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I was recently asked, “Coach Hardy, why are you coaching youth soccer teams

to play a flat back four zone defense?” The perception being that a sweeper/

stopper system is a ‘safer’ defense for younger teams. First of all, any defense

will have its strengths and weaknesses. A knowledgeable coach will know those

weaknesses and will encourage their team to break it down. All disclaimers

aside, the flat back four is the preferred system of most modern teams. A

youth soccer coach should emphasize the development of players within the

context of modern soccer.

When properly executed, a flat back four will provide excellent

defensive pressure, cover and balance. Young soccer players should be

developed to play at their highest potential level and nearly all higher level

teams play a flat four or three system. Coaching a flat back four defense gives

players a foundation for future success in soccer. Even a team as young as U11

team can successfully play a flat back four zone defense. A team may give up

‘break-away’ goals in the short term, while they learn the system, but in the

long run they will have the ability to confidently step into a modern defensive


A team can successfully play a flat back four after just a few training

sessions and a handful of games. I use the pre-season practices, tournaments

and scrimmages as a time for a team to learn the player roles and team shape

of a flat back four zone defense.

To help players visually understand the team shape of the defense I

call it the ‘Swoosh’ defense. As the back four defenders shift left and right

across the field, the shape of the defense unit looks like the Nike “Swoosh”

logo. If the players drift out of shape I can just say “Swoosh” and immediately

the players know where to position themselves. As the players feel comfortable

with the system they will remind each other to “Swoosh”. Here are four basic

ideas to be aware of when coaching the Swoosh defense.

1. Swoosh Defense

The back four defensive shape will prevent the other team from having

‘break away chances’ by making sure the far-side outside defender and the

far-side central defender shift and cover diagonally behind the pressuring

near-side defenders. It sounds complicated but it’s actually pretty simple. The

defenders shift diagonally to the position of the ball.

With this correct positioning the ‘Swoosh’ defense is denying ball

penetration, the dangerous attacking players are marked and the covering

defenders will ‘sweep’ any ball that gets played through. If the ball is switched

to the far side of the field, the defending four players will shift the ‘Swoosh’

accordingly. I have found that young players can easily remember to ‘Swoosh!’

more that ‘Pressure, Cover, Balance’.

It is important for players to remember that the diagonal cover shape

is why the team doesn’t need a sweeper. The most common defensive mistake

is for the team to stand totally ‘flat’. This is especially common at the half-field

line when the team with the ball has been maintaining possession in the

opponent’s half of the field. Which explains why teams that are learning the

Swoosh defense will usually give up their goals from half-field breakaways.

If the defenders stand flat at half field then any ball played behind the

defense will result in a breakaway race without anyone to stop a goal but the


2. Marking A Man In Your Zone

In addition to the Swoosh shape, the four defenders need to become

aware of the attacking player in their area of responsibility. Young players

often focus all of their attention on the ball. This bad habit is called ‘ball

watching’. Young players will often ball watch until the ball comes near them

and only then will they try and get it. But getting the ball is only part of the job

of defending. The Swoosh defense requires that players be in a good defensive

position while marking the opponent ‘goal-side and ball-side’.

When defenders ‘ball-watch’, opponents will move into unmarked

positions. The basic rule for defenders is to mark the most dangerous player in

your zone and stay ball-side and goal-side of them.

The break-aways against the Swoosh defense usually happen when a

defender is “caught flat ” and doesn’t react to the open opponent in their zone

until it’s too late. If a defenders waits until after the pass is played forward to

move towards the mark in their zone then there is often a foot race to the goal.

90% of good defense is positioning away from the ball.

(Note: Another reason I use the “Swoosh” term is to because young players will

often stay “flat” if the defense is called a “flat back four”.)

Ball watching

is pretty normal behavior for young soccer players, however, a defender is a

very important position and that player must be alert and mature enough to

not ball watch. Learning to mark correctly is a skill that will come with

commitment to learning.

3. Line Of Restraint And Compactness During Transition

The basic principle of good defending is to create ‘compactness’. I

encourage the defense to create compactness when we transition to offense or

when the opponent passes the ball backwards. We do this because (a)

compacting the space that the other team has to work with creates pressure

and (b) we can catch them off-sides. I do not encourage a sophisticated off-

sides trap below U14, but moving up the field to create compactness will catch

unaware forwards off-sides.

