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When the Dutch led the way

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Tim Vickery | 09:17 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

Brazil versus the Netherlands has given us some wonderful World Cup memories. The 1998 semi-final was one of Ronaldo's best performances in the competition. The Dutch should probably have won a pulsating game, losing their nerve in the penalty shoot-out, but they softened up the Brazilians for France in the final.

The 1994 quarter-final had Bebeto's immortal 'rock the cradle' celebration, a shock Holland comeback and finally Branco's spectacular long-range free-kick.

But the really important contest - the one whose repercussions continue to ripple through the game - was the meeting in West Germany in 1974. In what was effectively a semi-final, the Netherlands won 2-0 while a frustrated Brazil, the reigning world champions, resorted to a full repertoire of rugby tackles and body checks.

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Spearheaded by the legendary Johann Cruyff, that Dutch team have gone down in history as one of the greatest sides not to win the World Cup. Their style of play caught everyone's imagination.

Most often remarked on is how the players constantly changed positions. The game with Brazil supplies a classic example, right-back Wim Suurbier having a shot saved after cutting in from the left wing.

More fundamental than this, though, was the general idea of having as many players involved in the game as possible at any given time, with or without the ball.

Jan Jongloed had to be a sweeper keeper because the back line pushed so high up the field. Not because they were trying to play offside but because they were ferociously pressing to win the ball back.

In the space of a few weeks, the Netherlands rendered South American football obsolete. They toyed with Uruguay on their way to a 2-0 win, brushed Argentina aside 4-0 and then did for the Brazilians.

The South American playmakers were used to having time on the ball. Watch Brazil's Gerson in 1970. He picks up possession, wanders around chatting to his team-mates, pointing and gesticulating. He almost has time to get out the newspaper and check the headlines before deciding which pass to give. This was no longer possible.

In 1974, no sooner had the playmaker received the ball than half of the Netherlands was charging towards him, anxious to win it back and set an attack in motion. They pressed collectively to win possession and then offered the man on the ball options for a pass.

It was the definitive moment when football stopped being a collection of man-against-man duels and became a constant contest of 11 against 11.

How could this new challenge be met?

A nation's footballing culture can be a complex thing, with different currents pulling in different directions. In the most general terms, however, Brazil and Argentina came up with very different responses to the Netherlands of 1974.

If there is any truth in Jonathan Stevenson's argument last week that Argentina have become the new Brazil, then this is the moment when the process begins.

After the 1974 World Cup, Cesar Luis Menotti took over as coach of Argentina. Something of a footballing philosopher, he had a passionate belief in the tradition of his country's game. Old style Argentine passing football could still compete with the big, strong Europeans, he argued, but the rhythm would have to be increased.

Hence the importance of the ever busy, fetch-and-carry Osvaldo Ardiles to the 1978 midfield. The Argentina side remains full of short players with a low centre of gravity, the classic build of the South American footballer.

Brazil's coaches were less philosophers than technocrats. They were fascinated with the Dutch team and made a brief attempt to imitate it under Claudio Coutinho in 1978. After that had failed and the more traditional approach of 1982 had not worked either, a consensus formed on the need for change.

It was argued that the physical evolution of the game and the fact players were covering more ground made more physical contact inevitable. So the Brazilians decided that if they could match the Europeans in physical terms, their extra skill would tip the balance.

This has been achieved with interest and Brazil are now a huge side. When they met Germany in the 2002 World Cup final, they did so at no physical disadvantage.

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In this new, more athletic football, the statistics seemed to indicate that a move's chances of ending in a goal were reduced if it contained more than seven passes. So rather than old style elaborate moves through the middle - which Argentina love to indulge in, especially if Juan Sebastian Veron is on the field - Brazil put more emphasis on quick breaks down the flanks.

So Gilberto Silva is a symbol of the modern Brazil - a big, strong central midfielder of limited passing ability whose main function is to close down the middle of the field and plug the defensive gaps. But so is Maicon - a big, strong right-back with the pace, power and skill to rip through any defence.

Of course, the attacking full-back was part of the culture of Brazilian football before 1974, as was the defensive midfielder. But the forward bursts of the full-back have become more important precisely because the central midfielder makes less of an attacking contribution. And the defensive skills of the central midfielder are more important precisely because he has to cover for the full-back.

And this switch in balance, which profoundly alters the style of play, can be dated back to the day that Brazil lost 2-0 to Holland back in 1974.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I vividly remember the Netherlands v Brazil games of 1994 and 1998. Those games were classics and I dare to say those games were more interesting than the eventual finals in those World Cups.
    Most neutrals will fancy the Dutch for the trophy and I see them having more than their fair share against the Brazilians. Like in West Germany in 1974, 2010 may be the year the Dutch triumph over Brazil again.

  • Comment number 2.

    I cannot see Holland winning this one at all... The Brazilians are just too talented especially with Luiz Fabiano, Alves and Co.
    Honestly, I predicted that there will be at least 3 South American teams in the semifinals. The odd one out will be Espanyol and I hope Spain will win everything in the end.

  • Comment number 3.

    "In this new, more athletic football, the statistics seemed to indicate that a move's chances of ending in a goal were reduced if it contained more than seven passes."

    I think this point is important, particularly given the way people drool over Spain and Barcelona's tiki-taka style of play. The deft passing triangles aren't a particularly good way to attack. It sets the defence and reduces the space, and more often you end up with that classic Arsenal situation of a lot of passes around the box with no shots on goal.

    The back and forth passing is more of a defensive tactic than an attacking one - keep the ball and your opponent can't score. The frightening thing about Brazil, particularly this Brazilian team, is that they can keep the ball like that if they wish, but they can also defend in numbers, break with pace and precise passing and finish with accuracy. They struggle, as most teams do, against opponents who sit back and soak up the pressure. But they're so good at tournament play precisely because in the big games the other team will often try and attack, leaving them open for the swift, 7-pass counter.

  • Comment number 4.

    Espanyol are a club team and are therefore not permitted to take part on international level.

  • Comment number 5.

    I honestly believe that the dutch have nothing to fear. I think that Van Marwijk knows very well that Van Bommel will be key-man tomorrow. He will be the one connecting defence and attack, and has to cover Kaka. I reckon Van Bommel can pass this test due to his experience playing on highlevel for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Bayern. Dunga will be aware that his fullbacks cannot permit to surge forward as many timas they are used to because with Robben and (hopefully) Van Persie on the wings the dutch are quick and lethal on the break. One thing I wonder about is if Van Marwijk will rotate Van Persie and Kuyt/Huntelaar more often because Van Persie is not as dangerous as either Kuyt or Huntelaar in the box. We'll see tomorrow.

  • Comment number 6.

    Remember the Brazil of '74, they were poor and a pale shadow of '70. Scotland should have beaten them in the group stage and would have had Billy Bremner not missed from two yeards out. But the Dutch completely outplayed them in that second stage game, were worthy winners and showed the world their brand of football. Wonderful.

    Don't see why the Dutch can't beat them. They will have improve at the back to do so: Slovakia opened them up at various points. But always liked the Dutch since I first saw them back in '74 and want to see them do it..they were due a WC either in '74 or '78..

  • Comment number 7.

    Very interesting article Tim - 'statistics seemed to indicate that a move's chances of ending in a goal were reduced if it contained more than seven passes.'(Mr.Wenger take note!)

    Didn't Graham Taylor copyright that saying back in Euro'88? - it doesn't seem to have done England much good in subsequent years - although Der Kaiser's one ball over the top from keeper to Klose seemed very effective ;( (long-ball merchants!) Following the disastrous performance at this tournament the English media seem now to be favouring a one man up top system, packing the midfield with 5 'passing' midfielders. If Dunga is successful are we in danger of chasing our tails at a time Brazil are favouring the seemingly more direct approach - better players granted?

    The notion that a country's style of play can be so dramatically influenced and subsequently altered by one match such as the stated Bra v Holl game back in'74 is intriguing. Can Brazil really switch between the physical/technical approach in '78 back to their samba style in '82, a mixture in'86, back to technical in '90 and so on at other tournaments thereafter - all with just 4 years in between to get it all in place..fantastic coaches!? It's hard to contemplate when Howard Wilkinson at the English F.A. suggested it takes generations for a nations' style of play and culture to develop with millions being poored into grass-roots education or is it a case of going with the tools available. If we had 4 or 5 Gazza's coming through together..imagine the possibilities!

