Donadoni and De Naboli on the flanks.
Even England played with Neil Webb in defensive midfield, Spain had Hierro, and Germany played Buchwald.
Italy found out in that tournament that their team is very ordinary and the only way to stay in the tournament is to defend. So they got Albertini, Dino Baggio, and Antonio Conti to shield their defense, and create if they can.
Brazil came with a surprising defensive mentality in their midfield. Again, Donga was leading the pack, and beside him stood Mauro Silva. In front of them they started with Zinho and later on Mazinho with Rai roaming around them. They actually had no wingers in the team, but if you have Jorginho (and later on Cafo) and Leonardo (and later on Branco) rampaging on the flacks, you don't need wingers.
And it worked for them. They won the cup but that gave everyone else the idea that having more defensive-minded player on the field is the way to win.
In this World Cup, most of the teams played with extra defensive mentality than before.
France played with Deschamps and Petit as defensive midfielders, Brazil got Donga and Emerson (then Giovani), Argentina played Almida and Simeone, Italy with Di Matteo and Albertini, Germany with Jeremies and Hamman, and even England played Paul Ince with Scholes in front of the back four.
So we see here that all the big teams used the same mentality going into the matches: defend well in order to attack well.
Everything changed in that world cup.
Most tactics changed to benefit the defense before even thinking of the attack. Everything was about how to prevent the other team from scoring first, then finding a way to score.
Euro 2004 (Defense, defense, and more defense)
In this tournament, attacking football died. Greece took the world by surprise in wining without style, attack, or even playing football.
Football died in that year. All the great attacking-minded players couldn't find away to beat a well-built wall of 11 defenders. Not even Figo's Portugal, Beckham's England, Raul's Spain, or the magnificent Zidane's France.
Every team that year came crumpling in front of the Greek wall. It was a clear implication that a team can win by just defending. Why attack?
Again a very normal Italian team came to Germany and snatched the big prize by putting a well oiled machine that goes by one strategy: Defend, defend some more, snatch a goal, and defend again.
The teams that tried to attack like Argentina, Portugal, and Germany all lost. Brazil lost to Zidane, whose one moment of madness caused France to lose in the final stretch.
Chelsea and Inter
When Barcelona were getting ready to host Chelsea in the Champions league Semifinal in 2009, the only tactic was defend. Nothing more, nothing less.
They knew if they tried to open the game for even one second they would get slaughtered.
So they did. And after the game finished with a draw, the media asked Xavi what happened, and he replied by asking how else can you play against a team that came here to defend and park the bus?
Inter's Mourinho played the same tactics in their away match to them in this year's Champion's League semifinal as well.
Attacking football is fading so fast. Remember the 1986 World Cup that was full of attacking stars like Maradona, Zico, Platini, Mathauis, and the whole Denmark team? Now in the 2010 World Cup, you can actually count on your fingers how many players have that attacking flare in them.
The first round of this year's World Cup is low on goals. Only Holland and Germany managed to score more than two goals, and most of the matches have ended in draws or a 1-0 score.
It is sad to say it, but football is not the same, nor it will be. The only way is to go back to the roots again.
Barcelona have done it on club terms, and look at them now. They proved to the world that attack is, and always was, the better way to win.
Just ask Euro 2008 champions Spain. They took the world by a storm, and we finally got a team that played with style, flare, and full attacking power, who finished wining the whole thing.
We love this game because of the goals scored, not because we enjoy the tackles.
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