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South America's wayward footballing stereotypes

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Tim Vickery | 06:53 UK time, Monday, 3 August 2009

In major tournaments earlier this decade, the Brazilian press consistently irritated me by heaping praise on the England side. They're much better than they were, they've made great technical progress, it's no longer just kick and rush - that type of thing.

Firstly the pallid, stagnant football produced by the Sven-Goran Eriksson's side in its three big tournaments was unworthy of such plaudits.

Secondly, the observation was plain wrong. In terms of the skill level, the desire to impose themselves on a game and even a sense of joyful expression, Sven's sides could not hold a candle to those served up by an illustrious predecessor - Bobby Robson.

So why the confusion?

Sir Bobby Robson at Italia '90

Partly it's because the media over here have only discovered English football in the past decade, so they leap to the idea that everything has changed for the better, that the foreign imports have done wonders for the technical level of the English game and that this has rubbed off on the national team.

And the other explanation is that they are happy with the stereotype. English football equals kick and rush.

Some 20 years ago, in the run up to the 1990 World Cup, then-coach of Colombia Francisco Maturana had this to say about English football. In 1988 his team had drawn 1-1 at Wembley with Bobby Robson's England, an event of huge importance to Colombian football, which merited some comments.

"Look at what's happened with Robson," he wrote. "He likes a more Brazilian style of play. He has good players and has achieved some good results, but the English public have never warmed to his team because their taste is for long balls, headers, players who give everything for the cause."

Maturana was wrong. The English public was captivated by the run of Robson's excellent team to the Italia '90 semi-finals. It's fair to say that England's 1990 campaign helped enlarge the market for the new expensive prices charged in domestic grounds, and thus greatly facilitated the launch of the Premier League.

But the Colombian coach was far closer to the mark when he hinted at the contradictory nature of the English game. 'Kick and rush' is a part of the story, no doubt about it. But there is also another side, another school of thought, exemplified by Robson and some of those quality players Maturana mentioned.

There's a current that wants to get the ball on the ground and play a more elaborate game. Part of the fascination of English football has historically been the tugs between these rival philosophies. It explains why the country can produce the likes of Trevor Brooking, Glenn Hoddle and Ray Wilkins - and then castigate them for not getting 'stuck in.'

Much more interesting that the lazy stereotype is the battle inside a culture to resolve its own contradictions - a sentence that applies wonderfully well to the South American game.

Normally rational people can go weak at the knees and lose all their critical faculty when the subject is Brazil. Their game, apparently, is like some giant carnival, all the players doing the samba all over the field in their bid to express themselves, with no concern for defence or tactical formations.

This kind of rot looks ridiculous applied to Dunga's highly pragmatic team of today. But it has always been rubbish. Brazil's defensive record in World Cups is, and always has been, way superior to Germany's.

A key part of their supremacy was a tactical lead - Brazil invented the back four in order to give themselves more defensive cover. Possibly the greatest and most 'Brazilian' of their World Cup winning sides, the 1958 team, didn't concede a single goal until the semi-final.

The line about amazing individual talent is no myth. But in a low scoring game like football a team that gives away cheap goals will not win trophies. The story of Brazilian football is one of a search for balance between attack and defence, of finding the collective formation that leaves the team protected and gives the stars a platform to shine.Esteban Cambiasso scores for Argentina against Serbia in the 2006 World Cup

Focusing on the quest for balance may not be as glamorous as treating the thing as a giant carnival - but it's much closer to the truth, and much more interesting.

Then there's Uruguay. There is an entertaining and informative book on the 1970 World Cup, 'Back Home,' by Jeff Dawson. But it is unfair to the sky blues. At the end of normal time in the quarter-final against the USSR, writes Dawson, "it is hardly surprising that the score is that old Uruguayan party piece, 0-0."

Now, in Switzerland just 16 years before - that's the length of a single career - Uruguay had beaten Scotland 7-1, England 4-2 and then lost their first ever World Cup game, going down 4-2 after extra time to the great Hungarians.

When World Soccer magazine was first born in 1960, its debut issue carried a report on this match as the best ever played. But the stereotype of Uruguay has them grinding out goalless draws and kicking people. There have been times when this has been true but it is far from the whole story.

It is probably the case that the blanket defence and the violence were a reaction to Uruguay's loss of status in the game. The first kings, as football caught on in popularity such a small country was destined to lose its crown, and reacted angrily.

We could go on and on. Argentina's 'bad boy' stereotype has at times been justified. They are never likely to be amongst the world's best losers. But there are few countries in the world that retain such a romantic conception of passing football - who else could have come up with a collective work of art like the Esteban Cambiasso goal against Serbia in the last World Cup?

Bobby Robson, of course was on the end of both the cynical and the sublime in Argentine football with the two Diego Maradona goals that knocked England out of Mexico '86.

Robson took it in his gentlemanly stride, and was back four years later with an even better team, one that showed - for those sufficiently open minded to pay attention - that there is more to the English game than the lazy stereotype of kick and rush.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I see Palermo have signed Javier Pastore who, from what I've read, has been tipped as a future superstar of the game. I've even read one journalist claim he could have the same impact on Palermo as Maradona had on Napoli after joining them back in the 1980s. Is he really as good as I've read, and how do you think he'll adapt to Serie A?
William Shand

A) I know I sound like a stuck record on this, but I wish he'd stayed with Huracan a while longer. Under coach Angel Cappa it was a perfect environment for him to develop. He's very talented but I fear he might find Serie A a bit of a shock. The Maradona comparison is silly - perhaps there's more of the Brazilian Socrates in his game - tall, elegant, long striding, good use of the backheel giving an extra dimension to his game. My fear, though, is that he'll find himself squeezed out, without the time and space to pick his passes. I'd love to be proved wrong, though.

Q) I was wondering how would you rate Cristian and Andre Santos from Corinthians? They have recently moved to Fenerbahce which is my home town team.
Tad Serter

A) You might have had a look at Andre Santos during the Confederations Cup, because he won the left back position for Brazil during the competition. He's not quite Roberto Carlos, but he does have the advantage of being 10 years younger. Bursts forward well, physically strong, carries a goal threat, perhaps not the greatest defensively. Could also feature for you on the left side of midfield.
He's something of a late developer, like Cristian, who's also 26. Cristian is an all round midfielder who will be a real loss for Corinthains, because he's been in good form for them. Central midfielder with good lung power, can organise the game from deep and get up to support the strikers and strikes the ball well. Can be a bit fiery, so there could be a doubt about his temperament. Another question mark - how much does he really want to be in Turkey? He cried at the press conference announcing his departure from Corinthians. Will he be able to strike up the same bond with Fener, or is it all about the money?


  • Comment number 1.

    Mr Vickery's articles are almost always thoughtful and well written. I found this one to be a bit scattered though. Yes I know that it was about examples from different South American countries...I have to say though, that this was not one of my favourites. (Just my humble opinion)
    This is still my fav of all BBC blogs however

  • Comment number 2.

    Tim, love the column every week.

    However I think England's World Cup 1990 team has been somewhat polished by time. The achievement of reaching the semis was a good one, but it wasn't done by a technically excellent team.

    England were pretty sterile against Ireland, Holland and Egypt in the group, fortunate against a marginally superior Belgium in second round, very fortunate against a clearly superior Cameroon in the quarters, and then played very well against the Germans in the semis and were a little unlucky to lose.

  • Comment number 3.

    Those who drool over the majesty of Brazil's football should watch the highlights of Mexico 1970.......closely followed by the highlights of USA 1994 (Romario aside) and the answer is probably somewhere in between. That victory shattered some stereotypes but also proved they could adapt.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm interested to see the way we are all creating a Myth around Bobby Robson and his England teams, now that he has passed away. Don't get me wrong. He was a great man, but I was there at Italia 90. I hitch-hiked the length and breadth of Italy watching every single England game and I want to remind you that Robson was lambasted by the press early on in the tournament. He was considered negative, relying too much on an injured Bryan Robson, and a functional if uninspiring Steve MacMahon.

    The genius of Bobby was that he listened to his players. After a woeful opening match against Ireland, he changed to a Back 5, with Mark Wright playing sweeper (sweepers were unheard of in English football back then), releasing Pearce and Parker to exploit the wings. It was a genius stroke, and we took the Dutch on at their own game and held our own. That's when it all changed. MacMahon, and our flat four man midfield, was replaced by a more mobile force including Gazza, Platt, Waddle and Barnes, and the full-backs overlapping on the wings, and we were terrific. But it came out of adversity.