  • Comment number 8.

    en don't forget Holland should never have been at the 74 World Cup. Belgium scored at the last minute the winner in a play-off game against Oranje with a trip to Germany at stake. But the linesman saw an off-side for Jan Verheyen's perfectly valid goal... the rest is history, Holland went to Germany, played brilliantly en deserved to win the thing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Number 2 - you tried to be clever but failed. It is España not Espanyol, which as someone else has pointed out, is a club side in Spain.
    Aside from this, I am looking forward very much to ALL of the quarter finals, and beyond. The memories evoked in this article of previous encounters have made me wonder though ... just how many more 'styles' of football are there left to be 'discovered' as such? Think about it ... all that has been said here about the Dutch from '74 (I noted with interest you resisted the temptation to include the "Total Football" phrase!) is an indication of how prominent managers almost re-designed the way they wanted to play, combining tactics and the physical attributes of the players. Have we got to the stage where just playing football, scoring goals, and winning is sufficient - at any level? Or is there someone tinkering as I write, with the 'new' football ... the next stage in proceedings as it were ... hmmmmm.

  • Comment number 10.


    England are currently developing 'lacklustre football' though I'm not sure that's what you mean.

  • Comment number 11.

    Football is not a complicated game and people can get carried away in these debates about tactics, styles and tactical formations.

    The team that can keep the ball the best, that can win the ball back quickly when they lose it, the team that can penetrate the opponents defence and then finally be clinical with the chances they create - this is the team that will win the game.

    You can play 4-4-2,4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 or any formation you like, if you do those things I have listed and are better than the other team at it, you'll win the match.

    You often hear, for example, that England are 'outnumbered' in midfield when they play 4-4-2 at international level.

    Well they are not outnumbered anyhere on the field, it's still 11 against 11 unless there has been a red card.

    it's just the other team is keeping the ball better, using the ball better, moving more intelligently without the ball, controlling it instantly when they receive it.

    Football is a simple game, often complicated by some of the debates and politics around it.

  • Comment number 12.

    As good as the South American teams have been, I predict a Holland - Spain final, where soccer will be the winner!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Whilst you are obviously right on the Dutch influence Tim, I kinda feel a resentment in any present-day comparison; I'm loathe to compare this Brazil side to the Classic Dutch, simply because I firmly believe that physicality is more prevalent than skill with this current seleção. I know you were only citing the influence of prevalent wingbacks, but still, it is a touchy subject in my house...
    I've bemoaned a few times on Dunga's pragmatic Brazil, and how this incarnation is at odds with the sterotype of Brazil, and whilst it might indeed be sterotypical, it's the one Brazil we all love. Don't get me wrong, folk have commented on how impressive Brazil have seemed etc, especially against Chile, but I genuinely pray they don't win this WC... not only for the tournament itself, but for the repercussive effects on the future of the national team. I'd like to know how Brazilians themselves are viewing this Mundial.

    Anyways... rant over... Top read as always.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well said!
    The team that (almost) always wins is the fittest with more ball control!
    I think my under 7s coach told me that!

  • Comment number 15.

    Football is a simple game that turns on instances. In 1982 Brazil only needed a draw against Italy for Brazil to advance. There are many instances where a referee would have awarded a penalty which Zico would have converted and Brazil would have advanced. Just remember Caludio Gentile, missing Zico and ripping Zico's shirt. A similar shirt pull (not rip) would not only earn a penalty, but also a red card. Would a 3-3 result in that match have rendered this blog irrelevant? NO. The modern day philosophers have predicted (I have yet to see the stats) that most goals are scored soon after a transition. That is if a team loses the ball especially in its own half then the chances of a goal are slim. However if a team loses the ball say as a result of a corner, it depends on how fast the team that was defending the corner, can have the ball delivered to the other goal. So the transition time between the defense of say a corner and the attck is a key factor in goal scoring. This means that the fewer the passes the higher the chances of a goal.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think Dunga's Brazil receive unjustified criticism.

    They're simply a well balanced team. Maicon and Lucio, for example, aren't just big lumps. They're brilliant players too. Maicon may be powerful and quick, but he's also a superb crosser of the ball.

    Brazil can defend well and attack when they need to.

    The one thing you can criticise Dunga for is not taking a back-up to Kaka: Diego or Hernanes might have been reasonable alternatives. But aside from that, I think Dunga has got it spot on. This Brazil know how to control games, they know when to step up a gear. They can score goals.

    I think the Brazil of 1970 and 1982 belongs to a different era of football. This Brazil wins games, and has excellent players in defence as well as attack. It's not gung-ho football that leaves the door open for the opponent. Every supporter indulges the fantasy that his or her team can win every game 4-1 or 4-0 or whatever, just because Brazil are one of the strongest teams in the world and this is a realistic possibility every time they play, doesn't mean the coach should be criticised just because the 'style' of the win wasn't right.

  • Comment number 17.

    One point needs to be made, Ronaldo winked when Rooney was sent off. I didn't see him doing that when Costa was!

  • Comment number 18.

    16. At 12:10pm on 01 Jul 2010, Subterranean wrote:

    "Brazil can defend well and attack when they need to".... I'm sorry, you're right, but this is not a sentence I ever wanted to read.

    Just doesn't seem 'right'.

  • Comment number 19.

    Post 13 - I know what you mean with your last sentence, byt does anyone really think Brazil can make any successful return to their late 70s/early 80s playing-style with the way today's game is played?

    It's for the same reason Holland don't play 'Total Football' anymore.

    BTW, here's a Mythical Matchup for you: Holland '74 vs Brazil '82 - The Ulimate Football Match?

  • Comment number 20.

    The '74 Dutch team is one of the 2 great international teams I've seen, the other being the '50s Hungarians [yep, I'm that old & they were the best]. I vividly recall the 2-0 game in 74; the Brazil of that day were one of the dirtiest teams I've ever seen. The '74 Dutch team would take today's Brazil to the cleaners. I hope the '10 Dutch team beat them too.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ Subterranean:

    I think your post is part of what's wrong with English analysis of football. Formations and tactics while not everything represent the framework of a team's style - the distances, the structure to press, the fluidity of compactness etc.

    The fact that you approve of Brazil's style at post 16, is a contradiction of your earlier post. They are all meticulous, just as Germany where when they beat England. Indeed, what Capello did in the qualifiers he changed in the WOrld Cup to exaggerate England's speed of getting the ball forward, dismantling what made them so good - incidentally the complicated matters which he felt the team may not be able to handle in the WC.

    Your comment: "it's just the other team is keeping the ball better, using the ball better, moving more intelligently without the ball, controlling it instantly when they receive it."

    That's all about how the team set-up. Of course formations are far less important when you have a team of Spain's talent but even then Del Bosque has brought in two holders to counter-act Spain;s weakness - but where then exposed by the Swiss's tactics copied from the USA in the first game (go to ArsenalColumnn.wordpress .com to read more).

  • Comment number 22.

    Tim (and Brian No.3, and JoC no.7),

    if Brazil's team today is based on the notion that 'statistics seemed to indicate that a move's chances of ending in a goal were reduced if it contained more than seven passes' then I am distraught at the Brazilian FA. (I accept that Tim says "statistics seemed to indicate", but the he doesn't contradict it). This is based on Charles Reep's absurd notions which have since, in many different ways, proven to be complete nonsense (most usually, because his "theories" were based on statistics of which he had not even the most basic understanding).

    Admittedly, many clubs (and national teams, including England) bought into this gibberish in the '70s and '80's, and while I can accept that Brazil may also have done so after 1982, please tell me this thinking does not still influence football at any, let alone the highest, level.

    On another point, Brian (3), the passing triangles used by Spain do exactly the opposite of what you suggest! By keeping possession of the ball and constantly moving and creating new angles, they create space, not limit it, in which to attack. The point of keeping possession is to draw the opponent out of their defensive positions.

  • Comment number 23.

    19. At 12:22pm on 01 Jul 2010, Silver Surfer wrote: BTW, here's a Mythical Matchup for you: Holland '74 vs Brazil '82 - The Ulimate Football Match?

