TFN’s Ethan Meade takes a look at some of the African hopes at the 2014 World Cup…
“An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000” – Pele, 1977
“What Pele saw was the physical attributes that African players have, but what he probably didn’t take into consideration is the mentality necessary to win the World Cup. It’s not just about physical ability, it’s about your mentality.” – John Barnes, 2014
Pele’s bold prediction of 1977 has fallen somewhat short in the intervening years. The furthest an African team has reached is the quarter-final – the Roger Milla-inspired Cameroon side of 1990, and Ghana in 2010, denied by penalty heartbreak for Asamoah Gyan. This time around, Pele’s prophecy looks unlikely to be fulfilled. That said, in Nigeria and Ivory Coast, they boast two potential heavyweight’s in Brazil, whilst an enigmatic Algerian side will be joined by perennial challengers Ghana and Cameroon. Continue reading →
Adroit footballers operating in several positions throughout their career is not a modern phenomenon. John Charles, arguably the finest dual-threat player ever, was both a world class centre forward and centre back; often during the same game. Likewise, players have historically operated across a back four, in midfield or attack in several defined roles. However, recent developments from both a technical and tactical perspective have seemingly taken this versatility one step further. Multifunctional players are determining European Cups and league titles and the trend looks set to continue.
Looking back at Claude Makélélé’s time with Chelsea provides the perfect juxtaposition to the modern holding midfielder. The man who is the only footballer to have an actual position named after him was the perfect defensive midfielder. Makélélé possessed a positional sense that few have ever matched, married with superlative defensive instincts. He was the battery in an expensive watch and naturally the ‘Makélélé Role’ was coined.
In a time where teams were still largely operating on a 4-4-2 basis Makélélé provided the platform for José Mourinho’s devastating counterattacking football. His role was simple and overlooked by those who ran Madrid. Their loss was undoubtedly Mourinho’s gain and Makélélé enabled Chelsea to dominate the Premier League for a two-year period. As the game evolved the requirements of the midfield anchor man deviated from those of a purely defensive failsafe. The birth of the regista (at least in the consciousness of mainstream football) gave prominence to artistic brilliance and the passing acumen of Andrea Pirlo. It even led to a domestic clamour for the conversion of David Beckham into a ‘quarterback’. Continue reading →
Simon Smith contemplates the sudden reemergence of create-and-destroy midfield partnerships…
Ah 2003, was it really a decade ago? I suppose it seems long enough ago that we can feel a twinge of nostalgia. Certainly Arsenal fans will do in light of the north London derby that has all but guaranteed Tottenham Hotspur will finish above them this season. More than a few of them will have been casting their minds back to the previous teams and players that would have fared better against their bitter rivals. But Gooners should not be the only ones to get a little misty eyed this weekend because in several games there was more than a few examples of one of those forgotten tactical features of yesteryear fans so often lament the demise of. I am talking about the so called “creator-destroyer” partnership. Continue reading →
Simon Smith takes a look at some of the major talking points in Groups A and C of the 2013 African Cup of Nations…
With a sense of déjà-vu the African Cup of Nations returns. It seems like it was only last year Zambia ran out as unlikely champions, largely because the Confederation of African Football’s decision to switch the tournament from even to odd years means it was only last year. With so little time to get over arguably the underdog story of 2012, can we really get excited all over again so soon? Continue reading →