A Defensive Copa Libertadores To You

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

Staring At The Well

We would all like to be looking down the well, but sometimes we find ourselves looking up. Looking down is a statement of superiority that signifies normalcy. It shows an endpoint from the start line. We don’t think life will push us into the well, next thing you know, the light pours in from above. You find yourself looking up. How will you get up? You will rise to the occasion and climb your way up like Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. Ignore the physics and this will work!

A sudden climb to the top is usually not that helpful. Keep the broader goal in mind, yet break it up into digestive chunks. Your brain works better this way. If you build yourself up both mentally and physically both must be done or one will collapse without the other. If you do pushups like Christian Bale… well… that also works. Remember, you only have one shot to reach the sunlight and have it cover you. If you fail, that is more time needed to build up another chance.

Stay away from wells!

Scouting Knows No Frontiers

Containing talent in one region, for a club to use, is the antithesis to modern football globalization. In some romantic way, filling up your talent pool, with regional talent, is a source of pride. Would it be economically prudent? Are the resources (players) available to develop in the region? The consistency of talent might not always be there for clubs of a specific region to use. They could go the way of Mexico and hope a talented generation of players breaks through the youth structure. Chivas de Guadalajara and Athletic Bilbao are two such clubs that keep foreigners away through club policy.

The former expands its net as far away as the countries borders, while the latter defines its limit to the Basque region of Spain. Does culture translate into football? It might be efficient to have players speak the same language, share regional ties, and be tied to the history of the land. If you stop and think, a lot of what we think and do is tied geographically. It’s in our nature to insulate ourselves in our local communities, yet keep our minds global by watching the news or traveling. Football falls into this way of thinking. Both examples are moving contradictions that can tip to much to one side. This brings about an extreme that unlocks many pros and cons for these clubs to play with.

Scouting across multiple countries increases the odds of bringing in more diversifying talent. It may bot always bring in successful talent that can be use on an every time basis, but that is why you play the odds. A good youth program paired with decent scouting can compete for a season or two in their respective leagues before they are stripped by the bigger funded clubs. It is in good nature to say that these better funded clubs also have robust scouting networks. This brings the question, are multimillion dollar injections good? Do they benefit the game? The crux of sport is winning. Competition brings out the primal in us. Some would say the answer in yes if you want to win trophies. Manchester City and Chelsea are examples of clubs who receive multimillion dollar injections. They will be leveling out into stability in the upcoming years. The other extreme would be Valencia trying to find a rich investor or investors to take over the club.

On the flip side a local talent pool forces you to strategically allocate sources due to artificial limitations. It breeds a familiarity among local football youth teams and would be players to the club. This also creates a sense of community between fans and club. The region is being represented. The people are being represented. A sense of pride prevails. That one boy who dreams of one day breaking into the first team can whip the crowd into a frenzy over a game winning goal. Does it turn into success? Does the team win anything? If I take the case of Athletic Bilbao, the answer would be no. Athletic Bilbao have made it to the Copa del Rey and the Europa League cup finals, but a trophy to show for it does not exist. Many factors play into a club’s trophy season. Scouting talent is one of the many bricks making up the wall.

  • Chivas de Guadalajara is a Mexican Club
  • Athletic Bilbao/Valencia are Spanish Clubs
  • Manchester City and Chelsea are English Clubs