Wednesday, June 16, 2010

But the Training Runs on Time

I'm up after the Brazil v N Korea game, and I'm writing fresh. That is, I have seen no media whatsoever beyond the showing of the game itself. Regardless of whether I turn out to have unique and wondrous insight or be entirely full of shit, I think this is a valuable form of writing for the reader.

Unfortunately however I won't be publishing this in about half an hour as I should, but in the next day or so, because the internet here is inconsistent at best, despite the fact that wireless internet was the headline feature of the advertisements of the travel company. Who do I blame? The company, who is also frustrated and certainly trying? South Africa, where there have been five star hotels without hot water? It is easier sometimes, and less stressful, to blame the gods. Anyway I'm going to adopt a habit of writing off-line as much as possible and then just publishing the lot when I get on the net.

One result of this new procedure is that I'm abandoning pictures for now. I'll still take them and collect them, and will publish a selection eventually, but I did hope to use a lot of pictures in my World Cup blogging and have promised it, so I apologise. Blame me, Total Sports Travel, South Africa or all three.

Brazil v North Korea 2:1

Well that was quite something. Brazil, the king of the World, defeats the lowest ranked nation at the World Cup by just one goal.

What has North Korea done? Most of its players, unlike any of the great soccer nations, don't play in the big European leagues. In fact most of them play only within North Korea.

It's like this totalitarian state read the textbooks on how to train players in their technique and in their tactics, then with the precise military discipline that only a totalitarian state can bring to a sporting team, just did it. The result is a lesson for everyone, and in a sense backs up Craig Foster's thesis about football development, and about how to go about playing football.

Fozzie might have even advised the team, and if he had he would have been proven right to insist on open, attacking football, even if your opponent is superior. Fozz may be naive to think that it's possible in the Australian environment (I hope not), and we don't have a totalitarian system to enforce this stuff, but there it is.

The North Korean players lost the ball too much. That's the main mistake they made really. It's a mistake you make when your opposition is technically superior and vastly more experienced at high pressure games. It's because they lost the ball so much that they had less possession and were so often on the defensive. It doesn't mean they played defensively.

Every time DPR got the ball they played from the back and attempted to attack by dribbling and passing. They did so in a system which they had clearly drilled and drilled. Apparently it was a 4-5-1 system, as is Australia's, but as Fozzie says, the shape isn't the indicator of attacking or defending, but what the players are doing. If they didn't give away so much possession by mistake, they would actually look like a very direct, attacking team, because that was what they were trying to do. It's not easy to be tactically virtuosic, but they stuck at it. A few times in the first half they even nearly got there, but they lacked the individual flair to make the final punch.

I'm just assuming here what was absolutely apparent. Brazil are brilliant. Their touch and their game is so silky it's disgusting. Their defense is experienced and brilliant, and even the best team in the World would find it challenging. Their attack is sublime, and indeed it was pure individual acts of genius - something the totalitarian regime may have more difficulty producing - that won the day for them. It's hard to say that either one was due to defensive mistakes.

The thing about defending is you don't have a ball to lose, and therefore it is in defense that DPR really impressed, since losing the ball was the only thing they did wrong. They were, quite frankly, a bloody tough nut for Brazil to crack.

DPR switched from attack to defense in an instant when they did lose the ball. They did not run around like madmen the way Paraguay looked good against Italy for a half, until they were stuffed. DPR were efficient in movement, not lunging around, not tackling madly, but maintaining a disciplined, tactically polished system of three lines, defending from the front line and accomplishing overlaps forward or back on either wing when necessary.

Their defense was beautiful, but that did not mean they wanted to just defend. If they wanted to defend they would have just booted the ball forward each time. They did boot the ball forward - about twice - and one resulted in their goal. If you think that means that if you just boot the ball forward you will score more goals I reckon you're wrong. If that's all you do the main result is to allow the opposition to swamp your target man and overwhelm him each time. No, DPR played textbook football at an extremely high standard except that, to Brazil, they lost the ball too often.

What I suspect Fozzie might also say is that this demonstrates that you don't have to have a huge population to play excellent football, you don't need to be big (the Koreans looked half the Brazilian's size), and you don't have to have super fitness and stamina. You just need to teach the people who do play really well, and use the most modern tactical training as well.

I reviewed half of Fozzie's book, Fozz on Football in Reading (I hadn't finished it). I will review it fully some time but I will reiterate here that although Fozz is a nutjob, he is also right about the key things - which turn out to be the football things rather than his nonsense about politics, linguistics and morality. I recommend the book with the qualification that you'll have to choke on your own scorn a fair bit in between being extremely well educated.

Anyway, if North Korea can continue playing like this they could scare Portugal and Ivory Coast, and that was not expected.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Liam said...

Check out Zonal Marking... you'd dig it.

June 16, 2010 9:55 pm  
Blogger john said...

Nth Korea kept Australia out of the 1966 World Cup - just (it could have been all so different. In 1966 Nth Korea gave England a run for their money.

June 16, 2010 9:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review of this game. I was stunned by Nth Korea's performance. Hope they get through to the next round...

June 17, 2010 8:51 am  

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