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Understanding Football Formations
The beautiful game of football needs no introduction. Crowned as the most popular sport in the world, football has mesmerized millions and millions of viewers across the globe. Pace, deft touches, brilliant passing and jaw-dropping goals have all contributed to football being widely regarded as the king of sports. But what makes football so appealing, fascinating and intriguing is the style of play, strategies, tactics and techniques teams adopt to thwart the opposition. Almost like a game of chess, football, despite the relentless speed and physical combat, is a sport designed by the brain and executed by the body.
Very often you would have heard commentators and experts talk about team formations. What exactly is team formation? How important is team building? What impact does this have exactly on the outcome of a game? Of course, you would have asked your friend or your father these questions without getting a proper answer. Let’s take a closer look at team formations and try to understand what it means.
Now, what do you think 4-2-2 means? It simply refers to four defenders, two midfielders and two forwards. As you know, a team can only have 11 players, one of them being the goalkeeper. So that leaves the other 10 players and team formations to revolve around those 10 players. Over the years, teams have experimented with different team formations to maximize resource utilization.
Formations were unknown until the 1950s when the 4-2-4 system was introduced. The 4-2-4 was the first formation to be described using numbers. Prior to this system, the emphasis was on offense and teams employed 6-7 attackers in a game. The 4-2-4 formation was one of a kind and tried to combine a powerful attack with a solid defence. The 4-2-4 was first used successfully at club level in Brazil and became the cornerstone of their World Cup victories in 1958 and 1970. The success of the 4-2-4 combination lay in the fact that the 2 midfielders would play both a defensive and attacking role.
But modern football is not a one-team formation. Over the years, many formations have come into use and have been used in a very targeted way by teams around the world. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular team formations used in modern football.
1) 4-3-3: In plain and simple terms, this formation refers to 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 forwards. This formation is a modified version of the 4-2-4 and allows the use of an additional midfielder thus strengthening the defence. This formation was put to good use by Brazil in the 1962 World Cup which they eventually won.
2) 4-4-2: Four defenders, four midfielders and two attackers form this composition. One of the most common formations in modern football, the 4-4-2 system requires midfielders to support both defense and attack. It is a very popular formation in Great Britain in particular.
3) 4-3-2-1: A 4-3-2-1 system consists of 4 defenders, 3 central midfielders, 2 attacking or attacking midfielders and 1 striker. Commonly described as the Christmas tree formation, in this approach the midfielder of the three central midfielders acts as the playmaker while one of the attacking midfielders plays a free role.
There are many other interesting team formations that modern teams employ and much of it is dictated by team strength and opposition. Some teams place more emphasis on defense while there are teams that place importance on offense. Traditionally, some teams are known to be defensive centric while some of them are attack centric.
Indeed, football is not just about what you do on the pitch but also what you do off it. Strategies, approach, techniques play a crucial role in deciding the fate of a match. We’ve learned a bit more about team formations in this edition and I hope it helps you understand the game better. Please see my article ‘A Look at Football Positions’ to understand positions on the pitch .
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