If we are slow in our own transition to offense (for example, after we

just cleared the ball from the defensive third) and our defenders just stay deep

in our own half then we are giving the other team lots of room to move the ball

back towards our goal. The general rule I coach is if the ball goes up the field 5

yards then we move the defense up 5 yards – 20 yards up the field means we

move 20 yards up the field. This is true until we cross half field. At half field,

the back four step a few yards into the opponents half of the field.

If our defense stays back in our own half of the field then there is less

pressure and with less pressure the other team will spend the game in our half.

I believe it is a better idea to try and defend the half line than your goal.

The key to successfully compacting the space is that all of the

defenders must move up together. If just one defender stays back then the

other team will exploit that. The line of defenders moving up the field is called

our ‘Line of Restraint’. Our goal is to have our ‘Line of Restraint’ no more than

35 yards from our forwards until our defenders reach the half line.

Again, a secondary bonus of compacting the space during transition is

that the other team is often off-sides because their forwards are caught

standing around after the ball has been cleared.

4. Off-Sides And Referees

A common concern when playing the Swoosh defense is that referees

can make mistakes with the off0sides call and the other team will have easy

break-aways. As far as the referees missing offsides calls, well, that’s the

nature of the game. The key is to control the controllables. As coaches, we

can’t control the referee’s decisions but we can control the team’s ability to

have good positioning and marking. Furthermore, if a team plays good defense

and scores goals then they will not be in a position that will allow the referee to

determine the outcome of the game.

In summary, if we coach to have defenders compact in transition, get

in our proper ‘Swoosh’ shape, and mark their opponent goal-side and ball-

side, then I am confident that the flat back four zone defense can be successful

even with young teams.

Now that my current U11 team is comfortable with the

Swoosh defense, we have moved onto the role of the attacking outside

defender and their ability to move forward to join the attack.

If you grew up watching television during the 1960s and 1970s you have undoubtedly heard the arranging style of Sammy Nestico.  His musical arrangements can still be heard on reruns of popular shows during the variety show era of television.   Sammy has arranged music for all types of groups, but it is the big band that he may be remembered most for more than any other type of music.

Raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Sammy Nestico got his first taste of music playing trombone in the David B Oliver high school band.  He became an avid practicer, so much so that his mother did the opposite of what most mothers tell their children – to “stop practicing and go outside and play!”

Soon after his adoption of the trombone as his musical instrument of choice, Sammy began arranging music for a small band at the high school.  These early years would help shape a unique style –  one that has become one of the most recognized styles in big band arranging circles.

Sammy’s arranging style is a combination of simplicity and economy. Melody is of prime importance in every arrangement.  The importance of melody combined with an uncanny sense of “balance” between sections make Sammy’s big band arrangements not only fun to listen to, but to perform as well.  His sense of harmony is not overly complex, and always fits with the character of each and every big band composition or arrangement.

In 1946, Sammy auditioned for trombonist and staff arranger with the newly formed group, the United States Airmen of Note.  As the first arranger for the highly skilled ensemble, Sammy honed his writing style by churning out dozens and dozens of big band arrangements for the group. 

During the 1960s, Sammy collaborated in recordings with the Count Basie Band.  These recording sessions produced some of the most swinging and most performed big band charts of all time.  Charts such as “Basie Straight Ahead” and “The Queen Bee” continue to be played by high school and college big bands all over the world.  Sammy has even written that working with Bill “Count” Basie was the musical and personal highlight of his careeer.

Sammy Nestico continues to compose and arrange big band music to this day.  He will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the quintessential big band arrangers of the 20th century.  For more information on the musical arranging style of Sammy Nestico, refer to his own comprehensive book on arranging, The Complete Arranger

I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that there is an important difference.

What is the difference between the two?

Well, it’s in the words. A fan likes something, a supporter actively supports it. A regular fan wouldn’t drive 5 hours to support the FC Bayern Amateure in the cold March rain.

What do Supporters do differently?

Passion. Dedication. Loyalty.

Take a club like Bayern Munich for example. We have by far the most fans in Germany, but only a small group of true Supporters. The fans buy lots of merchandise and visit the home matches, and usually refer to the team, not the club. The fan idolizes players, but often knows little about the club’s history. When a club doesn’t do well, more and more seats will be empty, whereas the section of the Supporters is as full as ever.