    Same with Mexico '86. Wilkins and Bryan Robson - flat midfield and we sucked. When Wilkins got sent off and Robson injured, Bobby was forced to make changes, bringing in effectively a 5 man midfield with Beardsley, Hodge, Waddle, Steven and Reid. We were suddenly terrific.

    The genius of Bobby Robson was that when things went bad, he listened to his players, and adapted. He was not without flaws (his 4-4-2 formations always blew), but he was a gentleman, and I'll always treasure the autograph he signed for me in Sardinia, just after that Holland game.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Tim, love the blogs, big fan.

    Off topic slightly, just wondering why you think south american flair players such as Deco of Chelsea stuggle in the premier league in recent times, like Deco did in the league towards the second half of last season.

    After all he started the season fantastically but he dipped severely after Christmas and Hiddink was reluctant to play him at all. I see Ancelotti has featured Deco in a number of pre-season friendlies, I just hope we get to see the full potential of Deco this season (providing he does'nt move to José Mourinho at Internazional).

    I know the physical side of it plays a huge part but I saw Deco as a Paul Scholes type player who could ride a challenge and still play the killer ball, I also think Deco plays in the same mould as Iniesta has emerged from last season, and if Deco can emmulate this style of play then Chelsea can play "sexy" football ala Barcelona with Deco at the heart of it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Spot on about Brazil, Tim. Hopefully some commentators will read it and adjust their hyperbole accordingly.

    "No-one plays like Brazil." No, except Mexico, Portugal, Spain...

  • Comment number 7.

    I usually love reading your blogs Tim but this was just a number of items you routinely bang out about Brazil bookended by Bobby Robson. I don't like it when people are negative about blogs but I look forward to your insights on South American football and this left me dissappointed. Can't wait for the next one!

  • Comment number 8.

    I think with players like Messi Argentina have started get back the more beautiful image that has be associated with them in the past - obviously Tevez' disciplinary record doesn't help.

    Maybe it's just the fact they have the odd dirty player - therefore drawing collective assumptions from the uneducated and for people that watch the Argentine national league.


  • Comment number 9.

    Isnt English gentlemanly an example of lazy stereotyping? Just think of the Butcher type of defenders that the English team has produced over the years, they could very gentlemanly break your legs.

  • Comment number 10.

    You're very harsh on Eriksson as well, Tim.

    England didn't play great football at World Cup 2006, althouigh there was a decent 2-2 draw with Sweden.

    At Euro 2004 though there were some excellent performances, notably from Lampard and Rooney. The 2-1 defeat to France was disappointing,but the 4-2 win over Croatia was an excellent game, the eventual exit to Portugal in the quarter finals was disappointing but it was 2-2 and if Rooney hadn't broken his foot in that match the result could have been different.

    At World Cup 2002 England beat Argentina, and then took on Brazil in the QFs with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo all in their prime with a half-fit Beckham/Owen and the likes of Emile Heskey, Nicky Butt and Trevor Sinclair in the team. I think it's harsh to blame Eriksson for that defeat, even if the Brazilians were down to 10 men. There comes a point when you have to say 'we're a quarter final team' and that was a quarter final team.

    I do agree with the points you make about the conflict between football styles in England. I think a perfect example is Michael Carrick. He's been at the heart of a Man Utd team that have won three titles in a row and reached the last two Champions League finals. Somehow he still has his doubters. But he is a player in the mould of some that you mentioned like Brooking, Wilkins and there are still critics who say he needs to get 'stuck in' and that Man Utd lack an aggressive midfield player. He is frequently compared in a negative way with Keane, when I think he's superior to Keane in so many aspects of the game.

  • Comment number 11.

    cor...what a rubbish, pointless article!!
    I got so bored half way through I thought " what the hell is this guy trying to contrive?"
    rubbish rubbish rubbish

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim, I have always hated stereotypes and I think they are one of football's biggest enemies. Quick generalisations are used by the unintelligent to try to win pointless arguments. Of course it must also be said that the alternative would be hours of sifting through evidence to come up with a more rounded conclusion - and in a sense your own article demonstrates that. If you have a word limit and a deadline it is impossible to put every piece of necessary evidence into the text, so those who have criticised the article (and not the facts) should think on.

  • Comment number 13.

    Stereotypes are a fact of life. Not just in football. But in politics. In life in general too.

    They are often wrong - that's true - but people need them in order to cope.

    You might see a gang of lads, they look drunk, you cross the road to avoid them. 99.9 times out of a hundred, they'd be no problem. But you dont want to take that chance. They're probably as nice a bunch as you could ever meet. You cross the road and get hit by a car!

    That's how life is.

    But it's no bad thing to be reminded of it from time to time. We shouldnt take our stereotypes TOO seriously.

  • Comment number 14.

    No 5: It's called the British winter.

    If he stays at Chelsea we could see a vast improvement on last seasons xmas period from him, now he has had time to acclimatise.

  • Comment number 15.

    'Kick 'n' rush' I've not heard that expression concerning English football since.......... oh Stoke City last season!!
    The truth is English football has shown some(perceived)improvement over recent years, whether this is due to the influx of foreign players (from Brazil and elsewhere) or improved technical coaching etc, I'm not sure. What is clear is that within our Premier Division we have widely differing styles of play exhibited i.e. the 'pass, pass, pass' from such as Arsenal and 'up and under' from such as Stoke - the overall entertainment value is fantastic as all clubs are having to adopt styles of play to suit their available personnel -'cutting the cloth'etc. However this should not be confused with the level of the English game at international level -watching Fabio's team, for the first time in 40 years I feel something akin to the 66' side in range of football skills, professionalism and methods of man-management is beginning to happen - maybe, just maybe, I will witness another England World Cup victory in my lifetime?
    Good blog Tim.

  • Comment number 16.

    every team has a pragmatic element. the best footballing sides with all their grace and style undoubtledly have an element of steel to their play. look at barca this season, all the style in the world, but with key enforcers like Toure and Pique. Without a pragmatic approach you won't succeed in football.

  • Comment number 17.

    Another 'stereotype' is that England were great in 1990.

    Well they weren't. In fact they were pedestrian in most of the games.

    They scraped past an average Belgium team right at the death of ET, in a match where Belgium were by far the better side with a dozen of clear cut chances. And they should have lost to Cameroon (not exactly the best team of the tournament either) as for most of the game they were battered from all directions, but we all know how they got their winning goals.

    Italia 90 is hyped up because of England's complete lack of success, therefore reaching a semi let alone being competitive in it feels like winning the whole thing. I recall they'd done a whole celebration and parade at the airport as if they'd won the cup, just like a small nation starved of success would do. So starved in fact they've even made dvds of England beating Argentina in a friendly and Germany in a qualifier (of a tournament where Germany reached the final).

    England fans show sympathy for Gasgoine for butchering his opponent instead of blaming him for poor play. Gazza said the other night it wasn't even a foul whilst watching a replay showing he chopped him down big style. Some England fans even think Campbell's goal vs Portugal should have stood.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm amazed that Brazil have such a good defensive record in world cups. Apart from USA 94 I can't remember them looking rock solid. Or is that that my mind looking for reasons to think of them as weak defenders as I've always been told?

  • Comment number 19.

    have always the articles here, especially ones by you.

    i thought sven goran eriksson did well for england, albeit they didnt win anything. but he did better than the previous managers. england played some exciting football under eriksson.

  • Comment number 20.

    The players available to Robson during his tenure as England's boss were arguably better than those in Sven's era. There was certainly no Beardsley-Lineker world class partnership. Nor was there a Gazza to offer the 'joyful expression' so glibly mentioned, including the occasional tendency to idiocy.

    England's teams under Sven cannot be compared to those of Germany, Brazil, Italy, etc; but they finished in the top eight in the world. The loss to the eventual champions (Brazil) on rather an unusual goal, after a more than good performance versus Argentina could be viewed in a positive light.

    It may also be noted that he recognized England's almost total lack of forwards and was brave enough to use Crouch - a definite success. He also had the audacity to take Walcott although never seeing the opportunity to use him.

    In retrospect, Sven seems more maligned than his record suggests.

  • Comment number 21.

