2010 World Cup Final: Alexi Lalas Needs To Redefine 'Speed'

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2010 World Cup Final: Alexi Lalas Needs To Redefine 'Speed'
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

Having watched a number of World Cup matches on ESPN and ABC, I have found that the word "speed" is a favorite of analyst Alexi Lalas.

Some of the other American hosts have also used the term. They have done a solid job even though they are better suited for baseball, basketball, and American football.

But it is no excuse for someone who comes from a soccer background.

If I understand Lalas’ definition of “speed” correctly he is emphasizing the ability of a team’s wingers to win loose balls in a foot race against the opponents.

To me this is a poor choice of words and suggests a poor choice of strategy.

Most soccer experts see that the top teams win based upon execution and not rolling the dice in hopes that one guy can outrun another.

That mentality may work at the youth level. But this is the World Cup.

If Argentina, which has a number of pint-sized superstars like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, relied on beating its opponents physically, it would not have reached the quarterfinals.

The definition of speed amongst top-tier teams like Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany, France, and Italy isn’t in how fast one’s players are, it is in how quick their players are able to react to a situation and make something develop from it.

Velocity is perhaps a better term in describing the action.

Most experts also know that the ideal situation is to have players run onto the ball rather than players having to chase down the ball.

You want to let the ball do the work so it gives your players a few seconds to take a deep breath, analyze the situation and use the best judgment based upon the options given to proceed with the next pass.

I analyzed the Germany-Spain semifinal match and saw it was a matchup that clearly had nothing to do with physical capabilities.

Perhaps fearing Spain’s excellent ball control from its midfielders and its ability to withstand pressure, the Germans operated a "catenaccio," which is a term that is generally given to Italian teams.

Catenaccio is simply a strong zone defense that gives the opponents little to no room to operate.

While many frown at the idea, love it or hate it, if played correctly it works. And if not for one mistake, Germany did a great job playing in that system.

Spain too played a zone defense, although it was not as tight as the German zone.

If anyone noticed under this style of play, speed is taken out of the equation because the field is generally shortened. Germany basically made it a half field game. This is just like college basketball, where a team works for every shot and there are few fast breaks—something more common in the NBA.

Spain was successful in this game because it was patient enough not to be bothered by the catenaccio.

Some teams that are not disciplined enough get impatient and try to do too much too quickly. Sometimes if you force passes, you end up paying the price in the end by making a mistake that can be deadly.

Ultimately, people must realize that the result of the final between Spain and the Netherlands will be decided by which team makes fewer mistakes and not by which team has players that are faster at getting to loose balls.

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