In this recent World Cup we saw national teams employ really good defense (0-0 quarterfinal and semifinal draws) or really bad defense (Brazil anyone?). My jaw dropped like a guillotine from the French Revolution to unleash cheerful yells after every goal in that 7-1 German victory over Brazil. In those other draws, the lack of goals was compensated for by the tactical battles presented. Defense is still part of the game folks!
I was watching the Copa Libertadores final last night in a state that can only be described as mad. Missing an opportunity to go out with a lady will do that to you! While watching, I noticed how narrow Nacional were playing. Their attacks came from long balls to their attacker and counter attacks. The formation was rigid and the positioning was not to be broken. This went on to absorb attacks caused by San Lorenzo having the ball for extended periods of time. Also, in the first half, the ball was lost and recovered in the half way line area by both teams. A mistake, in the form of a bad pass or interception, was taken advantage off. A series of turnovers is how I would describe it. No, I have not lost track of what sport I’m writing about.
Pressing in concentrated areas is another thing Nacional did with more than one player pressing whomever had or was going to receive the ball. The narrow way of moving did not have them spread all over the pitch. San Lorenzo used the sides of the pitch a lot more than Nacional did. That combined with Romagnoli’s play opened up spaces and allowed them to drop into the channels. Of course, the Nacional fullbacks would stop these attacks on the wing by following the runs and blocking them. The center backs would throw their bodies to clear the ball from danger. This showed how much they wanted the cup. Piris, the captain, lead his defense to a 1-1 draw against San Lorenzo in the first leg of the final. He was Leonidas holding back the Argentinians in Estadio Defensores del Chaco. This defender, Piris, broke up runs, tackled, and helped transition the ball from his defensive area to the midfield. This was achieved by passing the ball into midfield without going for a long pass or cross.
I’m writing this to highlight the defensive style of play present in this first leg of the Copa Libertadores final. My attention glued on to it like flies on poop! The defenders knew they were the anchor that was holding the boat.The formation held because it was defensive and movement off the ball was needed to break attacks and absorb them. Defense is a concept that compliments well with offensive play.
- Copa Libertadores – continental club South American tournament
- Club Nacional – team from Paraguay
- Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro – team from Argentina
- Raul Piris – A Paraguayan footballer (defender) who captains Club Nacional
- Leandro Romagnoli – A Argentinian footballer (midfielder) who plays for San Lorenzo