    As always, this guy has no idea about summarising. You've got to be pretty bored or experiencing inertia to read all of his article. I always find him very unnecessarilly wordy. I am not surprised that I
    have failed to see his point: That he found the football played under Sven Goran Erikson pallid. No wonder he cant see the reason why Brazilians were entralled. I get a feeling that many criticise Erikson for getting their FA to pay a decent package than anything else. Now they are at it again for their failure to see what he wants in the league 2 outfit- Notts County.Mostly, they are angry that he has not made it clear to them what it is. Fantastic, did anyone expect him to come and declare his plans and intentions? You allowed Middle eastern financiers to buy the club but its apparent that you are unhappy for Sven to be engaged in this club. He was unfairly sacked from Man City although he had a smaller budget he qualified for UEFA but look Hughes who spent a fortune could'nt do better than 10th. When he was England's manager qualification was easier then he was replaced by a homeboy who was disastrous.

    I think Erikson is unfairly targeted by media when they fail to see what is abundantly clear about home boys. Take martin O'neil and Mark Hughes. Mark is currently preparing a rope with which he will be hanged while O'Neil's shortcomings are never mentioned. When last season started Villa was primed to be the new big thing and join top 4. They failed to even reach top 5 because of inept manager who had wrong type of players. No, he is still under radar. O'reilly the other day said he reached 6th with no spening yet O'neil spent a fortune to get where he was and still no word from media.

  • Comment number 22.

    No. 5: Although he was born in, and played in Brazil in his early career, his time at Porto and Barcelona (as well as playing against the uber physical eastern European teams for Portugal) should've have gone some way to help his adaptation to the English game. Deco's problem seems to be his attitude, plus at 30 it is harder to adjust your game.

    I'd be interested to know your views on Lucas Leiva though Tim. I am a Liverpool fan, and I was so excited when I learnt we were signing him, but all that promise didn't seem to surface. The Liverpool fans seem to be on his back all of the time. I believe he has so much promise, but its the physical nature of our leagues over the Brazilian ones that seem to cause the problem. Now that he's had a couple of seasons here, and he's openly discussed the "bulk up" program that Rafa had him on, and with Alonso sadly leaving, I believe with the fans support he'll become a quality player.

  • Comment number 23.

    10 subterranean

    Carrick is not in the same league as Keano --get real.
    Or is it because he is an englishman make him better ?

    Italia 90 England were lucky to get that far as they were very poor.

    For me the 1970 World cup side were the best side England has had --
    Banks , Moore .Ball ,Terry Cooper etc---a better team than actually won it in 1966 IMO

  • Comment number 24.

    Slightly off topic..........Going back to England under Robson in between Mexico 86 and Italia 90 there was the little matter of Euro 88, they lost all 3 group games I seem to remember. This shouldn't detract from all of his achievements but it's been conveniently glossed over in the preceding days by pundits and hacks lavishing praise on him (probably many of them gulity of subjecting him to vicious treatment in the past) -a fair and balanced assessment of his career shouldn't ignore this.

  • Comment number 25.

    The players available under Robson were without question superior to the one's under Sven. An England 11 made up of the 2 side's, '86-90 and '02-06 would be (in my opinion)
    Only 4 of Svens to 7 of Robsons, with Waddle, Platt, Beardsley, and Wright on the bench as well. We need to realize that Sven actually did well with the players he had, Robson did what he should have done with the players at his disposal.

  • Comment number 26.

    Tim I like your articles but the only reason most of us football fans have these stereotypes is down to the media. They have some influence on most of the fans.

    You consistently bring up the fact about Brazil and their defence which you then show is nonsense with your fact about less goals than Germany etc.. do you not think this stereotype comes largely from the era when one of the players in the team said it didnt matter about their defence because if the opposition scored 3 Brazil would score 4...??

  • Comment number 27.

    Tim, is it the case that Brazilians remember the great rivalry of 1966 and 1970, when comparing the quality of English football over the years? Or do they view those teams as being kick and rush also?
    My view of England is that they have always been very difficult to watch, and frequently embarassed by teams who are prepared to play with more freedom of expression. However, the sense of expectation placed upon our team, and the critical and often brutal reaction of the press and public, has to be considered as one of the main reasons for the stilted play.
    One of the commentors pointed out that it was after major injury enforced changesw to Sir Bobbys teams, that they began to play well. Perhaps the back-up players, playing in a hastily constructed systems, feel less tension?

  • Comment number 28.

    Good part of the Brazilian press is made of people without a Journalism degree and in the sports department it is even worse. Very few of the old generation that have been around for ages are the ones that creates these stereotypes. Unfortunately, the new generation with journalism degrees have not been around for long enough to have a good understanding of football as all they know about football is since Romario and Bebeto won 94 World Cup. Ask around in Brazil who knows who was Sir Bobby Robson? Bobby who?
    I could not compare the level of journalism that I see in the UK with what I see when I go on holidays in Brazil. The difference is abysmal. Those round table discussions about fooball on Sunday night are all about football stereotyping. By the way, I do have a degree in Journalism as I used to dream about covering Olympics and World Cups, but gave this up as I wouldn't cope with the job's stress.
    The reason why the Brazilian press heap praise on the England side since earlier this decade is because of the ascension of the Premierleague with the influx of foreign money and players and the growth of the internet that allows the world to see what is going on in the European fooball leagues. Personally I belive Mr & Mrs Beckham might have a part on this influence too.
    Stereotypes will always be going around, some true some not, but people chose to believe whatever they want to. It is annoying to read the ones we don't agree with, but that's life.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm now heading into my 47 th year a loyal and honest Scotland fan, England have had the ammo in the type and number of players they've had over the years but done diddly squat with them.
    Was there not a players mutiny concerning Mr Robson when they thought he was going about the team all the wrong way?
    He was a fine Ambassador for England and Football in general. Taking an Ipswich team to European Glory itself would get him a Royal Wedding now let alons a Knighthood.

  • Comment number 30.

    Talking about stereotypes, let us add a few popular ones, as promoted by the media and conveniently used by press and public to support various views and arguments:

    - La Liga defenses are weak and leak goals.

    - British teams & sportsmen are brave / heroic / give their all / get stuck in / have fighting spirit / never say die attitude.

    - Platini/Blatter/Uefa hate England and conspire against its clubs.

    - Spanish/Italian/latin players dive and cheat.

  • Comment number 31.

    #30 Nibs

    Your opinion is based on this anti-English agenda you seem to have (see message history) so you'll excuse me if I don't find your comments particularly credible.

  • Comment number 32.

    I remember Gazza not so long ago lamenting the coaching system in England. He was talking about kids having great technical ability but getting knocked back because they were too small to cut it in a physical league, or just plain "ruined" (for want of a better word) by the need for effort and endeavour over skill and technical ability.

    Andres D'Alessandro who was rumoured to have been denied by West Ham for his size shut his critics up with some majestic displays of skill and passing for Pompey... and on THAT pitch as well.

    It's about time English kids were given the chance to shine anyway, but the skillful ones even more so!

    And on a side note, Futsal should be the mandatory sport in schools to aid this.

  • Comment number 33.

    Tim, love the column, and appreciate what you have tried to do this week by relating South American misconceptions of English football (with reference to Sir Bobby Robson) to English misconceptions of the South American game.

    I am often amused by our very English attitude to Brazil and Argentina. Attitudes seemingly coloured by politics and a handful of games - say Brazil in 1970 and Argentina in 1966 and 1986. Thus, Brazil are the samba kings who play for the love of the game.. unlike those nasty cynical Argentinians!
    Clearly rubbish of course - but it won't stop your BBC colleagues trotting out the cliches from their sofa next summer.. seemingly oblivious to the ball-playing team Maradona is trying to assemble.. even now trying to find a role for Veron.. while the prospect of Gilberto Silva still looms large for the functional Brazilian midfield.

    Given that this article is about challenging misconceptions however, I feel compelled to discuss England's Italia 90 campaign.. I watched the full length re-run of the England vs Germany game at the weekend - how we have allowed ourselves to believe we outplayed Germany in that semi-final is beyond me. Matthaeus and Hassler ran the show against our 5-3-1-1 as we completely surrendered the midfield and chased shadows for the best part of 2 hours. Robson had by this point long abandoned Hoddle and Wilkins and more recently discarded John Barnes. Despite the presence of a sweeper it was not a million miles away from typical English kick and rush I'm sad to say. Our normal time record in that tournament was 1-5-0 and I still recall the global dismay of our scarcely deserved victory over Cameroon. Indeed, there is an essay to be written about the Italia 90 misconception alone!

