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Understanding Football Formations
The beautiful game of football needs no introduction. Voted the most popular sport in the world, soccer has fascinated millions and millions of viewers around the world. The pace, deft touches, brilliant passes and breathtaking goals have all contributed to football being widely regarded as the king of sports. But what makes football so appealing, fascinating and exciting is the style of play, the strategies, tactics and techniques that teams employ to thwart their opponents. Almost like a game of chess, football, despite its relentless speed and physical combat, is a sport made of the brain and executed by the body.
Very often you would have heard commentators and pundits talking about team formations. What exactly is a team formation? What is the importance of team building? How exactly does it affect the outcome of a game? Surely you would have asked these questions to your friend or father without getting a suitable answer. Let’s take a closer look at team formations and try to understand the meaning of it.
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 revolve around those 10 players. Over the years, teams have experimented with different team formations to maximize the use of resources.
Formations were unheard of until the 1950s when the 4-2-4 system was introduced. The 4-2-4 was the first formation to be described using numbers. Before this system, there was a lot of emphasis on attack and teams used 6 to 7 attackers in a match. The 4-2-4 formation was unique and tried to combine a strong attack with a strong defense. The 4-2-4 was first used successfully at club level in Brazil and became a 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 about one team formation. Over the years, many formations have come into effect and have been used very purposefully by teams all over the world. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular team formations used in modern football.
1) 4-3-3: Simply put, 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 defense. This formation was used to great effect by Brazil in the 1962 World Cup, which they eventually won.
2) 4-4-2: Four defenders, four midfielders and two attacking forwards make up this formation. One of the most common formations in modern football, the 4-4-2 system requires the midfielders to support both the defense and the attack. It is a very popular formation especially in Great Britain.
3) 4-3-2-1: A 4-3-2-1 system includes 4 defenders, 3 central midfielders, 2 attacking or attacking midfielders and 1 striker. Commonly described as the Christmas tree formation, in this approach the middle of the three central midfielders acts as a playmaker while one of the attacking midfielders plays in a free role.
There are many other interesting team formations that today’s teams employ and much of it is dictated by team strength and opposition. There are some teams that put more emphasis on defense, while there are teams that put more emphasis on offense. Traditionally, there are teams known to be defense-centric, while some of them are attack-centric.
In fact, football is not only about what you do on the field, but also about what you do off it. Strategies, approach, techniques play a crucial role in deciding the fate of a match. We learned a bit about team formations in this edition and hopefully this will help you understand the game better. Please take a look at my article “Football Positions at a Glance” to understand positions on the pitch.
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