Friday, July 22, 2005

Total Football and the Enigmatic Dutch

Ahh, yes.. the famous concept introduced to us by the recently deceased Rinus Michels through his 1970s Netherlands team - led by none other than Johan Cruyff. It was put into breathtaking execution during the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. The Oranje blew away the opposition and redefined the way in which the beautiful game is played. First off, let me qive you a quick definition:

Total football is a system of play in which each and every outfield player is a supreme athlete, adaptable to play any position on the field. In any given situation if a player is moved out of his position then another player immediately replaces him, retaining the intended organizational structure of the squad. In this fluid system the assignment of roles is largely used to identify the players' strengths, but is in no way strictly adhered to. I was going to describe to you a probable scenario but a picture speaks a thousand words, so behold my humble little diagram.



Total Football - Click to enlarge


As you can see, I've stuck to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation for my diagram rather than the Dutch preference for 4-2-4 back in '74 (just to make things a bit easier for myself). In this (extreme) situation you can see the central defender having possession of the ball and deciding to make a run into midfield with it. As soon as he vacates his position, the central midfielder slots back to cover the gap. The defender decides to continue with his run when none of the opposition players approach him (they're too busy man-marking, maybe) and the left midfielder rushes in to cover the central area he has just left behind. As he makes his way towards the goal, the center forward fills the left midfielder's position (therefore dragging his man-marker with him, opposition centeral defender #1 in this case) and as opposition central defender #2 rushes over to cover the maurauding defender's run the second center forward finds himself all alone at the edge of the box. The defender passes the ball to the unmarked center forward but the idiot misses. Goalkick, everyone back to their places, and the structure of the team never deviated from its original shape. Geddit?

This is just an example, and of course during the course of the match many little interchanges like this would happen (similar to the interlap between fullbacks and left/right midfielders seen these days) which would confuse the opposition players as to who they're supposed to be marking. In order to understand why this was so devastating back in 1974 then we must delve a bit deeper into the football psyche of days yore. You see, before the revolution that was Total Football, football was a game of individual battles. You marked your man on defense, you dribbled past your man on offense. South American teams (Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina) dominated their European counterparts using sheer individual skill, so a new system had to be devised. By switching positions continuously the opposition defenders would be pulled in all kinds of different directions, disrupting man-marking responsibilities assigned prior to the match. This naturally led to the development of zonal defense, where the defender would cover an area of the pitch rather than shadowing an individual. Both methods of defending are now used in conjunction with each other within the modern game. Another interesting component of Total Football that carried through to modern times and was the chief reason the system unsettled the South Americans' reknowned offenses was the "pressing" concept. The Brazilians, for example, were used to recieving the ball, standing on it for a bit while they looked around and then either beating their man or delivering an incisive pass through the defense. With "pressing" the Dutch wouldn't allow for that to happen, instantly rushing all available players in the area towards the player on the ball. This ensures that everyone is involved in the play at all times of the match, and it would throw off the creative talents of the South Americans when they saw the whole of Holland charging at them whenever they touched the ball. Very effective. Modern teams have put the pressing system into good practice (either over the entire pitch or on the defensive half of it) and it is the most evident cause of the break-neck speed of the Premiership.

So, to summarize, Total Football involved two main concepts: Player Rotation and Pressing. By nullifying the man-marking method's effectiveness and speeding up the pace of the game when the opposition had the ball the Dutch forced the South Americans to reinvent themselves in further World Cups and gave a semblance of balance to the world game. European teams can now use their tactics to overcome their deficiencies in individual skill, and would stand on much more even ground when facing their ridiculously talented Latin opponents.

While it took a very special bunch of players to execute the entire system of Total Football, many of its components are very valid and are still used quite extensively in the modern game. Supreme athletic conditioning, talented players and creative coaching enabled Mr. Michels to give birth to a concept that has revolutionized the sport and still lives on in football folklore 30+ years after its introduction.

One fact still plagues the Oranje, however. For all of their genius and creativity the Dutch have yet to actually win a World Cup.

6 Comments:

Blogger forzaq8 said...

i think the Oranje had 2 strong team that should have won , but their bad luck didn't win

Cruyff team
and the famous van bastin team

of course the Oranje are building one hell of a team right now , and it could be considered like the 2 great teams before

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cool article ...i enjoyed it

1:38 AM  
Blogger Mo said...