  • Comment number 34.

    nibs (post 17) - what are you on?????
    "England fans show sympathy for Gasgoine for butchering his opponent" - butchering??? Tripped, yes, but if you think "tripped" equates to "butchering", I suggest you buy a dictionary. Actually, I'll help you out, here's a link to one:
    And "Some England fans even think Campbell's goal vs Portugal should have stood"???? I'm sure you'll find an overwhelming majority of fans (not just England!) say that it should have stood! What was it disallowed for - "looking at the keeper in a funny way" wasn't it? Unfortunately many refs think that if a keeper is beaten to a ball, then it must be a foul.
    Your comments are quite ludicrous, if you can't say anything of worth, don't bother.

  • Comment number 35.

    obviously a bit of a backlash against 1990 going on!
    i saw somone talking about a poor performance against Holland - not the way I remember it at all - and also i think england never got the credit desrved for the belgiumperformance. Someone descrbed them as average- i though the 1990 belgians were a fair bit better than the side that had reachedthe semis in 86 - though that was a terrific game.

    What about the maracana in 84? Admitteldly it wasn't the strongest brazil team - more of a scratch line up of rio players, though there were some great names in the defence. And it was a friendly as well - but england were coming off a run of awful results, and robson came to rio and played 2 novice wingers (Barnes and Chamberlain) and a nove centre forward in Hateley - won 2-0, did it in style.

  • Comment number 36.

    Comment No5, I always thought Deco was Portuguese. Isn't he?

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Tim,

    I have to agree with you on the the stereotypes so many teams have to combat in international football these days. Whereas some have merit, many of them are plainly out of date. Brazilian samba football has been non-existant since '94, Italian catenaccio has not been around for the last couple of World Cups, Holland no longer stick to the 4-3-3 system of old...

    Some however, have continued to persist and one of these is the kick and rush style of England's play, although this has often been replaced by hit-a-long-diagonal-ball-to-noone-in-particular-and-hope-one-of-Beckham's-freekicks-corners-results-in-a-goal...

    Although Robson's side had some very talented technical players, I see less evidence of this in the current batch. If I'm not wrong, Joe Cole is still the only England player who feels comfortable with both feet (leaving aside an occasional left-footed cross from Becks). All too often, England find themselves completely exposed against the more challenging sides and as they sink deeper and deeper into their own half seem to revert to type, bombing long balls over... Rooney. The fact that it isn't intentional as a tactical ploy doesn't mean that this isn't still the reality of what occurs on the pitch. Some English players, like Beckham, have shown that they can survive and even thrive in the more technically proficient leagues such as Serie A and La Liga, but based on the current batch, it is clear that a significant proportion of England's side still rely on lung power, force of will and the "ability" to get "stuck in". Until this stereotype stops being reflected by reality, England's fans will continue to have their side's tactics referred to as kick and rush.

  • Comment number 38.

    as someone pointed out, the 70 team were excellent as well - though perhaps their record shows that they played much, much better losing to brazil and west germany than beating romania and the czechs.
    certainly the brazil 70 team had total respect for england, and often say that the 1-0 win in the group game was where they won the cup - guarantedd them an easier passage to the final.
    But the thing about the 66-70 team that always fascinates and annoys me is the debate in england will focus on their lion hearted qualities, and abroad on 'that' goal. What gets missing here - perhaps because it fits no one's stereotype - is the tactical lead they had, with 4-4-2 - the double function of peters and ball giving a platform fo bobby charlton. I know ex-brazil coach carlos alberto parreira isa big admirer of the side - refined still further in 70 with the use of attacing full backs. someone mentioned terry cooper - keith newton gets forgotten - but look at the germany game - from right back he sets up two goals and some other chances as well - it's like watching an english cafu a couple of decades early.

  • Comment number 39.

    Is it just me or are we all missing the obvious in relation to Brazil?

    They might not have been blessed with a production line of World Class defenders but this was balanced out by the fact they had sublime midfielders and forwards.
    What did this mean? They retained possession for large portions of matches which meant their defenders were very rarely put under pressure.
    Its not rocket science is it?

    As for Englands Italy 90 showing? I agree with the majority that we were pretty poor up until the semi final.
    Struggled through the group which included the might of Egypt and Ireland! Were second best to Belgium and quite clearly second best to an inspired Cameroon who but for naive defending would have knocked us out.
    We raised our game against Germany, but then again we usually do. This is like a domestic derby match where form goes out the window. Still that game could have gone either way.
    In 1988 we were abysmal.
    As for Mexico 86. I thought we were marginally better than 90 even though we didnt get as far. We were shell shocked after Maradonas opener and were still reeling when he scored THE GOAL. If you watch the match again Argentina didnt create much else and if we had introduced Barnes at half time we may have turned it around as finished stronger.

    As for Ericssons reign? Lamentable. He was star struck and allowed the names to pick themselves. Never had the courage to pick the right midfield.

  • Comment number 40.

    Julio Baptista, when playing for Arsenal, was asked about adapting to life in English football complained about the physical "teams from the North of England, who kick it long"! Loved that quote, especially from a guy nicknamed The Beast.

    No.36 - Deco was born in Brazil but later took Potuguese citizenship.

    That might actually be an idea for a column for you Tim - looking at South Americans who play for other national teams. I reckon you could put together a decent XI - Deco & Marcos Senna in the middle of the pitch, Guille Franco & David Trezeguet (who I think could play have played for Argentina) up front, Mauro Camoranesi wide right. Not a bad start!

  • Comment number 41.

    To Seventeeth at No.20 (you were a bit late this time?!) are having a laugh about Sven and his fowards in 2006 aren't you...!?
    Crouch was great, but he played up front by himelf because there was no-one else - next in line were Lampard or Cole! Under those circumstances, to not see an opportunity to play Walcott even as a sub is ludicrous - what further opportunity was required (than losing all the other forwards in your sqaud to injury)!? Eriksson obviously had no intention of playing him, so to take Walcott was a waste of a squad position...
    England under Sven - were boring and had NO Fight - end of story...neither could be said of Robson's teams...2004 was fun....because of Rooney and Rooney only
    To say that he had no talent with players like Beckham, Owen, Coles A&J, Gerrard, Scholes, Ferdinand is nonsense....if they did not achieve as much as their promise showed, then the buck stops with the manager...

  • Comment number 42.

    What happened to your usually 'informative' biased blog on South American football? This is just a rant, plain and simple.

  • Comment number 43.

    39 - the 'obvious' in relation to brazil that you mention is an example of the stereotyping we're talking about. Not blessed with world class defendes? Brazil have had hundreds - you might not know, for example, domingos da guia or orlando pecanha, but these are legends in the south american game (in the case of these two, in uruguay and argentina as well) at a time when the talent did not drain to europe.

    1970 is a bit misleading - the crop wasn't the greatest, and hence coach zagallo dropped piazza from midfield to centre back. But in general tis is not a brazilian weak point. 94 is the best example - they lost their 3 first choice centre backs - ricardo gomes and mozer on the eve of the competitiion, ricardo rocha in the first game - and aldair and marcio santos were immaculate. Brazil didn't even call up truly great players like mauro galvao and julio cesar.

  • Comment number 44.


    Agree about the Holland performance - they were European Champions at the time and I think Barnes had a good goal disallowed while Bull and Waddle also went close. And yes, given the Brazil result in '84 you'd have thought South American regard for the England team would be going down rather than up these days. Its perhaps too easy to go down the road of picking out individual results from down the decades though.
    On reflection, I think England's ability and style has remained fairly static over the past 30 years - this is borne out by the not wildly different results at 82/86/90/98/02/06 WCs - qualifying from 1st group stage each time but never making a final. For every Waddle and Hoddle back then there was a more functional Reid or McMahon. Likewise Gerrard and Rooney appear alongside a Crouch or a Heskey now. In truth, I accept the point that it is a curiosity that this South American perception of a sea-change in English football exists - lets just not lionise the teams of the 80s too much!

  • Comment number 45.

    You only have to look at the clubs that Brazilian defenders and keepers play for to realise that they can't exactly be second rate:

    Lucio - Inter (transferred from Bayern Munich)
    Juan - Roma
    Julio Cesar - Inter
    Alex - Chelsea
    Thiago Silva - AC Milan

    We're not talking Accrington Stanley here

    The likes of Roque Junior haven't done the cause any favours unfortunately, especially after his truely awful performances for Leeds.

  • Comment number 46.

    Tim point taken but i think you get my drift. Your back 4 doesnt have much to do if the front 6 are playing keep ball.