    They'd be playing for 3rd & 4th? :o)

    Don't get me wrong, it's easy to be overly romantic, and I'm not saying that Brazil/Holland can go back to the halcyon days... but in Brazil's case it has almost gone full circle. I could probably just as easily make an argument that the classic Italian sides have just as much an influence on today's Brazil than the Dutch. Just look at #16 - Subterranean: "Brazil can defend well and attack when they need to" - The guy's right, but that sentence should be the other way around!! That's why Brazil are Brazil!!
    And whilst Holland perhaps don't play 'Total Football' they nonetheless remain true to their own legacy, in valuing technique overall. You can always expect Dutch players to have a high level of technical ability. Except perhaps Dirk Kuyt (ahem...)

    It maybe raises a bigger question of athleticism over football etc - But I want to watch players who are essentially fine footballers rather than fine athletes. "Athletic footballers or athletes playing football"??

    Dunga has set his stall out clearly - he has excluded players like Diego, Pato etc, but has stored faith with the likes of Gilberto Silva...

    All I can say is that this is the 1st time in my life where I'll be disappointed if Brazil win the World Cup. And that's a shame.

  • Comment number 24.

    21. At 12:30pm on 01 Jul 2010, Arsenal Column

    It's a rare day I'll agree with a Gooner, but.. I agree with you :o)

  • Comment number 25.


    Not sure I entirely agree. The Brazil team's football has been defined by it's managers preferred styles, in recent times at least. 1994 team was based around the defensive tactics of Parreira, 1998 was more 1960's samba style of Zagallo, Mr Scholari came along in 2002 with some form of in between mixed tactics, 2006 saw big players over-rule the coach's tactics and 2010 is back to the 1994 tactics because the manager played in 1994 and Dunga also played in the German league where defence / efficient counter attacking football was the dominant force of the 1990's.

    I can't help but think that if Mr Zagallo or the late Tele Santana were in charge you would definitely be seeing more creative and less defensive footy with the likes of Ronaldinho and Neymar in the team and Gilberto possibly on the bench.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hope Holland will make it :)
    And sure, they will.

  • Comment number 27.

    None Of The Above - "The '74 Dutch team would take today's Brazil to the cleaners" is a mad, mad comment. The whole point of this discussion is how football has 'progressed' (even if it doesnt look as nice) to a more physical game. You compare stats of how many k's eg Maicon runs a match compared to anyone in that '74 team, and it probably would be double. At the pace of the game today Holland '74 would be knackered after an hour and Brazil would keep going and finish them off. Comparisons like that are just daft. Like saying Dixie Dean (as much as i love him) would score all those goals today. Of course he wouldnt - he would be brushed off the ball by a Lucio and be tired after 10 minutes trying! Rant over. :)

  • Comment number 28.

    PS even more aesthetic teams like Argentina and Spain have still improved physically and run much more than any '74 team. I think even everton 2010 would give the '74 Dutch a beating (ok maybe that is going too far but you see my point!)

  • Comment number 29.

    I am being patriottic, optimistic and hopefully a bit realistic when I say that I think Holland actually have a good chance against Brazil. It will be hard, very hard but Brazil are not the "awesome" team they are made out to be.

    They have some very good players, but only one Samba footballer in Kaka. Deadly effective on the ball, real dangerous. Robinho is all play no result, the other players combine physical strength and speed with good footballing skill.

    I do think that when you look at technical ability and pure footballing skills, Holland has more players that get the thumbs up: Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Elia.

    The trick to the Brazil game plan is that no mistakes can be made in the (central) defence. Because that is what Brazil want. They let the opposition make the play, they wait, wait, wait - spot the mistake, run and score.

    So if Holland finds a way to eliminate the counter attacks then the space on the flanks will be where the danger from Holland has to come from. Individual skill will be blocked most of the time by the brazil players who always have 8 men behind the ball, but there will be a chance to break through. Boom 1-0, Holland win!

  • Comment number 30.

    I recently experienced a national sports radio station talking about the Dutch team of '74. Do you recall the final. The first 80 seconds were electric - 18 passes and a penalty without the hosts intervention.

    However - by half time West Germany were well on their way. On the whistle scorer Van Hanegan threw the ball at Jack mTaylor and Cruyff was booked for dissent/abuse. He was a secondary figure to Germany's Grabowski in the talent stakes. And Muller's excellent take ( from behind ) him hints at why they are the European Brazil ( record books ). Germany unlike any other nation are unequivocably an institution - doing what they do to good effect every tournament. I take umbridge at Hansen's dismissal of patriotic jurgen Klinsman's view of his compatriots semi-final chances. Too negative and anti BBC panelists!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    #29 I think you will find that Fridays fixture might favour the Dutch in that key players for Brazil will be missing in action. I am of the belief that Elano's injury has lessened Brazil's chances to a great degree. Having said that if the central midfield doesn't consist of Melo and Silva that could also prove to be a problem. I am not too keen on Josue.

    I hope though that Brazil will show why they are a team to be reckoned in tomorrows game.

  • Comment number 32.

    I hope Holland win the whole thing.

    I hope, just as sincerely, that Argentina win nothing!

  • Comment number 33.

    Great stuff as always Tim. I think Brazil will win fairly comfortably. I think Dunga's Brazil are tactically brilliant, and unfairly criticised. I take the point that they could play a ball player beside Gilberto and think in Ramires they have a better looking player than Melo, who has had a poor season.

    It will take some team to beat them - a better one than Holland. Spain or Argentina will have a better chance, although I can't see past Brazil at all.

    A lot will depend on whether the ref allows Van Bommel to try to referee the game, as always! He will need to play a blinder.

  • Comment number 34.

    #30 It's hard to say whether Elano will be missed. After Robinho, statistically, he has been the most important playmaker on this team assisting on a number of goals as well as providing pin-point crosses. But there was a time when Dunga alternated between Elano and Ramires. Unfortunately, we won't have either tomorrow...but Daniel Alves' presence is a decent enough replacement. He's been growing in recent games and I think as long as doesn't take up Maicon's space on the right, we should be ok.

    Ironically enough, the main concern is Melo. For all the hate he gets, he's actually done a good job distributing the ball in the midfield. Note the difference in Brazil before he picked up the knock against Portugal. The team was flowing much better than when Josue came on. It looks as if Melo will be ready for tomorrow, which is great news.

    I'm hopeful about tomorrow, but Ramires' and Elano's absence in midfield definitely hurts our depth. No doubt about that. And there's still Baptista's health. I mean, when you only have Nilmar and Gilberto (the left back who can play attacking mid) as your creative options, well, that's not quite good enough. Brazil will have to score first for me to really feel comfortable.

  • Comment number 35.

    As usual a refreshing read from Tim. Nice. Was never there back then, I have the videos though, yes FIFA DVDs.

    Getting to point, I dont see how Holland can win this QF. I am surprised some people on here think they can. From what I have seen, Brazil will be superior in all areas for this game.

    Having said that, it will still be interesting to watch and maybe we might see a surprise la Federer Berdych.

    One more time for the English fans, " who let the ball bounce?". Terry or Upson? Most common answer = Capello.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ #35. Brazil superior in all areas? I do not believe so. Speaking of pure attacking talent, the Dutch have far more depth and oppurtunities.

    Also the Dutch seem to have a Plan B, tactically, ready if needed. I don't know if Brazil has a Plan B. I think they won't be overwhelmed if Holland started attacking right from the start. But I think that as soon as Holland scores Brazil will sweat...

    Past 2 Brazil vs Holland games were very close, this one is going to be even closer as both teams seem to be playing a somewhat similar game (how I hope for the Euro 2008 effect). I don't like playing Van Persie as the spearhead of the Dutch attack, he's more of a winger. How I wish Van Nistelrooij was included, we could have been devastating. Anyway, Van the Man is not included, so someone else has to step into his shoes and make life difficult for Lucio and Juan.

  • Comment number 37.

