Although incredibly, Wilson's famously encyclopaedic brain has forgotten that putting a centreback upfront almost saw Barcelona through to the European Cup final this year:
There are those who protest at [Spain's] lack of goals (no side has reached the final scoring fewer) but they are a classic example of a team that prefers to control the game than to become obsessed by creating chances. Perhaps they at times become mesmerised by their passing, perhaps there is even something attritional about it, wearing opponents down until they make the mistake, but it is beautiful attrition. Those who have protested at the modern Holland, and their supposed betrayal of the heritage of Total Football, which is being painted as the ne plus ultra of attacking football, should perhaps look back at the European Cup finals of 1971-73 when Ajax expressed their mastery by holding the ball for long periods. Frankly, if they ever faced a side who took them on rather than sitting eight men behind the ball, we may see a more overtly attacking Spain.
Which brings us to Germany. They too play a 4-2-3-1 and, although Philipp Lahm breaks forward occasionally, theirs is essentially a defensive set-up. Here again goals are the great betrayers; it was bewildering how much praise was heaped on their supposedly fresh, open approach just because they scored four goals in three games. This Germany was superb on the counter-attack, and the interaction of the front four of Miroslav Klose, Thomas Müller, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil was at times breathtaking. But this was reactive football.
In three games, Germany scored an early first goal – against Argentina and England, it was essentially handed to them – and in those games they ruthlessly took advantage of the space opponents left behind them as they chased an equaliser. England, Argentina and Australia all defended idiotically against them, and were severely punished. In the other three games, teams defended decently against them and the early goal didn't arrive surrounded by watercress on a silver salver. In those games Germany managed one goal, and that a wonder-strike from Ozil. Against Spain their poverty of ideas was such they ended up sending the lumbering centre-back Per Mertesacker forward as an auxiliary striker, an idea so bereft of subtlety that the only time I remember it working was when Dennis Smith once sent Gary Bennett forward for Sunderland against Oxford in 1990.
Friday, 9 July 2010
Jonathan Wilson's tactical survey of the World Cup focusses on Spain, while also reassuring me over my own sanity:
Posted by Sam Davies at 13:32