    It means when we usually watch Brazil in major comps or WC qualifying we dont all sit and admire the defending because invaraibly they dont have to do much of it. I remember Brazilian goalkeepers used to take stick but like you say, how many goals do they actually concede?

    In my opinion,ironically the most high profile defenders to play in Europe, Cafu and Roberto Carlos, are actually better players offensively.
    Lucio has never tested himself in Europes elite leagues has he? He looks good in Germany but so does Andriy Voronin so its hardly a ringing endorsement. Hyypia has just been put out to pasture in the Bundesliga.

    Talking of defenders, out of interest how good is this Dodo lad? Have you seen much of him?

  • Comment number 47.'ve selected a massive 4 defenders! The keeper at Inter was largely responsible for their exit from the CL, he was indecisive on 2 crosses which lead to 2 headed goals.

    I like Alex and Lucio( i will be interested to see how he does at Inter). Not seen enough of Thiago or Juan.

    Interestingly 4 of the 5 you mention will all ply their trade in Serie A next season. Now acknowledged as the third strongest league in Europe.

    How would they all do in the Prem or La Liga? The fact that Alex plays second fiddle to the pedestrian Terry is not a ringing endorsement although IMHO a Carvalho/Alex combo is Chelseas best pairing but Terry is the man who cant be dropped.

  • Comment number 48.

    Unfortunately, as Tim points out, stereotypes do seem to continue to inform fans' perceptions of teams, coaches and footballing traditions.

    I'm not sure that it is all the supporter's fault though. The standard of coverage on football in this country is woeful when compared with other sports. Watching the Ashes this year there is the very informative "3rd man" feature, which tries, successfully, to explain subtleties in the match which the casual viewer may have missed. Similarly in the Tennis there was a fantsatic segment on Roger Federer's foot movement from his semi-final win, explaining something that certainly I had missed when watching the match live; that he arrives prepared for the ball quicker than his opponent, and seems to anticipate it better also.

    Too often coverage of football falls short of these standards. I rather like to think I can figure out for myself that Man Utd are playing Wayne Rooney wide on the left rather than up front, for instance, or that Celtic are playing with two wingers who cut in from the flanks onto their stronger feet, but this seems to be the extent of the expert analysis provided by footballing commentators when the match is live. This, of course, plus the "Take a bow", "What a hit" hyperbole that we're routinely patronised with. David Pleat and Alan Hansen are the only notable exceptions I can think of.

    I remember being infuriated by Graeme Souness at the CL Semi final 2nd leg. He said, almost in passing, that Barcelona had just given the most impressive display of a team without the ball that he had ever seen. For goodness sakes half of the game is played without the ball, and yet instead of a proper analysis of why Barca were so historically impressive in this respect, Sky's coverage reverted to type; howling, jingoistic indignation at the referee's performance plus a painfully symplistic roll-call of Chelsea's missed chances.

    It might not bu such a surprise in this context that footballing perceptions continue to be informed predominantly by stereotype!

  • Comment number 49.

    21 - Goonerbeall - could you 'summarise' your comment, please? Couldn't be asked to read the LONG comment after the negative first sentence or two.

  • Comment number 50.

    No. 34 - "And "Some England fans even think Campbell's goal vs Portugal should have stood"???? I'm sure you'll find an overwhelming majority of fans (not just England!) say that it should have stood! What was it disallowed for?"

    This comment inspired me to look at the incident again on YouTube. I would suggest it was disallowed for John Terry getting nowhere near the ball whilst deliberately jumping into the goalkeeper with an arm outstretched, allowing Campbell to nod home. Good decision by the ref.

  • Comment number 51.

    #46 Emmm I think he didn't get your drift seeing as he completely rubbished your point..

  • Comment number 52.

    #47 - Are you seriously judging Julio Cesar on the basis of two games?? IIRC, he was outstanding in the first of the games against United.

    Either way, with his consistently high performances last season, I would suggest there's a strong argument that he's usurped Buffon and Cassilas as the finest keeper in the world now.

  • Comment number 53.

    #50. I don't have access to YouTube at the moment, but as I said, I think it was disallowed for "looking at the keeper in a funny way"! Or perhaps (perhaps) more seriously, it was for having the audacity to go for the same ball as the keeper. Unfortunately, keepers are so molly-coddled that players aren't allowed to challange them. And this has been going on for so long that fans are starting to accept it. It really won't be long before football becomes a non-contact sport. Seriously!

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    I disagree about Sven's team - they played reasonable football and would have done as well as Robson at the World Cup, if not for an upstart named Ronaldinho.
    I agree that the 'carnival' style of Brazilian soccer is a misnomer. They 'get stuck in' more than any other team. Yes they play nice footy but if things are not going well they can resort to hacking. (Particularly memorable instance of that was US vs Brazil in the US held world cup)

  • Comment number 56.

    Tim - I believe that you are over-hyping Robson's achievements from 86 to 90.

    Firstly, you have conveniently forgot to mention the Euro Championships in which we lost all 3 games in 1988 under Robson.

    Secondly, in 1986, we lost to the first real opponents we came up against. A loss to a poor Portugal team and a draw to Morocco almost saw us go out at the 1st stage but 3-0 wins against teams you would expect us to beat (Poland and Paraguay) got us to the Q-Fs therefore I would not put this down as an achivement over anything Ericsson did (plus the performances against Portugal and Morocco were terrible!!!!).

    Thirdly, in 1990, we won only 1 game in 90 minutes so to make out we played expansive great football is a myth. The 1-1 draw with Rep of Ireland was the worst game of the tournament. A much better performance against Holland still only resulted in a 0-0 draw and then a 1-0 win against Egypt would not have got the Brazilians drooling....

    In the next round we were expected to beat a workman-like Belgium team but struggled until Platt's great goal in the last minute. Against Cameroon we were close to going out and if we had lost 2-1 I don't believe that the media would have been singing the praises of Robson's team.

    The performance against West Germany in the Semi was our best in the tournament but unfortunately we lost on pens and now we have to put up with Chris Waddle and Terry Butcher berating every England Team that walks on the pitch now as though they were from some golden era.

    Yet again in 1990 we were par for the course. We would be expected to qualify from the group, beat Belgium and Cameroon but lost (albeit on pens) to the 1st real opposition faced.

    If the draw opens up again IF we qualify in 2010 then we have a chance but to see the 80s/90s as a great era is just not true....

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm still laughing at Goonerbeall complaining about Tim Vickery's blog being too wordy! Pots and black kettles I feel!

  • Comment number 58.

    Goonerbeall's comment about lackof summary is way off - the problem with this piece is excess of scope - i've tried to cram too much into one article and it reads a bit scattered and messy as a result.

    Still, I'm going to stick to the line that the main point is valid - rater than the stereotype, a good way in to any football culture is an analysis of the conflict between its contradictions - that seems to have been clear enough to the sub-editors, who selected that part as the shout line (thanks, subs!)

    And if we're going to fail, then let it be the consequence of too much ambition rather than not enough - let's be Robson's England rather than Sven's!

  • Comment number 59.

    Good article,

    But there is another type of sterop type that is byproduct of negetaive reaction to the the sterotypes.

    I think you are little behind in this chain of sterotyping counter stertyping to a point to creat another falsd sterotype.
    Now it is fashionable to attack Brazil and "point out" that Brazilians no longer play the Samba and beautiful Football and it (Brazil) is castigated and create another stereotype. Current stereotype of Brazilian by journalist and Boogers like you, and readers IS NOT THAT THEY (Brazil) PLAY SAMBA, but rather they are pragmatic and result oriented that they have abandoned the flair and beautiful game.

    So congratulation to perpetuating the new Brazil stereotype.

    Much like a player who is sighted is being overrate, to the point that he actually becomes underrated.

    No Brazil are not pure Samba and entertainment, but nor are they sterile and pragmatic to a point of being thrown into the same heap with dare I say Spain. Yes, I wathced the confedration cup, with all of their pragmaticism and so unsamba styl;e Brazxilain players still have 1o time more flair than the new stylish kings Spain.
    Brazil still play the most attractive Football. Their So called counter attacking style is nothing but a fast attack.
    If A team builds up slowly and makes 50 passes then it is praised, but if a team attacks in breathtaking speeding, well that is just counter "attacking Football"

    It makes journalist like you, bloggers, and forum participant to think you are so much more knowledgeable by recognizing that Brazil are not all samba Jogo Bonito. Fair enough, but then the exaggerations starts and ridiculous claims are made and the most high scoring team, a team that in a half so overpowered a strong (physicaly strong) US team, to a point where it looked they could have come back from 5 goals down let alone 2, (Spain scored 1 goal in 180 minutes against US)
    dismantling Italy (scoring 3 goals in 90 minutes: Spain managed 0 goals in 120 minutes against the same Italian outfit) is accused of being so unlike Brazil and not worthy of getting the praise when it gets by commentators who are commenting when the game is being played and see with their own eyes, a dazzling dispaly of quick passing and technical skills.