    Have seen comments the last few days Tim like that the successful teams in this World Cup have been the ones who strike quickly before defences can reorganise themselves and that this often requires dribblers if the attackers are outnumbered. Your namesake Phil was saying that dribbling is still very much an entertainment in South America but that the Europeans are increasingly drilling it out of players. After the Slovenia game some posters were celebrating the Milner method of not needing to beat your man, just making yourself enough space to get a cross in and pontificating that there's no need to have players who theoretically beat men, like Lennon and Wright-Phillips. Some commentators have blamed Capello for preventing Lennon from going outside, bringing him back inside, making the conservative plays, but I would say Lennon is not a dribbler, he beats men with pace from a running start that you get in the high tempo to and fro of English domestic football but not in more static international football where the England team didn't have the opposition helping us out by overcommitting forward. We haven't seen too many goals from open play like England scored against Slovenia because a lot of defences are well organised in preventing crosses, or nullifying them if they come in. And Brazil are currently very good at this with 8 men beind the ball is it, not letting the opposition breathe as the BBC reporter described Alves' performance, and even then, they have a great keeper that you have to get past as well!

    But one very important difference between them and England is that they have a lot of dribblers who will grasp the moment from deep if they think they see an opening. The Ramires run from defence for Robinho's third against Chile was a classic example. Besides Maicon, Lucio's capable of this too. He looks more comfortable on the ball than our centre forwards! Argentina have Messi, The Netherlands have Robben. These are the players that are making a big difference often from near the half way line, not from just outside the box. It will be interesting to see if Brazil play Spain because Spain play possession football, hold onto the ball very well, don't leave themselves exposed so much, and of course Xavi and Iniesta are non-stop probing.

  • Comment number 38.

    Can someone clear this up for me? The Netherlands are mad up of 12 regions, 2 of which are North and South Holland, so is it not incorrect to refer to the Netherlands as Holland? It's a bit like referring to the UK as England

  • Comment number 39.

    I think it's great you do this stuff Tim, but how can the BBC justify employing Garth Crooks? The whole thing is a scandal.

  • Comment number 40.

    Interesting Tim as always. Would it be fair to say that there are parallels between that Dutch side you mentioned and (although nowhere near in the same class) what Bielsa is trying to do with Chile and what he tried with Argentina before that in 2002?

    It does seem to me that the fundamentals, ie pressing the ball when not in possesion and "the general idea of having as many players involved in the game as possible at any given time, with or without the ball" which to me is what Chile's 3-3-1-3 formation allows them to do. I remember you mentioning not so long ago (either in a blog or WF phone-in) that this was the reason that Bielsa doesn't use full backs as they serve no purpose in an attacking sense.

    I honestly think that Chile would have went further if they had one player capable of putting the ball in the back of the net (a fully fit Suazo), Shame Salas wasn't 10 years younger!

    Should be an intriguing game, but I see Brazil edging this one as long as Bastos can keep Robben quiet, as I see that being the key battle in the game, Arguably Brazil's soft spot against Netherlands' strongest.

  • Comment number 41.

    11. At 11:21am on 01 Jul 2010, Subterranean wrote:
    Football is not a complicated game and people can get carried away in these debates about tactics, styles and tactical formations.

    The team that can keep the ball the best, that can win the ball back quickly when they lose it, the team that can penetrate the opponents defence and then finally be clinical with the chances they create - this is the team that will win the game.

    You can play 4-4-2,4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 or any formation you like, if you do those things I have listed and are better than the other team at it, you'll win the match.

    You often hear, for example, that England are 'outnumbered' in midfield when they play 4-4-2 at international level.

    Well they are not outnumbered anyhere on the field, it's still 11 against 11 unless there has been a red card.

    it's just the other team is keeping the ball better, using the ball better, moving more intelligently without the ball, controlling it instantly when they receive it.

    Football is a simple game, often complicated by some of the debates and politics around it.

    Very well put.

    The most simple & sensible post I have read on any BBC blog, in particular your final statement!

  • Comment number 42.

  • Comment number 43.

    40 - no doubt about it, the Dutch influence on Bielsa is enormous - and was recognised in this tournament by the Dutch masters. Cruykk called Chile the best team in the competition, and Ruud Krol backed them to cause a surprise against Brazil. Over-optimistic, as it proved - Chile are almost made to measure to make Brazil look good.
    Cruyff, incidentally, despises what Brazil have become, and issues regular broadsides against them.

  • Comment number 44.

    #11 and #41, I know what you mean about all the sophisticated talk about formations. Mark Lawrenson's one. I'm looking forward to the day when a coach answers the question, "So what formation/system will you be playing?" and the answer is "10". Surely players should have the intelligence to position themselves according to the circumstances and adapt themselves where necessary. Sounds like that Dutch right back cutting in from the left wing that Tim was talking about.

  • Comment number 45.

    tim - great article as usual

    i read today a rumour about neymar going on a year long loan to west ham before moving to chelsea? its probably rubbish but i was wondering if theres any rumours about this in brazil? being a west ham fan this would be an exciting prospect even if it is just a loan

    i no your against the players moving abroad too early, but with a talent like neymar its inevitable to happen sooner rather than later, so would a deal like this be better for the likes of neymar rather than going straight to chelsea? as he'd get more regular football with less pressure and in a major league for him to adapt?

  • Comment number 46.

    I think that for all the talk of physicality and not being the Brazil of old, even a relatively dull Brazil have still played some of the most exciting football in this competition. Look at the first goal against Ivory Coast and the second against Chile. Magical one touch passing around the area the like of which Spain have not produced yet in this tournament, and I'm not even sure Argentina have either (as good as they are).

    By any objective standards Brazil have been great to watch, it's just simply that they set the bar so high in 1970 and 1982 with their flair that they are judged by much higher standards than everybody else.

    If I have a gripe with Dunga it is not so much with the tactics as it is with the selection. Just having Ronaldinho, Garso, or Pato in the squad (even if not the first 11) would have given them more options in attack for the occasions when they are not dominating or struggling to break a team down.

    It is also interesting that while Felipe Melo and Gilberto both sit deep, when Ramires came in for Felipe Melo against Chile it gave them another dimension as Ramires was much more prepared to run forward with the ball.

    This suggests that Dunga could get away with dropping one of the two defensive midfielders permanently and perhaps using Elano or another all-rounder to sit with one of Melo or Silva, and then add another more creative midfielder (in the absence of Ronaldinho or Garso keep Alves in?), without significantly disrupting the shape of his team.

    In that scenario I think the opposition would really be in trouble. As it is they are very strong contenders,. but not shoo-ins.

  • Comment number 47.

    The wicked problem when facing Brazil is that every member of the team are artists with the ball at their feet! One can never figure or predict what skillful footballers can do!!!
    Brazil's coaches never fail to provide instructions to their gifted players on how to counter their opponents' attack but no Brazilian coach will EVER tell their players how to dribble, feint passes or kick the ball!!!
    When Brazil really attack - this is where football fans would love to and look forward to see the REAL Brazil attack!!!
    A skilled Brazilian player on form is almost equal to 2 opposing players....
    and when you add a commanding central defender like Luciano who can also play a similar libero position like Franz Beckenbauer with dribbling and tackling skills....and ably supported by 2 attacking and defensive wing backs plus a proven top class goalkeeper - the dutch will need to really crowd the midfield and play the offside traps to force Brazil's attacking midfielders and wing backs to play deeper!
    It should be an entertaining though not a classic match to watch!!!!

  • Comment number 48.

    Hi Tim,

    A great Article, I expect Brasil to qualify to the semi's where they will face a battle from Uruguay, a great footballing power who punch well above there weight with only a population of over 3 million.

    As an huge Argentinian fan I would love to see them win the competition but I hate to say it, but I think Brasil would be too strong for them, unless the aura of Diego Maradona can inspire his players.
    What ever happens in the rest of the tournament I think Diego has shown great class, many football people have mocked and abused him, I even heard John Giles say on Irish TV that if Diego Maradona lead Argentina to World cup glory he would hang his boots up on football analysis.
    What ever happens for me Diego Maradona has been the highlight of the World Cup,(as I heard some reporter say the football world needed Maradona and he needed it) and I think Pele taking cheap shots at him again shows he has no class, and is jealous of the greatest player ever to play the game.

  • Comment number 49.

    attacking football has been replaced with reaction football. wait for a mistake and hit on the break. it's highly affective and most of the top teams use it. the problem is it can be boring as this world cup is showing. forget the football of old for 'the times they are a changing'. except for england- home early as usual

  • Comment number 50.

