Wednesday, March 27, 2013

World Cup qualifiers technical and atctical dramas

The week of 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup qualifiers comes to an end and I have tried to keep opinions to myself. Let me keep trying but before I shut up there are positive things that can be enjoyed only by coaches and not journalists. As a football fan, you are likely to understand and assimilate a journalistic version of events, naturally.

Zimbabwe got beat by Egypt 2-1 but I still have to see how the whipping went. South Africa had the Central African Republic bent over and their behind whacked too good in Cape Town last week. To many, there was a justified excuse to cry rivers over missed chances. Sports writers fail to see the light by design or by default. 

What was there to see were the two goals and the three points. They were deserved, beautiful and meaningful. That is what I saw and all there was to see. Patriots will agree with me and nothing else mattered. 

Professional footballers need you to appreciate that all events and occurrences of that night and even more can happen and still the results remain undesired or negative. The CAF team ranked way up the ladder in the world than Bafana Bafana and they are in the top ten in Africa. 

Leaving the entertainment part and showbiz element of the game, let us talk football. On that night, South Africa produced a single complete performance to be proud of. It was in the mould of the first half of their Mali encounter in the AFCON 2012. 

Generally the inconsistent decision-making was obvious but drowned by a more perfect execution of all technique from ball control, passing, tackling or running with the ball. The strength of that win was solely based on detail. The small angles, speed and acceleration, turning and timing of the passes were on the mark for long periods at important junctures of the match.

At first glance, one got tempted Gordon Igesund had a new man in his technical team, or he had just come from a refresher course in either Brazil or Europe, but surely, he changed some elements big time. It could be he acquired some essential and expensive software to draw attention to many things normally missed by the naked eye.

Whatever the trick, Bafana were on the money and with a little consistency, they will be in Brazil next year, but knowing the team, it may be a praise too soon. In any case, there is no need to judge what may happen, so we will sing praises for what we saw. It was a display that would have many prophets of doom mince their words for a while. 

In Europe, England massacred San Marino 8-0, Germany won 3-0 over Khazkstan and Portugal were 2-0 winners over Azerbaijan. I had picked these matches for the same reason. As the David versus Goliath encounters, my interest was the seasoned campaigners' authority over minnows or the reaction of the later over the former.

However, the same trend was obvous across board. All other matches of small versus big team followed the same pattern. The renowned countries did not wait to massage the egos their opponents as they took the game to them from the word 'go'.

That fancy polished passing and patterned attacking approaches were thrown out over the touch line. Balls were quickly launched to the final third and shots fired at any given opportunity. Nothing scares a novice than their fears coming true and these teams worked strongly on that. Direct play became the main ingredient and it payed off. There were times these smaller teams tried to counter-attack but the ruthless defending put paid their attempts which became token. 

Most scorelines were based on the failure of bigger teams to capitalise in some instances while at others, there was no reward for pushing too hard as that managers and coaches were looking further ahead. Spain tried to 'tiki-taka' Finland and failed to net. It was a Barcelona without Lionel Messi. The unidimensional way of playing died a natural death a few seasons back, as did the defensive tacity of the Italians and unsurpassed concentration traits of the Germans.

Football ceased to have secrets long ago and the detail of events in the collective, the single individual behaviour and tendencies and the undrstanding of rectifying mistakes while working to influence the flow of the match are the issues not just to know but to work with. 

It is in this vein that the difference between good players and great players tend to be a debate from those who know and those who people think know. This is not about Messi and Ronaldo, nor indee the legecy of Messi as the greatest ever. When we recall historical players, many seem useless as their contribution in the game can be measured on a poor performance of a single game.

As for the qualifier that Bafana won over CAR, the missed chances could have been something for GI to work on. It will be the reaction of the next training session that will determine the perormance of the next match and one hopes the results will be good.