There is an old saying one swallow doesn’t a summer make, and it is wise to remember that in sport as one game does not make a great team.
The Netherlands destroyed current World Cup holders Spain in their opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Slotting five goals passed the Spanish for the first time since 1964. It was a joy to behold. Beautiful football played by nation that gave us a total football; a style of play that has been adopted by the Australian Hockey team to great effect. Total football was, and still is, a theory where any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in a team. IN simple terms a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another team-mate, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure.
Whereas this cover was still very evident in the Dutch performance against Spain what stood out was the pace of the players and the passing into space for those players to run onto.
The Dutch have for a long time been associated with “Possession football” something that their coaches have tried to force on Australia. The trouble is you can have all the possession you like, but it depends on where the opposition let you have possession.
If they are happy to sit back and let you keep possession then you need pace and movement from the players ahead of the ball, you also need players who can thread accurate long passes either aerially or along the ground into the space that those forward players are running into.
Keeping possession will not win you games, unless you can score. Italy have been proof of that for years. They carve out a goal and then keep obsession superbly to restrict their opposition.
The Netherlands were superb against Spain playing some of the best counter attacking football you will ever see at the highest level. Ange Postecoglou is looking to also play counter-attacking football with the Socceroos. Whether he has the players with the skill or pace to match the Dutch is yet to be seen. It is unlikely based on the leagues the Australian players are playing in compared to their European counterparts, but this is the style of game Australia should be looking to play. Australian teams in every sport are naturally aggressive, so why try and curb that natural asset?
Hopefully Postecoglou as national coach will see that the current coaching curriculum needs tweaking to encourage a style that resembles the one employed by the Netherlands against Spain. If as Football Federation of Australia CEO David Gallop stated the Socceroos brand is beginning to wane, this is one sure way to see it rise again.
For the future of Australian football it is time to do as the Dutch do, rather than the way they say.