    I was speaking to a friend of mine who lives in Belo Horizonte and he says he, and a lot of Brazilians are hoping Brazil don't win tomorrow (he actually said he was hoping they didn't progress past the group-stage).

    The reason? Simply because he hates the style of football that Dunga has instilled into 'o seleção' today...and he fears that will be the standard for years to come if Dunga's team win.
    Brazil '10 are kind of in-between the '74 and '78 sides (although '78 were a stellar team, manager Coutinho just didn't have the offensive nerve)

    Cruyff says he's anti-Brasil as well...I'm on the Oranje-Bandwagon.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hup Oranje!.

    Sneijder is de sleutel

  • Comment number 52.

    @48: sorry Vinnie, but although Pelé is no saint, its Maradona who is obsessed with him and takes most cheap shots at Pelé.

    And btw... Pelé jealous with Maradona? Are you kidding me?

    @Tim: do you think we can say Brazil has lately tried to adapt its style in each World Cup?? One World Cup it plays pragmatic. Then wins it. Next World Cup, it tries to play more beautiful football, but doesnt. Then the next, its back to pragmatic again. And wins...

    Maybe since 1994? Can we say that 94, 2002 and 2010 are very pragmatic and brazilian sides, while 2008 and 2006 were attempts at more beautiful football, but that failed?

  • Comment number 53.

    Sneijder is de sleutel?

    De sleutelhanger zal je bedoelen.

  • Comment number 54.

    Tomorrow: Nederland 2 Brasil 1. Hopefully this result will bring back the old Brazil.

  • Comment number 55.

    cruyff said he wouldnt pay to see brazil, dunga made a funny comeback by saying cruyff probably could get in for free

  • Comment number 56.

    @52: both maradona and pele really dislike each other and act as even more spoiled kids than what they are when talking about each other. I think the big difference is that Pele has done absolutely nothing since he stopped playing futbol other than enjoying the fame of being Pele. On the other hand Maradona has done a few too many things; some of them quite bad for him and those around him... but he's kept acting and taking risks: becoming the national team coach. For that I respect Maradona much more.

  • Comment number 57.

    Excellent article. Always find it a no-no to compare teams from different periods. As a Dutchman, probably never enjoyed a Dutch team like our 1974 side, but obviously with a considerable bias. Regrettably the 1974 finals against Germany was our worst performance, when we inconveniently forgot that our best “defense was offense.”

    I will be rooting with all my heart for Oranje tomorrow. It will be a formidable task. The Brazil – Chile game showed that the Brazil side didn’t exhibit poetic football, but indeed a team that didn’t appear to show cracks in spite of relentless Chilean assaults. I was more impressed by the solidity of the defense and the speed and agility of the backs, than by the beauty of the Brazilian goals or the menace of the Brazilian offense.

    The Dutch can make the difference if, indeed, they perform as a unit (in fact and in spirit), 11 Dutchman giving it all (meaning Van Persie doesn’t merely wait for the perfect pass or sulks, a-la-Cristiano Ronaldo), the Dutch defense doesn’t go into nonchalant lapses of arrogance, and the Dutch team in fact genuinely believes it can win. In the past, our primadonnas didn’t have the reputation to battle with heart and soul for national pride. I hope tomorrow’s performance will be a veritable Dutch treat, with the Dutch having saved the best for last (… optimistically not the last game of WC 2010.)

  • Comment number 58.

    Totally off topic, but why do the British media insist on calling Paulo da Silva captain of the Paraguay team??? I think he's been captain just once, ever! ESPN do it, BBC do it and all other British papers refer to him as Sunderland's Paraguay skipper! Don't people ever research what they write?

  • Comment number 59.

    The Dutch team of '74 effectively picked up where Hungary left of in the early '50s, giving the players the freedom to take responsability for tactics during the game itself. That said, however, they were overcome in the Final by a resolute West German team containing a type specialist they did not possess, Gerd Muller (ironically, Hungary also lost to West Germany in a similar fashion twenty years earlier in the 1954 World Cup Final.) I think what I'm getting at, is that no matter how good the team is, if there up against a quality side with a striker in form this tends to create a balance, especially in the tight and nervy latter stages of a World Cup.

    As for World Cup 2010, from what I've seen, I wasn't really impressed with Spain in the group matches but with David Villa playing out of his skin who knows. I think I'll stick my neck out and go for Argentina - if they get the tempo right with their forward line they'll be difficult to stop (that's if they can keep them out at the other end of course!)

    Enjoy the rest of the tournament everyone.

  • Comment number 60.

    Deadly effective on the ball, real dangerous. Robinho is all play no result, the other players combine physical strength and speed with good footballing skill.

    I do think that when you look at technical ability and pure footballing skills, Holland has more players that get the thumbs up: Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Elia.

    You typify the ignorance shown by European. Robnihu was the leading scorer in Copa America and player of the tournament Ahead of MEssi!! He was second highest rated Brazlian player (second to Fabiano) in Confedeartion cup.
    Yet according to you yet he is player with no results. And then you big up the Dutch flops: Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Elia: PLease point me an important game in knockout stages wheer these flopped did something? What did these flops do in QF of EC in 2008 against a far from strong Russian team? Aside from being toothless that is!
    How did these flops do in 2006 against Portugal? Did they even had shot on goal? What about Euro 2004 against Sweden and Portugal? Faile to score against Sweden and Portugal scored an own goal!

    Stop comparing Dutch flops with Robinhu.

  • Comment number 61.

    @bohemian73: While I don’t dispute Gerd Muller had an uncanny touch (perfectly serviced by Beckenbauer), I don’t believe he made the difference in the 1974 finals. As a Dutchman, I felt that our side, for the first time during the 1974 tournament, started playing cautious (defending) football in the finals; a style which Oranje was unfamiliar with. A serious tactical mistake. Undoubtedly, we will not agree, which is fine.

    As to your David Villa comments, regard them as highly accurate. The Spanish side has not impressed as a unit, however David Villa has carried the team to this point.

    As a Dutchman I will root for the Netherlands and any team that plays against Germany.

  • Comment number 62.

    @U11148453: based upon the irrational reasoning and wording uses in your comment, your post doesn't strike as valuable or mature. Obviously offended by someone calling out Robinho (a personal opinion expressed by one poster, which would merit a civil reaction), you go into a tirade with as favorite word 'flops.' You make mention of Robinho's participation in one Confederation Cup and compare it to participation in various competitions of half a dozen Dutch players over the past 6 years. Conclusion: all Dutch players are flops. Explain to us sensibly why Robinho seemingly ‘flopped’ at every single (significant) European club, before fleeing back to Brazil.

  • Comment number 63.

    Hello everybody, I'm from Brazil...and we are the kings of football. 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002. We're going to win it again this year and we'll defend our title in the 2014 world cup IN BRAZIL!!! Rude-boy Dunga's team will turn on the style from now on. I think that a lot of the comments from Europeans on this blog are naive and self-centred (most Europenas don't know that there are strong leagues outside of Europe). A lot of "imagine" and "what if" has been said about Brazil but in the end we all who lifts the trophies. I've seen Brazil beat Holland twice and I bet the same thing will happen again. The talk about Samba football and magic football is amusing to me....specially coming from a bunch of Gringos. I can record Brazil beating Argentina 4x1 in suberb style in the 2005 Confederations cup final (that's what you can magic football mates); then we beat Argentina again in 2007 Copa America final 3x0 in a dazzling display and we won the confederations cup in 2009. The titles are there and people you waste time talking about the Samba Style (at least we have a style what about the English style or the French style?)all I see are teams that have no style or that don't stand a chance agaisn't Brazil. The only two good teams in the world are Brazil and then in a lower level Argentina....the rest is just inferior football (don't want to be rude or anything). Brazil is in SA to win it. Let's see if can can stop us.

  • Comment number 64.

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

  • Comment number 65.

    @Leonardo: as a 'Gringo' I'm aware that there are decent leagues in South America (having lived in Argentina) and yet the larger segment of the Brazilian and Argentine national teams plays in Europe. Suppose it's only for financial reasons!

