Is the global style of football changing?
Having watched the Champions League final in my lounge room with my jaw somewhere near my ankles, I began to wonder, is the method of playing football starting to drastically change?
Teams like Liverpool in the seventies and eighties employed a style that was typical of their days, except nobody could match it.
It involved extremely quick, strong and fast players interchanging intelligent passing with expert finishing. Every time the ball was won instantly, players burst forward, creating options for that killer attack.
The nineties saw a significant increase in the usage of classic speedy wingers to try and get around the back of teams or down the flanks to cross the ball into the strong, composed centre fowards. It was a period where players such as Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer would dominate teams with their power and deadly finishing.
The later nineties and early 2000s saw an increase in the tactics of expert defending, closing down of teams and counter attacking football, with Italian sides of that era deploying such tactics to expertise, such as the highly successful AC Milan of the early 2000s. Greece also won Euro 2004 from such tactics.
Over the last couple of years it appears that the game of football is changing for the better on the field. In all honesty, diving actually seems to be decreasing.
Although many may counter this argument after watching the first leg of the Barcelona versus Real Madrid semi final, this was a rare case.
There are considerably less controversial moments involving diving, and having watched many of Europe’s top league’s week in week out, all of the matches contain far less theatrics than they did six or so years ago.
A team which probably best displays this is Argentina – a team which I wholeheartedly despised for many years during the late nineties and early 2000s. Who could forget the infamous over-reaction of Simione after Beckham tapped him on the leg? I can remember screaming with joy after they were eliminated in the group stage of the 2002 World Cup.
At the 2005 Confederation Cup, they were hardly better.
In their game against Australia, they managed to get away with countless fouls and dived throughout the match.
The moment which truly forced my hatred was when one if their players pulled a Socceroos player down on top of him, winning a penalty – ridiculous cheating. Followed by their antics after being eliminated by Germany in 2006, I continued to dislike them.
At the World Cup in 2010, however, they played it clean.
They didn’t cheat, they didn’t dive and they didn’t start a fight after being eliminated. I think this can largely be credited to Messi and his attitude of not diving. When Messi gets fouled on a run, he often stumbles to stay on his feet then continues uninterested in settling for a free-kick. Hopefully this trend continues.
However, the biggest change is in the style of football. Barcelona are pioneers of a new breed of football, a style which revolves around complete team cohesion in attack and defence, keeping the ball for as long as possible, playing passes on the ground and working triangles. Playing out from the back instead of kicking it long is also an important aspect of the style of play. To be able to play the ball out from the back, while under pressure and without losing the ball, is a very difficult task.
This advanced and beautiful style of play employed by Barcelona is started to be copied around the world. It was played by Spain in the World Cup (of course with a similar squad), Chile, Brisbane Roar and lately Swansea.
The fact that this football is being replicated in South America, the English Championship (at the time) and, low and behold, Australia, seems to suggest that the style of football is in a transition period.
Not only is the football of Barcelona being attempted because it is successful, but also because it is lauded by critics, although non-regular watchers of the beautiful game often label it is boring. This is only because their knowledge of good football is typically restricted to long shots and over-head kicks instead of outstanding team play.
This quality of football is been examined and often referred to as the benchmark by Holger Osieck and the FFA, which is why it is been included in the National Curriculum. It is seen as a globally as a yardstick for what good football stand for. This is the kind of education that our young players need.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a young coach who is working with young teenage players in teaching them how to try and play this level of football. Although they don’t always win, they are always congratulated on their style by both sets of coaches.
We need to adopt a mentality of style before results. I have often witnessed this team go down to teams which contained a striker who scored a bagful of goals because his team would kick the ball over the defence and he would run onto it and score.
He would always be first to the ball as he was more physically developed than the other teams players.
Yes, this football may be successful at the age, but what happens when everyone grows up to his size? The beauty of this new style of football is that size doesn’t matter. Look at Barcelona, an average height of five foot six.
From what I can see, we are entering a new chapter of the style of football, and it can only be for the better.
If we are to follow suit as a nation and preach this style, we need to start putting style ahead of results and for our youngsters so that they can develop into the next breed of Brisbane Roar-like footballers and future Socceroos.
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