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'let's mix our game'

By unknown | Feb 11, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

At the outset, let's get rid of a few misconceptions that may still be lingering in the minds of South African soccer lovers.

l There's nothing wrong with Carlos Alberto Parreira's methods. He's the expert having won two World Cups, with Brazil, the first as a fitness trainer. He knows what he's doing;

l Bafana Bafana are playing in the only way that they can play; that they should play. This is the correct style that suits the qualities of our players;

l We did not get beyond the first round because we were not good enough. And we are not good enough because our players are not good enough. To confirm or refute this claim, do a comparative analysis between our team and the top eight to see how many players appear in the top leagues in the world. You'll soon see the point.


Style is the outward manifestation of the inherent qualities of a population of players. These inherent qualities are produced by genetic and environmental factors. In expressing a particular style of play the coach has to look at the material that he receives in the form of players and then choose a style that will come naturally to them.

Parreira is spot on in this department. He is too intelligent and knowledgeable a man to have got it wrong. Our players are generally small, and because of this they have attributes such as speed of movement, quick feet, great mobility, great endurance. Have you ever seen a marathon runner built like Didier Drogba or Michael Essien?

Given these factors it makes common sense to adopt a style of play that will maximise these attributes. Parreira did just that and is doing just that. But I have said it before and I'll say it again, Parreira is not Jesus Christ. He can't change water into wine.


Does size count? Well, in certain fields of human endeavour it does and in the Afcon it appears to have been favourable for the west Africans who have this attribute in abundance.

But we are never going to have players who have the attributes of the west Africans so it's pointless to lament this "deficit."

Because we are products of our physical environment we have attributes that are different from those of the west Africans and, come to think of it, the east Africans as well. We are southern African and have physical qualities that are commonly found in southern Africa.

In the grand scheme of things, when one looks at world football, size doesn't appear to be all that important. As examples I cite Argentina, ranked number one in the world by Fifa, Barcelona and Manchester United. These are physically small teams but they make up for the lack of size by adding amazing movement to their game.


I would say that it takes about three years for a team to adapt to consistently play in a particular style. This is if there is consistency of personnel and the team trains and plays together over the period referred to above.

Witness Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona and notice the disruptions to their style that the introduction of new personnel brings. There has to be consistency of personnel and there has to be continuity so that the style remains unchanged.

As I said, we have no alternative but to play in the style shown at the Afcon. But our exemplification of the chosen style was exhibited with certain limitations of which I am certain Parreira is aware.

Because we play the short-passing game, we have to cluster players around the ball. This leads to a static unfolding of attacking moves, which always presents us with packed defences, as the opposition are allowed to recover into defensive positions because of the slow pace of our build-ups.

The clustering required of the short-passing game leaves us vulnerable to counter attacks as well, because back-four players are required to support the midfield and front players when we have possession of the ball. Our vulnerability is compounded by the fact that we are prone to lose possession of the ball because of inaccurate passing.

We must incorporate variety into our play by introducing variations in the lengths of lines between our players when we are in possession.

Frank Rijkaard talks about having the correct length of lines between his players when they have possession of the ball. Barcelona's lines tend to be too short, hence the problems that they are having in opening up defences.

As a national team we have the same problem. To put it in less technical terms, what we need to do is intersperse the short-passing game with balls played accurately over longer distances which can be used as an alternative to how we currently play.

Interim measures

Why not give Mathew Booth a chance? He plays regularly in the Russian first division, which I believe is superior in standard to the PSL. His physical presence will lessen the high-ball at down the middle and from the flanks.

In the goal-scoring department why not give Glen Salmon another chance? You gave Siyabonga Nomvete about 60 chances and he scored nine goals! But for strikers we do have a real problem and the only people who may be able to help you are Cosatu.


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