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E-Pao! Essay - Coaches, colony and goal scoring pattern

Coaches, Colony and Goal Scoring Pattern

By: Donn Morgan Kipgen *


Catches win matches, so they say in cricket matches. However, in World Cup football or any world class league matches, coaches win matches, so long as the team comprises of top notch professionals. In cricket, it is the captain, with pre-match advice from team manager, who led the boys methodically by making the right calls and changes in the field.

With solid backing from gifted players, a cricket captain can beat any world class team. Now that the game of football in world cup becoming more like a cricket match, especially the one-day internationals, the role of manager-coach has become more and more significant than his star players.

The gentleman game of cricket has already been dominated for decades by commonwealth nation, i.e. colonial subjects, and now the beautiful game of football has also been picked up to the fullest in all aspects by former colonial countries, especially the Africans ever since Cameroon shocked defending champions Argentina in Italia '90.

In 2002 World Cup, Senegal showed little respect to their former ruler France by humiliating the defending champion. Actually Cameroon were beaten by a come from behind field penalty goal (2-3) by their former ruler Englishmen in the Qtr-final match of Italia '90.

Last week, Trinidad and Tobago kept colonial masters England at bay for an agonising 83 minutes with the English press box completely stunned. Perhaps they had already scripted 5 to 7 goals to none thrashing by Sven Erickson's pommies. Portugal managed to notch in one to beat their former subjects Angola.

Brazil and Argentina have long since upstaged their former masters Portugal and Spain by lifting 7 World Cups to none. France brought up Algeria and Tunisia to higher. In fact, France won the 1998 cup with just five real Frenchmen in the regular line up, the rest real heroes were of or from former colonies.

And when they lifted the 2000 European cup, there were just 3 full-blooded Frenchmen. Compare that to just one coloured player, the versatile Winger Jean (Pr Jaon) Tigana, which unluckily failed to lift the 1982 and 1986 World Cups despite having the best ever French footballers under the legendary Michel Platini. They did win the 1984 European Cup.

Now that all 'subjugated' nations from Africa, Asia and Oceania, plus new European States, improving by each year, there are no such things as minnows nor underdogs. The so-called 'Dark-horses' are now better known as 'second favourites'. This proved to be absolute nightmares for coaches-managers and pundits, especially in the league matches since they no longer hold the predictable 3 points luxury to be had from lowly weak Afro-Asian teams about ten years back.

Manager-coaches have now wisely refrain from experimenting tactics and are forced to keep the benches as they were in the first couple rounds of 'important' matches. They have to earn a point or three by starting with regular formation, and more often than not ended up the losing side to nondescript countries if they tried to sit tight with a goal or two.

Just ask the coaches of Serbia-Mont, Czech Rep, Tunisia and France, you will receive just woeful stare. It's all about one coach making an inspiring move against a brilliant coach shooting himself on the foot by misjudging the flow of the game or the strength of his 'lesser opponents'.

A good lucky manager-coach can and really did suddenly change the game successfully by using his bench i.e the 3 substitutes, in the last 20 -30 minutes with fresh legs exploiting the weakest part of the opponents' defence formation.

We ought to remember star players of their own rights, who could play in any part of the field and they can create or score a goal or two. The Aussie Tim Cahill, Steven Gerrard, Tavez, Raul Gonzalez, Aloisi, Al-jaber, etc among others scored decisive goals few minutes after coming in as substitutes. Other subs also scored few goals, but it was the talented supersubs who really made the difference by infusing pace, inspiration and creating space by attracting defenders.

In Deutschland- 2006, the bench made the real difference in most of the game; apart from the Australia vis Japan, Saudi Arabia Vs Tunisia, Spain Vs Tunisia, Sweden Vs England, Italian Coach Marcello Lippi's two early substitutes in Matarazzi and Phillipo Inzhagi fetch him two priceless goals.

For ordinary viewers, a defender is a defender, a midfielder is a midfielder, and a striker a just another striker which is also the case of cricket, wherein a batsman is a batsman and a bowler a bowler. They could not have been more a bowler who has more variety and control.

There are many bowler like Glenn McGrath with same pace, height, strength and style but only Glennie can bowl a controlled and nagging line and length. Pinch-hitter, all pace attack, power play plus super-subs, change of batting line to counter opponents bowling line-up etc are the same responsibilities of a football coach which more often than not missed by viewer and fans.

Real Madrid has the best players in its squad but managed miserably by the coach. It is all about squeezing out and using the best out of each player, rather than starting the world class footballers according to their respective reputations by the team management.

It should be noted that most of the World Cup players played or started their amateur carrier in various positions with good authority. Hence, a centre-forward might have played centre-half or winger in his early career. So, coaches usually threw in substitutes to double roles in the last 15-20 minutes with pace, energy and new attacking or defending formation as the situations demand.

During USA vs Italy group match, Coach Lippi, with midfielder did Rossi sent off, made a hasty substitution by taking out inside forward Totti for defensive centre-half Gattuso about 15 minutes two early. Yes, he could not have foreseen the sending off of Americans Mastroeni and then Alexander Pope.

The goal-scoring cum creator Totti was not there to provide the extra thrust against 9 men USA. Good coaches disrupted opponent formations with fresh legs against weary yellow-carded defenders, or put extra player in one particular position to put extra pressure with extra pace. In doing so, some spaces are often left wide open by the pounded and peppered defences.

Whenever there are methodical markings upon star playmakers, coaches would promptly switched their positions or lured makers far away from their defensive positions to create more spaces for counter-attacks. Coaching-managing is the most delicate job in world football.

They need to have 2 or 3 options to counter the opposition during a hard fought match. The main formation, as predicted is the last H&T column, now is the 4-3-1-2 (4-1-2-1-2 actual positioning) and the offensive formation being 4-3-3, with one sweeper and one regular pacy winger.

The left-and right-backs move up to support the flanks, two full-backs and a central mid-fielder guarding their own half, two centre-forwards in the box, two midfielder conducting the moves, one half-back prowling unmarked and one attacking midfielder supporting the two strikers.

From now on, the 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3 system will be the primary starting formations. For despite goal searching the 3-3-1-3 would definitely be the answer.

The goal scoring average is just over 2.6 goals per match, around 115 goals have been scored in 44 matches, but the average may go up a little if England go on conceding a goal from a direct throw-in (first time in World Cup history). The most remarkable thing about the goals scored in Deutschland 2006 being the time period.

Many of the goals are scored in the first 15 minutes, between 40-45 min, and the last 80-90 plus injury time which has never been experienced in any world cup. And most of the goals are booted in, headers are rarity probably because of the swirling lighter ball used in Deutschland- 2006.

Even goalkeepers missed the flights repeatedly and free-kicks often went higher and swing wider. Dribbling and prolonged ball control are harder because these lighter balls often travelled too slow or too high. As for the colonial stuff, the mother of all shock defeats by former subjects was that of USA beating England 1-0 in 1950 World Cup.


Donn Morgan Kipgen wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 24th, 2006

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