    I have watched Argentina and Spain, and there is no way as team any of these two sides have the flair and technical skills of Brazilians.

    What did Spain do when they played US? Passed and passed and crossed.
    Out of ideas. Skillfull and stylish passres these spainyards, but techincial in techincial ability they are not even inm same level as portugal.

    So please give it a rest that Brazilian style is not as entertaing and stylish as presuammbly claimed (Show me an article that claims this? Only commentatoirs make comments about it AND THEY MAKE THESE COMMENTS AFTER BRAZILIANS PUT TOGETHER A NICE DISPLAY, not muc different than praies heaped an any other team when it displays a certain quality.),
    Brazil still play the most attractive Football, and do not confuse quick lightning fast attack that requires players with skills, pace, and technical abilities with pure counter attacking game. Brazil in their so called counter attacking style still manages to have more possession against teams like Argentina.

  • Comment number 60.

    59 - the point hee is that this is much more than a right or wrong debate. One of the great things about football is that it can be interpreted in different ways - this, to my mind, is one of the great reasons fo its global popularity - the simplicity of the game includes amyriad of options, so different individuals and culturescan express themselves through their approach to football.

    Like every one else, I have a right to havemy own preferences on how the game is played - it so happens that i far prefer a central midfield with Falcao and Toninho Cerezo to one with Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo - in my personal view - and that's all it is- the game flows better and is more attractive. As a football fan, iotsaddens me that some in Brazil don't see it that way - but that's all part of the debate. Let it rage!

  • Comment number 61.

    It's difficult not to generalise but I think the fans in England and the FA do have a preference towards the "kick and rush". They have a preference towards a very physical style of football (no blood, no foul)and do not protect skilled players. In fact, much derision is hurled at highly skilled players in the PL if they do not "fight through" challenges. In Italy, Spain, Brazil and Argentina, players are given more freedom without defenders obstructing, clutching, grabbing, kicking shins and pulling shirts.

  • Comment number 62.


    Lower League fans maybe... I rather doubt kick & rush will be tolerated at Anfield, Old Trafford or the Emirates for a prolonged period of time these days.

    Another decent blog Mr Vickery. Most stereotypes are busted at some stage. Even the Dutch stopped playing 4-3-3 and utilising decent wingers a long time ago.

  • Comment number 63.

    I don't remember that the British public was "captivated" by Robson's England teams until the KO stages of Italia 90. Personally, I always thought his England teams by far the best of my lifetime (beginning just before the 1966 world cup), and remain so. But at the time the media ridiculed Robson mercilessly, and most fans seemed happy to go along.

  • Comment number 64.

    Who could be captivated by a group so dull drawing lots had to decide who was to face the Germans in Milan? :D

  • Comment number 65.

    23. At 12:00pm on 03 Aug 2009, shifnalwolf wrote:
    10 subterranean

    Carrick is not in the same league as Keano --get real.
    Or is it because he is an englishman make him better ?


    Has nothing to do with nationality. Roy Keane is one of the most hyped myths that British football has ever seen. One away game in Turin seems to have encompassed his entire career.

    He's an example of what Tim was talking about, the 'honest' but aggressive player that British football fans so admire and idolise. The midfielder that gets 'stuck in'. I would not go as far as to argue that Carrick is a better player overall. In terms of leadership and combative play, Keane was superior and he achieved such a level of consistency in his prime.

    However, Carrick is definitely underrated and regarded harshly in comparison to Keane. Carrick is a better passer, a better finisher when in scoring positions and definitely has a better temperament by far. I have not seen Carrick get sent off in a big CL game when Man Utd needed him. I saw Keane lose his head many times, even if he had that defining performance in Turin which everyone chooses to remember.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim, in post #60 you state you preference for a midfield with Cerezo and Falcao, but you do mention in the original article that Brazil is in constant search for balance between attack and defence. Well, I think (and it is a personal opinion) that a midfield with Cerezo and Falcao cannot be balanced in today's game. So much so they lost even being the more technical side; and that was a long time ago.

    The fact is that, from the evidence we have, possession teams (such as "82) don't do well in the WC, at least not in the last 30 years or so. In fact, if you analyse what happens in CUPs around the wrold, you will see the same pattern (let's not forget WC is a single-elimination comp).

    The fact is Brazil has not been able to win a world cup in the last 30 years unless playing pragmatically, with players such as G. Silva and Dunga in their midfield.

  • Comment number 67.

    #50 - Ferry_Arab - Sol Campbell Incorrectly Disallowed Goal
    I can't find it YouTube!!! Do you have a link?
    Anyway, as I remember it the point is:
    1. John Terry jumped for the ball
    2. A fraction later the keeper ineptly jumped INTO John Terry (minimal contact mind, hardly noticeable, hardly worth mentioning)
    3. Sol Campbell heads in for a perfectly good goal
    So England score! We're thorough!!! (only a minute or so left)
    But wait! Unbelievably incompetant referee saves inept Keeper.
    So the keeper jumps INTO an opposition player (minimal contact mind) and wins a free kick! Uhhh?
    If you still think that the keeper deserves a free kick, think about this. Suppose it's the other way around. Suppose the situation is reversed and John Terry jumps into the keeper - do England win a penalty? Of course not. So how does the keeper get one?.......

    When did this become a non-contact sport? And how come the keeper is allowed to push outfield players but not vice-versa? Crazy!

  • Comment number 68.

    Argentinas history of the bad boys of futbol stems from the fact as a nation we are an eggaterated people.From the 30s on with Rivers Maquina as the ultimate example we played the beautiful game totally dominating South American futbol.But our Peronist government kept us in isolation much like the English until 1958 when arrogantly we beleiving ourseleves easily the Worlds best brought a team of veterans to The Swedish world cup leaving Di Stefano,Rial,Sivori,Dominguez etc out because they played abroad.Our skilled veterans were kicked out of he competion so we decided we had to change until of course Menotti brought us back to the beautiful game.Bilardo from Estudiantes school changed things back in 86 and its a roller coaster since.
    51 well I dont think Brasil now has anything like the technique or carisma of Argentina.Dungas team may be more effective but so was Italian catenaccio in 06.Are you happy to be the South American Italy.Ok if you are but we will remain the romantic ones until our next big failure which may be soon and then watch your legs Kaka

  • Comment number 69.

    I think that you have put it very well, Tim. "The story of Brazilian football is one of a search for balance between attack and defence, of finding the collective formation that leaves the team protected and gives the stars a platform to shine". That's a good summing up and is also what makes it the jogo bonito that it often is. I also agree with you that there are "few countries in the world that retain such a romantic conception of passing football" as Argentina does. But, "romantic conceptions" seldom win contests, of any nature, and Argentine soccer is no exception. The national team is, I believe, grossly overrated. They are great individuals players, but it is difficult to build a team from an entire squad of top class Argentines. They really won no world cups, the game against Peru in Buenos Aires in 1978 was rigged and the game against England in Mexico in 1986 was won through trickery, by Maradona, yes, but still trickery, with a little help from the referee. As for the next World Cup, Argentina may not even get there and if it doesn't it will be down to the great Diego. The man was the greatest soccer player ever, in my opinion, but he knows nothing about coaching and nobody can advise him. He's too arrogant, knows it all. His reportedly great motivational influence on the players is pure balderdash.

  • Comment number 70.

    69 - Easy. Argentina won world cups, yes. It doesn't matter if it wasn't "very clean", they still have 2 world cups to their name. That makes them as good as Uruguay. And as good as France and England together!

    I think that the "romantic conception" of Argentinian football is another stereotype, the few games I watched from Argentina(none comes from Maradona reign, I think) and their "passing virtues" weren't really on display.

    Is Brazil really out of flair since 1986? Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, Robinho don't bring any flair to the squad? It's not because that we have pacey players and 2 volantes that all of a sudden we lost flair.

    68 - Thanks for comparing Brazil to Italy. These 2 nations together possess 50% of all World Cups, so I guess that you're talking about how we(Brazilians and Italians) can win things while everybody else have problems with it.

