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Full backs, the key to winning?

Monday, June 14, 2010

When recently listening to a Guardian podcast a theory emerged which I
had hitherto never given much time. The idea was that the team with
the best full back combination would win the world cup.

As football has evolved the fullback has become one of the most
important players on the pitch. Dani Alves, Ashley Cole, Maicon, Evra,
et al are regarded with high esteem and all regularly linked with
transfers to Real Madrid.

I can only remember as far back as '94 when Jorginho and Branco
tore up and down the wings to great effect, then '98 when Thuram
rescued France's cause against Croatia partnered by Lizarazu.

The theory is a solid one, and while obviously a little simplistic
it's worth considering for the forthcoming tournament.

Favourites Spain employ the oft eccentric yet highly skilled Sergio
Ramos and Arbeloa, a much less exciting player who can cross a ball
yet is more of a workhorse - yet they're not a side who traditionally
play through the wings preferring instead to ferry the ball through
it's outrageously gifted midfield. Ramos does find himself in advanced
areas quite regularly for both club and country and has been known to
possess a very decent finish.

Brazil of course have both Alves and Maicon, the former having a
sensational 60% win percentage when playing for the seleção. Looking
to the left back Michel Bastos of Lyon and you again find a very
adventurous player yet it would be a shame if one of Maicon or Alves
were forced to miss out.

The main surprise is Argentina. Maradona has infamously named a side
which will contain no fullbacks. He plans on playing with 4
centrebacks and relying on wingers Di Maria and Newcastle's Jonas
Gutierrez to provide width a creativity. Jonathan Wilson recently
suggested that perhaps there is genius in Maradona's methods as his
lineup will provide problems which other teams have forgotten how to
solve. With keeping 4 at the back they garuntee defensive solidity but
may find themselves relying too heavily on little Leo Messi.

The Dutch pairing of Van der Wiel and Van Bronkhorst are perhaps the
most unusual. The former a very young and inexperienced converted
centre back and the other the antethesis of that; 36 years old and
converted midfielder. They have both however had excellent warm up
games and seem to suit the style of the Dutch with Robben and Sneijder
providing the brilliance for Van Persie.

And what of Portugal? Bosingwa has been out since October forcing
Queiroz to call up part time footballer Paulo Ferreira; a conservative
player who often looks defensively suspect. On the left it seems that
youngster Fabio Coentrao will get the start. Coentrao is a left winger
who was played out of position by Benfica to great effect, and he has
been linked to Mourinho's Madrid as a result. He's a very attacking
minded player but could find himself unstuck against very attacking
(read Brazil) sides.


And finally to the Germans, a side I had written off last week but who
last night really tore it up. Lahm was magnificent providing the best
full back performance so far this tournament. Badstuber was solid yet
had very little to do against a poor Australian side. How he does
against Ghana is a greater test but I can't see Germany dropping
points in this group.

posted by teedoubleyou


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