    Furthermore, past world cup titles are no proof for future excellence. Living in the past indicates you're rather insecure today.

    During this World Cup, Argentina has certainly displayed a more formidable team than Brazil.

  • Comment number 66.

    @Leonardo: a very credible presentation to write an entire post in Portuguese, especially when you present such credible arguments as : ” … um idiota e um espirito de porco … “ Congratulations. You represent your country well.

  • Comment number 67.

    Brazil have been in 3 finals in the last 4 world cups. Brazil have won the last two editions of the confederations cup and Brazil are the current south American champions. Is that the past?

  • Comment number 68.

    @Leonardo: indeed, that's all in the past. Even in Portuguese! By the same argument Italy is the present World Cup title holder. This is World Cup 2010. Eight teams still in the running and no 'free rides' for past performance.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • Comment number 70.

    Current confederations and south american champions is not the past...we're talking about football history and titles ...things that Holland don't have. You have no past so you don't want to think about it. when was Hollnad last title? in the pre historic times or before the big bang?

  • Comment number 71.

    Cruyff shouldn't be talking about Brazil's team. He should talk about the lack of titles of the Dutch team. But then again he never won any world cups did he? He won't talk about that will he I think Cruyff should respect Dunga (a world cup winner), he is a winner and should be giving Cruyff tips on it. Another thing is why didn't Cruyff play the 78 world cup? that's a lot of passion for your national team isn't it? Come to Brazil and learn about football ok mate?

  • Comment number 72.

    @Leonardo: " ... seu filho de uma puta ..." Again, such civil wording. Notice some insecurity there. Regrettably, I do speak Portuguese, as well as Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and ... English. Just find it very lame to write a post in Portuguese on an English language board, especially when you seem unable to keep the language courteous and clean.

    You continue to revel in past glory. A weak and insecure character trait. We, the Dutch are indeed underdogs tomorrow; a position I don’t mind at all. It makes winning all the more rewarding and losing a lot less painful. Will probably not shed tears if we lose, nor lose sleep over it. Will immediately switch to rooting for Argentina, without a doubt the most impressive team in this WC.

    And, I will continue to enjoy all the Brazilian and Argentine players while they ply their trade in Europe, alongside our Dutch stars.

    Hoping that one day you will understand that 5 previous World Cup titles do not automatically buy you a sixth.

    Regards from Holland, WC2010 Quarter Finalists!

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • Comment number 74.

    @Leonardo: in the English language, history is the past. Are you even familiar with the Big Bang? Interesting that you drag Cruyff into it. Couldn't come up with an adequate substantiation for your comments? Besides, don't quite understand why you object to Cruyff's comments. Your own public says exactly the same thing.

    That Cruyff didn't participate in the 1978 World Cup is indeed regrettable, but I still don't understand how this underlines your comments.

    Let's not drag the world's best players into this. The back and forth between Pele and Maradona isn't exactly exemplary conduct. It's immature and not worthy of their status as football icons. Even their World Cup titles doesn't entitle them to juvenile squabbling.

    By the way, I spend a month a year in Sao Paolo and Rio (for the past 20 years.) Have seen quite a few football games in Brazil, as well as in Argentina. Try your luck with another offensive comment.

  • Comment number 75.

    Mate your arrogance is ridiculous and I don't really care if spend time in Brazil or in China. Who are you to say that I can't defend my ideas on tomorrow's game based on Brazil's rich football past. If the past doesn't count you misunderstand football...the Brazilian school of football wasn't cerated in 2010. You don't why such a smart ass like you can feel offended by my comments. Holland will lose like you always do....that's charcter trait of you country's football.

  • Comment number 76.

    @Leonardo: it's interesting how you forget the comments you made in the first place "... sorry if you can't speak Portuguese ... " Or, " ... come to Brazil and learn about football, mate." And, indeed, I'm always impressed by someone using 'LOL'

    "I think when you talk about me you talk about you." Cleeevvveeeerrrr!

    Don't get upset. This is only football. Brazil's glory is in the past, as you so eloquently noted. Enjoy history while you formulate another brilliant Portuguese sentence. Try to keep it civil.

    As to boasting (not bosting), isn't that what you've been doing in relating all of Brazil's past glory? Other than that, I consider myself merely lucky that I speak multiple languages, as well as that I get to appreciate many countries and cultures through work and leisure. Nevertheless, I prefer a civil debate.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think Robben will be crucial in this game. He will keep the full backs very busy, they won't have their usual oppotunity to attack.

    Brazil are deadly on the counter attack, however I'd like to see how good they are if they go a goal down.

    So far I think only Greece have come back from a goal down to win a match in this tournament, and that was due to Nigeria going down to 10 men.

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • Comment number 79.

    @Leonardo: what is this "mate" business? It's obvious from our exchange that I hardly consider myself your "mate."

    Arrogance is resting on your laurels due to Brazil's past glory. You're merely frustrated.

    As to "smart ass", it's obvious that you just can't help yourself, whether in English or Potuguese. Remarkable character trait.

    " ... that's charcter trait of you country's football ... " Probably the reason why so many Brazilian football players start their European campaign in the Netherlands. Suggest you visit once, albeit with an open mind and a cleaned up mouth.

  • Comment number 80.

    @Leonardo: even in Portuguese you make mistakes.

  • Comment number 81.

    Nice article Tim. Just to add to your point about 'the stat.s' and to complicate matters. In an analysis of the 1990 and 94 World Cups (Hughes & Franks [2005]) the authors found when frequency data was normalised (per 1000 attempts), there were more shots per possession for longer passing sequences (5+ passes). However, the strike ratio was better for direct play.

  • Comment number 82.

    Past history will not matter tomorrow when Brazil face Holland. In other words, Brazil's fantastic 5 world cup victories don't count at all. What matters is today. And today I think Holland is playing better than Brazil. So, if anything, history will be made tomorrow.

  • Comment number 83.

    @AntonioSaucedo: hope you’re right. Regardless, it will be a mountain to climb for Oranje. The Chile – Brazil game demonstrated an exceptionally tight defensive and yet explosive backend by the Brazilians. Let’s pray the refereeing doesn’t dictate the score.

  • Comment number 84.

    @77 "Brazil are deadly on the counter attack, however I'd like to see how good they are if they go a goal down"

    Brazilians have traditionally been "happy go lucky" when they're ahead in the scoring, but if they're not...wait for the flying tackles to start and see how they get a few yellow if not red cards. In any case, they should prove too strong for Holland.

    I do hope Argentina win the Cup, simply because they have been the only team (apart from Chile) that have played attacking, attractive football, although Brazil would probably beat them if they faced each other, simply because their style would play straight into Brazil's counterattacking game.

    Football has been going through a phase of most teams playing negative football for a while all in the pursuit of a result. Inter Milan and Brazil being just two examples of teams that could play so much better but they simply rely on the counterattack. It would be refreshing to see an attacking team being rewarded for a change.

    As I posted in a previous blog, a suggestion to encourage attacking play would be to give a bonus point to any team that scores 4 or more goals in a game, whether they win or lose, that would also make standings more unpredictable.

  • Comment number 85.

    Yalibi and Leonardo, you cats are priceless, though I would say the Netherlands have more class in this debate, and on the pitch. Can't stand to see the South American players going to ground and rolling around as if they were gored by a bull, when in fact it was a butterfly that brushed by them. Shocking.

    The real event in this match is going to be where it is in every match at this level. Center of the park. Who wins and distributes the ball best. Look at Spain. Alonso. Genius. Look at England. Barry. Ponderous. Germany, Shweinsteiger. Brilliant. Netherlands have the ability in Sneijder, Van Bommel, et al. Brazil have it all over the park, but Gilberto....hmmm. I like Oranje. I reckon Robben to have a big day....