  • Comment number 71.

    I would say that Argentina's side is more in need of a balance than Brazil's. Brazil seem to have struck upon a framework since the mid 90's of having 2 holding midfielders allowing two attacking midfielders to make their patterns and run rings around the opposition. Add to that their endless supply of attacking full-backs and you have a balanced side with 2 holding midfielders to cover other people's bursts forwards and enough attacking ability to unlock defences. The fact that they've won 2 world cups and lost in the final of another from 94 onwards shows that this has worked.

    In 2006 however both Kaka and Ronaldinho found themselves in an awkward position. At their clubs they were used to having 3 players in their midfields doing the running for them, and even if not all of those 3 were holding midfielders, they all ran to give the ball to their enganche. Suddenly they found that they had to do some of the backtracking too, and as such, when they did get on the ball, it was a crucial 10 to 15 yards further back than normal, from which position it was more difficult to make things happen.

    Right now with Argentina, they cannot seem to find that balance in the midfield and defence. They are more than blessed with attacking talent. Higuain hasn't even been called up yet despite his feats at Real Madrid, Milito barely gets a minute for the Selección even though he scored so many goals in Serie A. Lavezzi and Zarate had storming starts to the season and haven't found themselves in squads, so it is patently clear that Argentina do not lack for firepower.

    They are trying to balance their defence, which has suffered from the passing by of many years. For many years they had a unit of Sorin, Samuel, Ayala and Zanetti which worked more than adequately. But now they are all well past 30 years old. Ayala has for all intents and purposes retired, Sorin actually has retired and Samuel spends more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. This leaves Zanetti as the only one of those 4 who still plays regularly at a top club, but he's 35 and will not be around forever. The players who have come through in that time do not inspire too much confidence: Burdisso, Cata Diaz, Milito, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Demichelis, Papa, Heinze and Angeleri. Maradona has also stated that he sees Heinze (at 1,77m) as a centre back only. I like Angeleri, but who else to play at left back and centre back. Papa is nowhere near world class, but there aren't many other options. Milito is a good defender when fit, and Burdisso had an excellent first season at Inter but has gone off the boil since.

    In the midfield there is a real balancing act to be done. Like with the forwards, there is no lack of available talent, Mascherano is the first name on the teamsheet as captain. Just in central midfield there is Verón, Cambiasso, Ledesma at Lazio, Aimar, Bolatti, Battaglia and others in the frame. It seems to me that Maradona needs to use his best player in his best role, which would mean copying Barcelona's system, putting Messi on the right of the attacking triunvirate, Milito in the middle as a goalscorer and someone who can play the oncoming wingers into the game, Aguero/Tevez/Maxi Rodriguez on the left to cut in and offer a genuine threat. Mascherano as the 5 alongside Verón as the ball player and Gago or Cambiasso in the other midfield spot. Then it's just that pesky defence.

  • Comment number 72.

    A fine observation that football needs to be analysed by its contradictions rather than its stereotypes.

    I've lived in Australia for 8 years and it was fascinating to see the crude propaganda that (some) local media trundled out as copy before the Uruguay v Australia World Cup playoff in 2005.

    The Socceroos were routinely described as "brave" or "heros" or possessing that "battling Aussie spirit" whereas the Uruguayans "unsporting" and "sneaky". Such an attitude was more that mere stereotyping it was down-right racist.

    Tim - I was wondering whether you could further examine stereotypes in Brazilian football. For example, I remember one interviewer remarking to Ronaldinho that he was not a typical "Gaucho" player (presumably he meant that some-one in the Dunga mould was?) In a country was vast as Brazil are there notatable regional differences in the way the game is played?

  • Comment number 73.

    In relation to the disallowed Campbell goal... The referee admitted himself after the game that it should of stood. But about Brazils "carnival" style. Did anyone score a goal quite like Kaka for the opening goal of the confed cup ? May of been bad defending but I think that alone is a good reason for the stereotypes of Brazils play. No ones done that for England(or many other national teams) in a long time.

  • Comment number 74.

    !Falcao and Toninho Cerezo to one with Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo - in my personal view - and that's all it is- the game flows better and is more attractive. As a football fan, iotsaddens me that some in Brazil don't see it that way - but that's all part of the debate. Let it rage!!
    Spot on, I much prefer to watch fast free flowing football to but who would have thought you would have seen the day where brazil used two holding central midfield players on a regular basis, eg gilberto silva and melo at the moment appear to be the first options in the centre, mind you watching them in the confederations cup brazil were still great to watch with the two full backs bombing forward.
    Good blog by the way.

  • Comment number 75.

    Some good debate as usual.

    It's difficult to assess Bobby Robson's England reign.

    He failed to even qualify for the 1984 European Championship - I remember at that point Robson and the England team were regualarly getting booed off the pitch by their own fans at Wembley during that period.

    In the 1988 European Championships, Robson's England lost all 3 of their games without scoring, including getting outclassed and ripped apart by Holland.

    In 86, after two very poor games against Portugal and Morocco, Robson was forced to change formation and personel around dramatically due to Bryan Robson's dislocated shoulder, and England played well against Poland and Paraguay, both 3-0 wins, before the famous Argentina game, in which England didn't really play well and attack untilo the final 20 mins after bringing on Waddle and Barnes.

    in 90, the first game v Ireland was one of the worst the World Cup has ever seen in terms of spectacle and skill. But yes, the semi-final v Germany and the quarter final v Cameroon were cracking games . exciting and attacking (tho I think v Cameroon was very much 'sterotyped'gung-ho English style rather than tactics and skill?

    When we discuss these sterotypes, perceived or not, I think it's more in terms of defence? And that, in the past, English defenders tended to be just stoppers rather than players who could bring the ball out and start moves aswell as in Brazil, for example.

    Defenders like Butcher, Adams, Fenwick, Sansom, Gary Stevens from Robson's day.

    Of course, in midfield and attack in that era, we had some amazingly skilful players - Hoddle, Beardsley, Waddle, Barnes Wilkins,and, of course, Gazza, but I think it was the technique of the defenders on the ball that produced the contrast in styles between England and countries like Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Spain etc

  • Comment number 76.

    I've been doing some research for a personal project on England v Argentina in 86, and found David Miller's comments in the Times the day after the match quite intersting

    "the unavoidable verdict is that England, on the admission of their own tactics until the time they were two behind, had not the nerve nor the ability to risk attacking a suspect defence which by the end was having its inadequacies exposed by Englands belated rally.(the Times).

    England look about as flexible as a sliding door, especially the back four, who had so much possession and knew not what to do with it. The traditional way for English footballers to get out of a jam is to hit a long ball and hope. The successful tems here in Mexico are playing their way out of a jam with a sequence of fluid triangles. The system can be seen at one club only in England, West Ham

    Miller even goes on to blame english supporters aswell,

    Eng football is not inherently inferior, but as Bobby Robson admitted after the defeat, the style, in which football is played in the football league inhibits the international team. The domestic game doesnt cater for sophisitication. Crowds at home are fed a steady diet of goalmouth incidents of rugged determination and of ceaseless running. The idea of watching a sweeper tidying up behind a defence, of a line of five operating in midfield and of a lone figure leading the attack would be unpalatable to the English taste

    True? Or snobbish rubbish from Miller?

    That match v Argentina in 86 created so many footballing arguments and debate

    Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, Glenn Hoddle, John Barnes and Chris Waddle could hardly be described as inflexible and unsophisticated players!

    Miller even goes further and commits the act of ultimate treachery by defending Maradonas first goal;

    "it was no more disturbing that Maradona handled the ball than it was, say, to see Fenwick apparently elbow mMradona in the face only 9 mins after hes been booked for a foul on him. Cheating takes various forms. If you are organised specifically to stifle a single opponent, it is unrealistic to complain if on one of many occasions when he has you on the ropes he s given the benefit of an unfair decision.

  • Comment number 77.

    Sorry Tom.. i always look forward to reading your post... this one though was probably the worst you have ever written... beat me if there is a worse one.. in your effort to praise the genius of Sir. Bobby Robson.. you got stuck trying to piece together a logical and coherent post.. unfortunately..i will will keep my sons from reading this one... The writing lacks theme, background and the claims you use to substantiate your opinion are just scattered all over...

  • Comment number 78.

    73. At 00:37am on 04 Aug 2009, Mel0dymaker wrote:

    "The referee admitted himself after the game that it should of stood."