The Mindest

A Supporter loves the club, not the team and its players. Those are mercenaries who do not identify with the club and will transfer as soon as more money is offered.

To a Supporter, it’s all about the club, not the team.

A fan sees this as a hobby or casual entertainment. But Supporters take it seriously. No matter where or when the club plays, or how important the match is, the Supporter is there. A lot of times this means sacrificing other aspects of his life – work, school, family, friends. That’s because words like loyalty and honor still have meaning. A Supporter will defend the club’s name if necessary, without getting it into trouble.
To the Supporter the club is a lifestyle.

The Supporter supports the team throughout the entire match, regardless of the score or the performance. Because the team needs the support the most when things are not going well. That is not to say that displeasure can’t be voiced. But the support of the team always comes first.

Simply singing or shouting is not enough. Every word uttered and every song sung has to be filled with all of the Supporter’s energy and passion. Even if the players on the field don’t care, it is done for the club’s honor and for all of the Supporter’s honor.

Sing until your lungs burn and you are ready to puke.

Supporters looks at everything the club does objectively and is not afraid to be critical. It is up them to protect the club’s values and integrity and to carry them on with their actions.

Should a decision of the club clashes with the Supporter’s believes, but benefits the club in the long run, the Supporter has to put his own interest aside.

Everything the Supporter does has to be in the club’s best interest.

All of these traits are vital. I have known people who went to every FC Bayern match, but didn’t support. There were those who sang passionately, but only cherry-picked a few matches a year. Not to mention the ones that were too drunk to even make it into the stadium, or those who only want to fight.

Unfortunately there seems to be a war going on against the Supporters/Ultras across Germany. The clubs want to replace us with customers who will shell out money without asking questions or criticizing. The clubs’ identities are slowly taken away. But this is for another article.

Sitting at the bottom of many file cabinets and dusty chests of drawers may lay a little treasure for the unsuspecting. While your portfolio may have dwindled during the latest bear market, your old stock certificates may be worth more than the original stock they once represented.

Old stock certificates have become quite valuable. Electronic record keeping has made the issuance of stock certificates by most companies quite rare. And as investors trade in their paper certificates for electronic shares they are most often destroyed by the transfer agent making their numbers even fewer.

Older stock certificates can be works of art, often done with colorful illustrations, making them unusual and interesting objects of art in any business or home. Like many antiquities, many vintage stock certificates also tell a unique story that cannot be captured in the electronic shares issued today. As such, they have become sought after by hobbyists, Wall Street collectors, and people looking for unique gifts.

Sports Team Certificates Some of the Most Sought After

Some of the most sought-after, and difficult-to-find, stock certificates on the market today are those of professional sports teams. Very few U.S. professional sports teams have ever “gone public” or issued stock certificates. Most sports organizations in the United States are operated as franchises with strict ownership rules.

The major professional sports leagues including the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Football League, have each adopted stringent rules and regulations that determine whether a team can go public. Needless to say, this is a tight club and they guard admittance vigilantly.

The Green Bay Packers are the only publicly owned NFL team that has issued stock. The Packers’ ownership group was grandfathered into the current policy that all-but restricts public ownership. The Green Bay Packers issued stock in 1923, 1935, 1950, and 1997. There are about 112,000 shareholders, who have no voting rights and cannot redeem shares for cash. Basically, each of these shareholders purchased a historic piece of memorabilia. Even though these shares held no intrinsic value, they have become quite valuable as a collectible. A 1997 issue can sell for up to $1000 in today’s market. Older issues are very difficult to find and rarely offered for sale.

Other major league sports teams that have issued stock over the years are:

Florida Panthers (NHL): went public (NASDAQ) in 1996 and subsequently sold to private investors in 2001. (One certificate sells for about $300 – $500)

Boston Celtics (NBA): became the first major sports franchise to go public (NYSE) in 1986 only to go private in 2003. (One certificate sells for about $150-$175)

Cleveland Indians (MLB): became the first Major League Baseball Team to go public in 1998. They were quickly purchased and turned private in 2000. (One certificates Sells for about $200-$250)

Many sports-related stock certificates also valuable

While “pure play” sport stock certificates are rare, other issues that may interest collectors in this category include the World Wrestling Federation, Madison Square Garden, Broadway Joe’s (former restaurant owned by Joe Namath), and the short-lived XFL. Also, be sure to look for minor league franchises and foreign sport stock certificates. Other countries, such as Canada, have many major-league-publicly-owned sport companies.