  • Comment number 86.

    hi Tim, surely one of the best blogs in this little world with great comments as well. id just like to add to this discussion over brazilian changes in style one team that ppl seems to forget: the brazilian 2005 confed cup team. struggled in the beggining, but found the right track in last two games and made arguably the best display of internatinal football we have seem in a long time against argentina in a final. Not just argentina, a 12 years titleless argentina. that team played dazzling football, controlling opponent, with dribbles and fundamentals perfectly executed. a team torn apart by sponsor contracts for 2006 wc (i wonder how many ppl knows about brazilian preparation for 2006 wc, parties, women, cigars, bevearage, name it).

    to play a attacking football you need hips of quality and a quality commited to the group, with defense, having great athletes (usually big names in media) sharing responsabilities and sacrificing for the group in a national team is a serious matter for those talented squads willing to play atttacking. barcelona is defensive minded team (yes it is, not that they dnt care to attack but they are more concened about posesion and defense than ppl realise)), presuring opponent on their defense and all strikers help, hierarchy in squad on and off pitch by xavi and iniesta has instrumental play in this organic balance towards commitment.

    Dunga is not my first choice but he is a short-term remedy for this problem, and has conquered my and millions other brazilian affection for restoring respect by those wearing that shirt. but no one expected him to assemble a quality team, i would dare to say a historical one if it happens to win it all, maybe one of the most dreadful sides ever assembled.

    I know brazil has this curse much for publicising itself for playing beautiful all the time, wich is not the truth, but saying its jogo bonito is long gone is no further from the lie either.

    aquele abraço

  • Comment number 87.

    #11.. I don't think you're right on that. Football is a tactical game so as much as chess. Modern football is all about strategies,tactics and positioning rather than possession,usage of ball and skill.
    Examples ranging from the start of the WC till the days today can prove that. The brazilians are always a team having players with skill who can keep possession and the most renowned users of the ball.But most of their success on the pitch is to do with their tactics. They invented back four,wingers and the attacking full backs. Their major failures were also due to tactics that jaded themselves and could be invaded easily and left jarred.
    The mobility and utility of the players in modern football has vastly reduced irrespective of the rise in distance covered by the players(which i think is due to pace of the game that has risen). Each players performs well only in his specified position or area or only his specified job.We hardly see a forward tackles and that too on the opposition's half. Due to this change the optimal usage and movement of a player only around that specified area have become the trump card in football and mostly so in leagues.So,a formation is required to shield the defense,tighten/loosen the centre(depending on use of wingers) and provide maximum services to the strikers.Tactics required for the operation of each player inside and away from their own areas.Now only if the players ability/skill match the formation and tactics,the team clicks.
    For an example you can see liverpools last season.
    The brazilans this time around don't have those players with flair and the players easily lose possession when pressed. But their positional play,defensive formation and the counter-attacking tactics usually been reaping great results,sometimes better than the results with flair teams they had. Meanwhile spain with all their possession,passing and skilled players can't easily gain results.

  • Comment number 88.

    7 passes for a goal. Next we will be talking about the return of route one football, like Germany's goal against England!

  • Comment number 89.

    #3, brian:

    In one respect you could be right about the style of play employed by Spain being defensively minded, i.e. if you have the ball the the opposition can't score, but I think there is one aspect of modern international football that gives the lie to this sentiment.

    The biggest development of this world cup is that every team knows how to defend (OK, every team except perhaps England). The days where teams like Slovenia, Turkey, Greece etc. would be considered minnows or a walkover are over. Ultimately, most national sides can get hold of a manager good enough to organise even average defensive players into a unit that is very hard to score against.

    Spain's approach is one way of countering this. The passes they play are not complicated. English players could play them but seem to lack the speed of thought - Spain take one touch where we would take two or three. The ball may end up in the same place but those extra seconds are crucial because the whole point of this style of football is to pull a defence out of shape. Once defensive players have been moved left and right or in and out then invariably an opportunity will present itself.

    Inevitably, this means that there will be fewer crushing victories as the process of scoring a goal takes longer, however there will also be fewer goals conceded by a side that is so adept at retaining posession. Witness the last ten mins of the Portugal game.

    Ultimately, the successful sides play to the same ethos: Score more than your opponents. Brazil are closer to the '7 touch' theory mentioned in the blog these days than Spain are but are more likely, I would argue, to rack up a large number of goals. Against the same opposition, take England as an example, I would expect both sides to win comfortably but with Brazilian dominance evidenced in the margin of victory and Spanish dominance evidenced in a win and the complete dominance of posession.

    That's why it would be fascinating to watch these two teams play each other. My money would be on Brazil, just.

  • Comment number 90.

    And Tim,
    On the heat of the subject i didn't agree with,i forgot to give you the credit you're due. I don't know much about you but one with an analysing brain like yours should be on higher accolade and definately greater accreditation.Been following you since long and i never get to read anything as good as you.

  • Comment number 91.

    This is exactly where England went wrong. Capello was naive and gambled on our attacking strength. We were capable of defending and hitting on the break, exactly as Germany did. Van Marwijk for England.

  • Comment number 92.

    Having said that, one has to applaud such a stance. If the second had gone in, the attacking momentum might have carried over into the second half. - And the story might have been totally different. Spain and Argentina seem both to have the personnel to defend in numbes and to break effectively with pace. I think it will be close between them.

  • Comment number 93.

    Maybe Capello gambled because he had no close affinity for English culture. And perhaps it needed a gamble if we were going to actually win the tournament. And to do that we needed a style that venerated the attacking prowess of English football. Perhaps - all in all - we were valiant losers. But only Capello might feel that.
    Give him another chance.
    Better to lose attacking, than on the toss of a coin.

  • Comment number 94.

    We do have a chance but it is also based on luck, in 94 Brazil scored a clear offside goal, in 98 Van Hooijdonk was brought down in the last minute but instead of a penalty he recieved a yellow card. Except for the 82 team which was absolutely brilliant, Brazil are quite often overrated and their theatrics make me sick, most of them are divers. If I wanna watch football I would prefer Argentina and Spain in this boring WC so far!

  • Comment number 95.

    Hi Tim and all,

    Wonderful memories. Wanted to say hi from the Netherlands Worldcup Blog. We all debate matters Oranje there and all read these pages too.

    As for the World Cup 1974, one question... Everyone talks about skipper Cruyff (and understandably), goal scoring Rep and unorthodox Jongbloed but in the hearts and minds of the Dutch, playmaker Willem van Hanegem was the soul of the team, playing a perfect tournament. But no one seems to remember and it's as if the man - internationally, that is - has been erased from memory :-).

    Why is that?


  • Comment number 96.

    The only thing I feel it is unfortunate about this game is that we never get to see Brazil x Holland in a World Cup Final.
    At their best, their both are the teams to watch given their flair and fearless approach.
    As a Brazilian, I rejoice seeing Brasil agains Holland because it is one of the few teams we play outside Suth America that have a real go at us and give freedom of play whereas the other European sides are simply way to phisicall and limited.
    Even France in 1998 won againt Brasil because of the circumstances out of the pitch (we will never know how a Brasil fully concentrated and geared up for that game would have performed). 2006 was an abberration similar to Real Madrid - no cohesion and a bunch of very skilled players unable to play as a proper team.
    I will be supporting Brasil all the way but hoping that the winner of this one will go all the way to win the torunment. Even if it is Holland. They are the European side that most fully deserve the trophy due to their historicall way of really playing skilled and free football without the european phisical side.

  • Comment number 97.

    Holland are being written off a bit easily for this game. They're on quite a good run of late and have plenty of firepower going forward and could break Brazil down. I don't fancy Maicon defensively at all and with Robben and Sneider Holland have the players to hurt Brazil.

  • Comment number 98.

    Nice blog Tim. Ingredients of “total football” are still very much visible in the current Dutch side. This evening’s encounter promises to be an explosive one. Eleven men clad in Orange taking on another Eleven in Yellow. What a sight it will be. They have a chance to rewrite history.

    Experienced and versatile Mark van Bommel, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, Rafael van der Vaart, Nigel De Jong, Johnny Heitinga and Robin van Persie are all creative and constructive footballers who can play beautiful football and win. These boys have had big impact at their clubs in Germany, Italy, Spain and England. The Dutch look strong and focussed to take on any of the remaining sides in the competition. It would not be a surprise if the guys in Orange keep marching on.

    Best wishes to Oranje and their fans.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 99.

    Nice article. With some questionable points.

    Let us see, it turns the whole game around Brazil, after all. It was the reaction to the great turmoil imposed by the Netherlands 74' that caused Brazil 78', a gather of many talents and a very weird and confused side: defensive; few goals; due to many draws; a young and rather especulative coach, with brilliant theories more in the paper than in the pitch, etc. And even then they finished in third place with no defeats -- and that includes a draw with the champions, Argentina.