    I don't give a dam what the ref said or didn't I have my own eyes but where the hell did you get that piece of info from?

    Anyway I suggest you ExiledDevonRed and everybody else learn the basic rules of a sport first and then open your mouth about it let alone set about posting in forums.

  • Comment number 79.

    However I think England's World Cup 1990 team has been somewhat polished by time. The achievement of reaching the semis was a good one, but it wasn't done by a technically excellent team.


    My feelings exactly.

    The team is remembered for the mystical ability of Gazza and Waddle along with the misty-eyed rying and penalty misses. In reality it was a team that was tactically quite poor and run off the backs of hard working defence of Pearch, Walker, Butcher, Parker and Wright, the midfield running of Platt/Robson and natural goalscoring of Gary Linekar. Gascoigne, McMahon, Waddle and Beardsley all played their part of course as skillful attacking players, but they did very little actual damage to the opposition between them.

    In comparison the 1996 team was probably a more skillful and attacking outfit overall, spearheaded by Shearer, Sheringham and Gascoigne.

  • Comment number 80.

    Sorry Tim. It is not stereotype - England is and has always been a long ball-kick-and-rush team. Yes, there have been the odd Gascoingne, Beardsley, Woddle and Hoddle, but most of those technical 'thinking-while-playing' types are weeded out from the high school teams. On the other point, Brazil are not so organised defensively as you put it. They just happen to play technically gifted defenders who have a good first touch that gives them an extra 2 seconds, defenders that look up and then play themselves out of trouble.. It all comes down to technique. Technique, technique, technique. That is the diffence between Brazil and England.

  • Comment number 81.

    I have to join the chorus about Bobby Robson's England team. In Mexico 86 they were dire in the first 2 group games. They eventually went out at the quarter finals - the same stage that Sven got to. And while everyone in England only seems to remember the injustice of the Hand of God, the reality is they were completely outclassed by Argentina that day, and the gulf in "style" between the two sides could not have been clearer.

    In Euro 88 they were humiliated - it's very hard to imagine an England manager these days keeping his job if that scenario was repeated.

    Then in Italia 90 they were completely uninspiring in the group stage, squeezed past Belgium, and got lucky against Cameroon. They performed well against Germany in the semis, but ultimately failed to win. And then they got beaten in the third place play off too.

    His overall record in finals was: P15 W5 D3 L7. Only 3 of those victories were achieved in 90 minutes, and all were against very mediocre teams (Poland, Paraguay and Egypt).

    I think you're letting your fondness for Sir Bobby cloud your judgement on this one. It's understandable given the circumstances, but if you're going to label opinions expressed by others as "wrong" .......

  • Comment number 82.

    #78 nibs
    For someone who thinks that Gasgoigne "butchered" his opponent, you're in no position to comment on "basic rules".
    The keeper got it wrong, mistimed the jump and wouldn't have got the ball even if he hadn't jumped into Terry.
    And let's face it how often do football authorities criticise refs? Even in this country it's rare, but on the continent?

  • Comment number 83.

    Hi Tim,
    Somehow your description of the England team under Bobby Robson is in contrast with what i saw of the same team. My earliest world cup memories are of an unfancied Camerounian team completely outplaying England in the quarterfinals of Italia 90. That England team was pretty average and their best performance was against Germany in the semis where they lost. They would have lost against any decent team they came up against.

  • Comment number 84.

    Well done Tim, an interesting article as usual.

    You are obviously well aware that passing comment on the England national team means your blog will attract criticism this time!

    For those still crying about John Terry, get over it. This sort of thing happens all the time and keepers are protected for a reason. There was a photo image at the time which showed his hand on the keeper's shoulder, and in doing so gaining an unfair advantage. This is a normal decision in football and not even worth debating.

    On the current Brazil side, they are not attack-minded enough at home, but away from home I think they have it just about right. If they are to win the World Cup though, they will need to open up a bit more IMO.

  • Comment number 85.

    Blimey! What's wrong with everyone today? Why is everyone so miserable? Tim, I always look out for your article and I think yours is the best blog out there! Keep it up. Don't listen to the moaning ones.

  • Comment number 86.

    It gets worse as you read on! Dawlish, #77, get a life! It's a blog not porn! "I will not let my sons read this"...dear oh dear

  • Comment number 87.

    England has played the same way and will have to play the same way!!!

  • Comment number 88.

    No 84 stevie_bhoy
    "There was a photo image at the time which showed his hand on the keeper's shoulder, and in doing so gaining an unfair advantage. This is a normal decision in football and not even worth debating"
    You're right that this is a normal decision in football, and that's the problem. Keepers are grossly over-protected, so even if the contact is due to the keeper jumping into the outfield player as was the case here, he is given a free kick. Let's make it clear - John Terry jumped first and then the keeper jumped into him. That is why Terry's hand is on the keeper's shoulder. His hand was there because, well, it was at the end of his arm. He wasn't doing it to hold down the keeper as the ref claimed. The keeper was at fault.
    If we give up debating this kind of thing, then we may as well just give up protesting against all footballing injustices.
    I'm not crying about it, but I do object to those who misrepresent what happened.

  • Comment number 89.

  • Comment number 90.

    I always find it amusing that some posters seem to think that they're English teachers or college lecturers appraising Tim's work when 'contributing' here - some of it is just downright rude. There's a reason why Tim is a journalist and you lot aren't - you've only got to listen to him for a few minutes on one of the radio shows he contributes to to realise that he is extremely knowledgable and passtionate about the South American game and only spend a few moments reading his blogs to realise that is matched by his standard of his writing.

    On a more football related note - what some of the posters referring to Euro 88 are neglecting to mention is that the European Nations Championships were 8 team tournaments back in the 80s. It was easier to qualify for World Cups. That's why Robson held on to his job when failing to qualify in 84 and going out in the first round in 88.

  • Comment number 91.

    71 -
    Couple things

    Burdisso's first season was average at best, and then he had to take some considerable time off to look after his daughter. After that, he's been a sub player at best for us, and hasn't really performed up to his early career promise.

    Samuel is hardly a player who spends more time on the treatment table, in his years of service at Inter (I think since 05? I don't remember off hand when exactly we signed him - yeah Wikipedia says 05) I don't remember him being injuried very often. I think you're only referring to his very terrible cruciate injury last dec (dec 07) in the Milan Derby that kept him out until roughly Oct 08. He's been a fairly solid performer for us always, and is slowly returning to form after his knee injury.

    I'm still a bit shocked that Cambiasso isn't playing for Argentina - surely a world class player? Oh well, I Don't mind too much, it means he plays less games in a season. Better for us (Inter)

  • Comment number 92.

    Good article Tim, I get these missconceptions of English friends about South American football and of my Brazilian friends about English football and you wrote out pretty much what I think about it! I generally believe people need to be more open minded and have a closer look at footballing culture outside their country to make a better judgement.

    Oh yeah, I have just heard about the indefinate delay of the start of the Argentine season, I think I know what direction your next blog might take ;)

  • Comment number 93.

    Nice blog Tim. Thanks.

    Sir Bobby Robson's England has certainly been the best in my time.

    Historian's say Sir Alf Ramsey's England won a major title.

    The current England national football team under Fabio Capello looks set to create waves in South Africa. Best wishes to them.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 94.


    Let's try to be realistic about England in the 1990 World Cup. Draws with Ireland and Holland, 1-0 against Egypt, a very fortunate win over Belgium, ditto against Cameroon. The only really good performance was in the semi. It's a myth that it was a great England team, and I would add that they (in line with most teams at that tournament) were often dull as dishwater. It's also worth remembering that Euro 88 was a debacle, leaving us with an excellent 1986 World Cup side which only emerged after Robson and Wilkins absence forced the manager's hand.
    Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest. Excellent blog as ever.

  • Comment number 95.

    Great article. A very good written one!

    Excuses for my awful english. I agree 'bout the brazilian stereotypes. Our press doesn't survive without stereotypes. The media has a large number of football supporters - and just a few of them are football knowledgers. And most of us, brazillians, don't have a great interest 'bout what's happening in other championships. it's simple like that.

    I, particularly, am a big fan of the Premier League, and players like Gerrard, Lampard, Walcott, Gascoigne, "the Cole family", etc. But I would like to see, here in your blog, something about the Brasileirão and our teams, such Inter, Sao Paulo, Corinthians, Palmeiras, Flamengo, and their styles and players.

    And it was a pleasure to read something really good about football.


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