Stonewalling defence throws the 2010 World Cup wide open
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.