mercoledì 3 luglio 2013

Speed remains the key factor

Confederations Cup final between Spain and Brazil was a waited clash of opposing brand of football. In fact, while Spain is well known for playing a possession football, Luis Felipe Scolari reshaped Brazil relying on counterattacking football. Brazil offense was built to transfer the ball toward the offensive quartet of Hulk, Neymar, Oscar and Fred as soon as possible and all of them are able of carrying the ball at high speed. It was the key: speed. Playing the match at a very high tempo denied Spain to establish ball control.
“In the first half hour, they were all over us, they were physical, they were intense, we couldn't bring the ball out of the back the way we wanted," said Sergio Ramos. "They chased us all over the pitch, they weren't afraid to be physical and get stuck in and it broke our rhythm," added Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque. In recent years, a short-passing, tiki-taka football seemed to be the only way to win and play entertainment football. Newly appointed South Korea head coach Hong Myung-bo correctly pointed it: “as possession football has gained popularity of late, there has been a tendency to overlook the importance of speed.” Few high level teams approached a different way.  A football power that won four World Cups playing a speed game based on fast-break, as Italy did, embraced, under Cesare Prandelli, a Spaniard, ball retantion style. Just Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho stayed away from tiki-taka, favouring a more direct approach. Brazil’s approach took advantage from Spain’s lack of shape. But while Italy enjoyed success against Spain winning the ball in midfield, Scolari’s side were less cautious as they faced Del Bosque’s team inside their own half. Pressing high up leave you vulnerable to fast-break. But if your team is pressing organized and at high speed, it’s hard for the opponents to get the ball past your high defensive line. Having players tired and with this kind of humidity, some coaches, like Prandelli did, asked to their team to remain compact in their own half to force counterattacking football. Many sides, full of European-based players, will probably came in Brazil next summer exhausted after a long season. That could made them unable to deal the speed of the game that more fresh sides could put on the field. More technical teams could struggle against weaked but more shaped XI. Tiki-taka teams could find troubles against other sides starting pressing them high up and then playing counter-attacking football. So Asian teams, for example, could enjoy success increasing speed and stamina. Strong defense and quick counterattacks can yet lead underdog nation to victories. But then, Spain too was effective when they was able to maximize their speed near to the opponents' penalty boxes. Quick one-two punches between Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi near to the penalty area made Barcelona great. What it means? Is tiki-taka dead? Not at all. But speed and intensity still remain key factors of the game.

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