Thanks, anon. Feedback appreciated.

I'll try to post some more articles once I get the time. As for the rest of the Qadam contributing staff, how about we post something up sometime soon? I know its the offseason, but I'd still like to read what y'all are thinking.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Q said...

Mo, great great stuff!! Seriously, kick ass article!

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....werry intewesting. Werry enhoyable read.

5:36 AM  
Blogger David Skul said...

Spain a Contender in World Cup 2006

This Friday December 9, 2005 saw football lovers round the world clinging to the edge of their seats, ready and waiting to determine who they would play in the group stages of the World Cup 2006 in Germany. The ceremonial occasion contained all the anticipated fanfare and hoopla that a soccer fan would normally link with modern sporting events. In other words, the smitten sports buff was subjected to hours of mindless slobber when awaiting for the unparalleled action to start out. Whosoever puts these events together just can't perchance believe that the football fans who have tuned in to see such an event can be in any way smitten in the flaky magic exhibits and dance troops they force out. One can only believe that heavy numbers of hard cash in brown envelopes that changes hands in order to generate some feeble performers their luck to be on worldwide television. The experience was produced slenderly supplementary endurable with a handsome blonde in a revealing dress co-hosting the program.

When the standoff did at last came it was dragged out, with a horde of footballing celebrities taking balls to pick out the teams. Again, a soccer fan has to accept that the presenters and celebrities were being paid off by the second as they struggled to make this non-event into a television spectacular. This should have taken no further than fifteen minutes to carry through, but no, soccer reporting went on for a undivided three hours! Because this is an indication of affairs to hail it is no question that the tourney will take an entire calendar month to finish.

When the dust settled on the over padded proceedings in Leipzig, England came out of it rather well. Notwithstanding having traditional rivals for Sven's loyalty, Sweden, in the group, Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago are surely there just to make things fair. With the top two from every group coming along to the second round, England are favorites to proceed into this phase with out too much trouble. Depending on the setting in both England’s group (B) and the Germany / Poland group (A) the substitutions perchance set up an early crunch match with the hosts. Even so this would bank on either Germany or England neglecting to win their various groups and an England vs. Poland second round match is tremendously additional probable. Providing this potential banana skin can be negotiated, the usual is that England will crash out on penalties in the quarter finals to either Holland or Argentina. All England buffs, notwithstanding the optimism that usually rings the ballyhoo to a world cup, hold a sensation of the inevitable heroical defeat in the latter stages of the tourney. The common comments have been made up by the various directors, with Sven contributing in his normal unrestrained flair.

Perhaps the most intriguing groups are C, where Holland and Argentina are drawn jointly, and E, where Italy takes on USA, Czech Republic and Ghana. Normally ho-hum starters to tourneys, and having broke down to go on from the group stages last time around, Italy stand a tough task onwards. Having been drawn with the very much improving USA and a Czech side who are beginning to indicate signals of the retuning glory days with an mythical performance in the last Euro Championships, Italy may be the competitors first large casualty, with Ghana being very tremendously an unsung entity. Group C caters to an early clash of the prominent boys, where the Dutch face are good deal better than their ungraded position suggests, but both Holland and Argentina need be firm enough to overcome Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro to win to the second round. The only question in truth is of who may top the group and in theory cast the easier second round match.

Historically it has been very rocky for a South American squad to win a world cup in Europe and at first site Brazils ranking as clear front-runners might seem a little generous. Notwithstanding, the game is not the equal as it has been in the yesteryear and several of the Brazilian team already frolic in top European sides in England, Spain and Italy. Their adaptation has been years in the forming and the European manner of soccer fused with the traditional Brazilian genius and talent may be mouthwatering to observe. It might take a very expert face to take away their pennant from them and in Ronaldhino they have a player who can bend any play off on his own.

Perhaps the most fun facet of any world cup is catching the dark horses, those minnows from commonwealths not affiliated with footballing grandness, progress and bowl over some of the brighter lights. This time around, there are reasonable aspersions of African commonwealths in the blend and some surprises could come from there. It may be worth looking out for the likes of Ivory Coast and Ghana when determining where to set that venturesome high odds wager at the loan shark. South Korea, Maybe the surprise bundle of the previous world cup in Japan are unlikely to be capable to replicate their heroics and will not be undervalued a second instance

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8:00 PM  

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