Sure, many major league franchises are owned by large corporations, but they are but a mere speck on their balance sheet. Which stock certificate would you rather have the Dodgers or Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp? So check your file cabinets and storage units. Those old stock certificates could be worth more than you think.

We all know that playing professional soccer requires a big commitment for both physical training and mentally. However, the same is to be said for a food commitment and eating well. How you eat will depend on your performance both on and off of the soccer field; plus before and after the match.

Below are some specialized soccer meals for a week. For professional soccer players.


  • Breakfast: 1 cup powdered chocolate milk, breakfast cereals and a banana.
  • Lunch: Spaghetti, Beef filet with potato and tomato, and fruit salad.
  • Snack: Sandwich with ham and an orange juice.
  • Dinner: Vegetable soup, omelet, rice, and apple pie.


  • Breakfast: 1 cup powdered chocolate milk, Toasted bread with olive oil and tomato, and an orange juice.
  • Lunch: Lentils Beans, bread crumb chicken fillet with mushrooms, and a yogurt with sugar.
  • Snack: Peanut butter sandwich and a fruit juice.
  • Dinner: Mixed salad, Salmon in sauce with fried potatoes, and strawberries with cream and sugar.


  • Breakfast: 1 cup powdered chocolate milk, toast with butter and ham, and a fruit juice.
  • Lunch: Rice with vegetables, pork loin steak undressed breaded with lettuce and a yogurt with sugar.
  • Afternoon Snack: Cheese sub or sandwich and an orange juice.
  • Dinner: Mixed vegetables with peas with ham, grilled hen with lettuce and corn, and a yogurt.


  • Breakfast: a glass of chocolate milk powder, biscuits with butter and jam, and an orange juice.
  • Lunch: Cooked beans, Fried fish with lettuce and tomato, and Pineapple with honey
  • Snack: Ham sandwich.
  • Dinner: Mashed vegetables and grilled garlic & shrimp and plain yogurt with sugar.


  • Breakfast: 1 cup powdered chocolate milk, Toasted bread with olive oil and tomato, and fruit salad.
  • Lunch: salad from the garden, rice with squid in its ink, and a custard.
  • Snack: Cottage cheese with honey and a banana.
  • Dinner: Noodle soup, sea bass baked with roast potatoes and two kiwis.


  • Breakfast: 1 yogurt cereal, homemade biscuit, and a fresh orange juice.
  • Lunch: Pasta a la carbonara, veal steak with fresh tomato and corn, and two tangerines.
  • Snack: Sandwich with serrano ham with fresh tomato and a fruit juice.
  • Dinner: vegetable soup, swordfish with mashed potatoes and a yoghurt with sugar.


  • Breakfast: 1 cup powdered chocolate milk, a croissant with jam and a fresh orange juice.
  • Lunch: Fried eggplant, Roasted chicken with mixed salad, and an apple with cheese.
  • Afternoon Snack: Egg Omelet (preferably yoak)
  • Dinner: Cream of spinach soup, Baked chicken with roasted tomato and a natural yogurt with sugar.

Many newbie soccer enthusiasts make the common mistake of simply picking up the cheapest option when they need a new soccer ball.

Aside from the tag price, there are many other important factors to consider as you look for a good ball. If you are not that familiar with how this works, read this article and learn a few tips you should keep in mind next time you visit your nearby sport shop.


Getting the right size is absolutely necessary. Novice soccer players may not be aware of this but there are different sizes for different age groups. Size 3, for instance, is recommended for younger gamers. On the other hand, size 4 balls are for pre-teen players while size 5 is perfect for teens and adults.


The weight is a significant aspect, too. Take note that lighter balls are always better than heavier ones. Also, hard balls can hurt your feet or head during game play. Do not go for a ball that’s too soft either because they are typically very bouncy. Select something in between and you’ll be much more satisfied.

Indoor or Outdoor

Another consideration you should keep in mind is the location where your games are usually held. There are soccer balls that are specifically made for indoor and outdoor use. If you are practicing indoors and playing games outdoors, then it will be a wise idea to buy a ball for both of these settings. Just make sure that you have the right size and it’s a guarantee that you’ll have a great game.


