Stonewalling de­fence throws the 2010 World Cup wide open

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

APLAGUE of de­fen­sive or­gan­i­sa­tion is spread­ing across world foot­ball and the first week of the 2010 World Cup proves it.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that so many draws have been seen, so many favoured teams shut down and pre­vented from play­ing.

The coaches of world foot­ball, es­pe­cially with the so-called “lesser” teams, have re­alised that even with­out the nat­u­ral tal­ent and ball skills of Brazil­ian play­ers, they can still in­stall a sys­tem among less tal­ented foot­ballers that can frus­trate bet­ter known stars.

How else to ex­plain the per­for­mance of Switzer­land in scor­ing early against Spain and then frus­trat­ing them by sheer or­gan­i­sa­tion, struc­ture and dis­ci­pline?

We saw some­thing sim­i­lar from the United States who kept out Eng­land’s ef­forts at sal­va­tion in the sec­ond half in Rusten­burg.

France, too, were de­nied by Uruguay in their open­ing match and Italy found them­selves frus­trated by Paraguay.

Per­haps most re­veal­ingly, you only have to study how close an or­gan­ised, highly dis­ci­plined North Korea side came to frus­trat­ing Brazil this week.

The play­ers of the world’s most loathed com­mu­nist state were not fit to lace the boots of their Brazil­ian ri­vals in terms of ball skills and nat­u­ral abil­ity.

But they more than made up for that with a stir­ring ef­fort, full of zeal and self­less phys­i­cal com­mit­ment.

These so-called “lesser” teams are by no means fools and they are con­firm­ing that point by their deeds.

This trend, ex­em­pli­fied by so many draws, is likely to con­tinue through­out this World Cup.

Those who have em­ployed wily, ex­pe­ri­enced coaches, like Switzer­land with Ottmar Hitzfeld, may well profit from their in­vest­ment in ex­pe­ri­ence.

And if they have the right play­ers, those will­ing to roll up their sleeves and bat­tle for 90 min­utes, all the while shut­ting down ev­ery at­tack­ing op­tion and bit of space for the op­po­si­tion, then they can un­doubt­edly pre­vail, as we have seen.

It may very well mean that cer­tain sides ex­pected to do very well, per­haps like Spain and Eng­land, find them­selves frus­trated and de­nied.

Maybe oth­ers, whose creed is forged chiefly on in­dus­try and ef­fort, will flour­ish and go much fur­ther than any­one had imag­ined. For sure, there threaten to be ma­jor ram­i­fi­ca­tions for a nation taken by sur­prise by these tac­tics.

For ex­am­ple, if Spain can­not now fin­ish top of group H – as seems most doubt­ful fol­low­ing their loss to Switzer­land – they are likely to be con­fronted with a night­mare match in the round of the last 16 with Brazil.

No­body an­tic­i­pated that oc­cur­ring at such an early stage but it looks on the cards now and the Span­ish will be mor­ti­fied at the prospect.

Fac­ing Brazil in a semi-fi­nal or fi­nal is one thing but in the last 16?

I doubt it was writ­ten on the script pre­pared for this tour­na­ment back in Span­ish FA of­fices in Madrid.

But that may be the price to be paid for a slip up of the na­ture of Spain’s against the Swiss this week. It seems al­most cer­tain there will be oth­ers.

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