    I suppose Brazil 82' deserves much more, although. It is considered here merely as a team from the past. It is unfair to the greatness of this side. Perhaps because it lost and the future became so associated with European (specially Italian) 'catenaccio'. And, let us remember, Brazil 82' lost only to the champions, as the Netherlands in 74'. This Brazilian defeat was, though, much more evil to attacking football than the one the Netherlands suffered eight years earlier, because Brazil 82' were even more vertical and full of gifted players. They were such a strong, mythic, exuberant team. At some point we simply didn't fear for them anymore. They were so able to comeback. They seemed invencible. Displayed an incredible repertoire of moves and such a light-hearted spirit. But Italy playing counterattacking football -- btw much uglier than the present Brazilian side -- showed us the truth: they were also vulnerable because a lot overconfident side! Italy, by then, also showed us one important aspect: TO WIN THE THING. And to do it one got to have nerves... and brain, appart from talent.

    Brazil x the Netherlands: epic matches in the 90's, no doubt gained to this confrontation the satus of a huge classic.

    At the moment, it is difficult, rather embarassing for a true Brazilian fan of the 82' side to watch Brazil. Of course as a Brazilian I will support my country. In the World Cup, any doubts about it, the team 'is' the country. Simply as that. And for many reasons, somewhat strange, that go far beyond football. And football is special because is the sport closest to life itself. So football expresses our gestures, idioms, history, bodies, culture, music, rythms, needless to say: all this unic historical blend which is Brazil. Or rather, the Netherlands with their painters, channels, bridges, bycicles, outstanding vanguard architecture and lovely documentary films by Joris Ivens or Bert Haanstra. Or whatever is peculiar to a people as whole, a nation. It is a sort of war without casualities [well not always...Cote d'Ivoire were particularly violent, and brought some victms, such as Elano]. Anyway,an 'ersatz' war, a makeshift war. Look at the politically correct reporters trying desperately by any means to avoid war terminology. And it is almost impossible. Football it is a combat also. A dwell. And a much better one than war, because it is epic without devastation or real death -- even with excesse of money and sponsors interests involved, et pour cause. And in the end it is just a game no matter its importance.

    Sometimes it is quiet disgusting to read so many clichés here and there that have few to do with football. Indeed, they are as boring as this ridiculous personal quarrel between Leonardo and Yalibi round here, for instance [in which one try to "teach" the other:"look you don't know how to write in your own language, I speak 7 languages...". (and so what?). And the other vomit a whole blend of stupidity in portuguese in counterpart. This is not really football. I mean... This is war, indeed. Or some kind of childlike display.

    Quiet unberable as well are old, simplistic clichés such as:

    1. Brazil are good because of 190 million inhabitants, bla, bla, bla. This is lousy. The demographic whimper. If it were true, Chinese and Indians, mad about football, would ever win the World Cup, instead. And that's no true. Indonesia a heavy populated country, also mad about football, not even qualified for a single World Cup. When Brazil won their first World Cup it had round 58 million hab. This demographic theory sounds a lot ridiculous. Of course it is special to fancy Uruguay, the same population as, say, Wales, and they are what they are in the football world scene. Nothing to compare with in Europe, for sure. Some states of Brazil if they disputed the World Cup independently, they would do better, than, say, England or France, not to mention Porutgal or Spain...and with less population. But that is another matter...

    If South America one day become as wealthier as Europe [or more, who knows the future?], the rest of the world would watch almost exclusively the South American spot: the Brazilian, the Agentine, the Uruguayan leagues, for there is the kingdom... the real talent. The talent that a splendid player, like Cruyff, so jealously despise...but Dunga answered him in a quiet unexpected well tempered mood. And as a bossa-nova song says "é melhor ser alegre que ser triste" ["it is better be happy than somber"].

    2. All Brazilian players -- or South American players -- come from a poor background. Also a very widespread and sort of ridiculous argument. Otherwise considerable portion of the most gifted Argentine and Brazilian players comes from middle class families. Among the Brazilian lot: Kaká, Falcão, Sócrates, Raí, Juninho Pernambucano, Juninho Paulista, Leonardo, Djalminha, and many others. And rather following this very reason the Nordeste [Northeast], the poorest region in Brazil, would be the birthplace of the majority of the great players -- which it is not, actually. Although some important ones, as Rivaldo or Alves were born here [in Nordeste]. If poverty was a reason to win in football, an European side would have win it in Brazil 50', immediately after the II World War. But then the final was among two South Americans. On the contrary, I guess, a more democratic division of the wealth, will bring a very good impact on the national team. Especially because the first three titles Brazil won (58', 62', 70'], the whole bunch played "in Brazil". And this includes our best players ever: Pelé and Garrincha -- this duo (alias, like Kaká and Robinho) -- that playing together never lost a single match.

    I have to admit, though, that there is something really new in the current Brazil side, almost despite Dunga. Something subtle, but more present in the match against Chile and to a less extent Cote d'Ivoire. Some different form of commitment and occupation of the spaces. Some new "form" of controlling the tempo and pace of the whole thing. Some form of minimal poetry blended with explosive phisical power and prowess. Some lethargy and outburst. The player, 'par excellence', of this new era is not Fabiano or Kaká, but the likes of Maicon, Alves, Lúcio, Ramires, -- albeit the last one being not a tank is an athlete. And if Brazil suceeds tomorrow, then it is done, I am affraid. Because I don't think rather Uruguay -- which is a very intersting side -- or Ghana -- which is a boring one -- can stop the 'Seleção'. Or even this brilliant young German team if they unlikely suceed against Argentina. Or Argentina, themselves, inspired by their true legend.

    I suspect today it will be an epic match. And a decisive one to the future of the sport. So much as in 74' (although with a strange flavor, a sort of inversion of values). It will be 'the match' of this World Cup. After all, I do believe the champion will come from it, unlike 74'. And, furthermore, looking back, one can realize, after 82': WIN IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT, appart from playng it beautifully. That is precisely the legacy of an Italian lesson. We are aware that wining it is more important then trying to satisfy or entertain the others, although Brazil will always display some glimpses of undisputable creativity and a high level of technical skills. And so obviously the Dutch, which are also a phisically strong side, have some chance to win it -- even if they have played against weaker sides in the group phase and displayed some mediocrity in the 2x1 against Slovakia. These results in the end are no parameter once a true champion must know how to save energy for future, more serious clashes. But now the Dutchs really will get a test. As the will the Brazilians.

    I bet the argies will do the job quiet well by the other side. This German team is excellent, but also too young. It will be the team to be beaten in Brazi 14'. And Spain: no way they can do it, unfortunately. The defence of Spain is somewhat fragile -- specially Puyol, Ramos, Casillas. The so called 'tiki-taka' -- their passing style to move with the ball --is as plastic as ineffective and even tedious at some point. Of course Spain have good individual talents: Xavi, the great Iniesta, Villa... But the Brazilian side would tear them to pieces in an eventual, very unlikely, final with their sort of "spasmathic" blend of lethargy and explosion. In fact, Spain will hardly make it straight through it. They rather will be outclassed by the argies -- equally vulnerables in defense(de michelis, heinze) but much more experienced and equally gifted (plus Messi). Remember Spain at last year's Confederation's Cup? What they did in the key moment? They trembled. and lost to USA with a better team than the present. And otherwise Brazil operated a historical comeback against USA: 2x3.

    Therefore I fancy a less dramatic final (although by no means easy) against Argentina than this quarterfinal against the Netherlands. If Brazil suceed today, they're are going to be in their 8th final. And will be hard stuff to stop them. I also root for Uruguay -- as they are a brave, much brighter side than robotic Ghana (sorry for the Africans, but true).

    Indeed, the only obstacle to Brazil is the Netherlands. And in a few hours... This one will be quiet tricky. And close.

  • Comment number 100.

    I will never forget Holland Vs Brazil match at France 98, a game in which Holland were clearly the better side and the "mighty" Brazil just packed their defence leaving just ronaldo upfront. That was moment i stopped supporting brazil, and i hope holland win this one.


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