Rubber soccer balls are often the sensible pick for many buyers because they are affordable and sturdy. They are, however, not the type of ball used by professional players in the big leagues. Other materials you can choose from include PVC, leather and polyurethane.


Most of the time, cheaper soccer balls have butyl bladders and this is the main reason why these balls are not very responsive. Latex bladders perform better in the soccer field that’s why you should go with these balls.

Number of Panels

You may not be aware about it but the panel number in soccer balls determine how fast they move and how much control you have as a player. Some balls have as much as 32 panels but you will likely notice that those used for indoor games may only have 6 panels. These days, majority of professional leagues prefer 18-paneled balls.

Will your family lose their right to inherit?

Any foreigner who dies in Spain without having arranged a Will or Prepaid Funeral Plan could potentially leave a nightmare scenario behind them for family and friends. Joint bank accounts may be frozen and Funeral Directors require payment in advance in Spain – so what happens then? Dying without a Will in Spain or worse still, without any Will (Intestate) will create long and torturous delays for Inheritors – and we may be talking years here, not just months. If Spanish Inheritance Law is applied, there are rules as to who may inherit. Spanish Inheritance tax is charged on the recipient and not the estate. This is probably totally different as to how Inheritance tax is applied in the home country of the deceased.

Leaving your brain at the Airport

Shockingly, most people retiring to Spain have not given a second thought to arranging either a Will or Prepaid Funeral Plan. The dream of retiring to sunny Spain has made them ignore the harsh reality of what happens when things go wrong or when the inevitable finally happens. There is a popular saying that tourists to Spain often leave their brains at the airport. They carelessly jaywalk and are often far more trusting than they would be in their home country; many still unwittingly find themselves buying into a luxury holiday club or property share. Pensioners retiring to Spain can show similar traits.

Costa del Sol – California of Europe

It is not surprising that the Costa del Sol (often referred to as the California of Europe) has become the most desired destination in Europe for retirees from Northern Europe. After all, it has long been one of the most popular holiday destinations and receives approximately 9 million tourists a year through its International Airport in Malaga, with around 25% of them being British. So many British people are already familiar with the Costa del Sol and harbour the dream of escaping to the sun for their retirement.

Living in Spain – a Lifestyle Choice

It is estimated that well over 400,000 British are now living permanently in Spain. Happily enjoying this fabulous climate, cheap wine, beer and cigarettes, many do not speak Spanish and are living in Urbanisations where there is not a Spaniard in sight. British bars boast traditional Pub Grub and Sunday lunch for as little as 10 Euros and have large screen TV’s so that customers can watch their favourite Premier League football matches, in English. So life is bliss; a home from home in the sun. That is, until somebody dies.

Planning Ahead to show that you care for your family

It is straightforward to arrange a Will in Spain and the British Consulate in Spain supplies a list of English speaking Lawyers. A pre-paid Funeral Plan is also recommended, but it is important to choose your Funeral Plan provider wisely. With a dual country Prepaid Funeral Plan, the price is fixed forever at today’s prices, which is important when you bear in mind the expected rise in costs in the coming years. There are also no language problems; with one free phone call in English at the time of need, everything is arranged. By planning ahead, foreign residents in Spain can free themselves of any worries and really make the most of living an incredible lifestyle today.

Defence is an art that the best coaches in the world consider more important than any other aspect of the game. Covering positions, making timely tackles and even springing the offside trap well is key to stopping teams from scoring. After all, what good is a team that can’t defend a 2 or 3 goal lead even.

It was the Italians who decided to take it upon themselves to make defence an art-form, moving away from the physical aspect of defending and bringing in technical prowess. Until the Italians brought finesse into the picture, defending was all about out-muscling the opposition and crunching tackles.

It was the capability to constrict space and restrict movement that led to the rise of the Catenaccio style of play.


Not many may remember his name but Helenio Herrera was a French-Argentine player and, later, manager who was one of the biggest names in football coaching during the mid-20th century. Having played for teams like RC Casablanca and Stade Francais, Herrera retired from club football in 1945.

Herrera took up coaching and moved to Spain, where he became the team manager for Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, CD Malaga and even the likes of FC Barcelona. It was after his stint for Barcelona, in 1960, that Herrera moved to Inter Milan.


It was during his stay at Inter Milan that Herrera decided to modify the way his team defended. He shifted to a 5-3-2 formation to improve his counter attacking style of play. A firm believer in hard work and strong work ethics, Herrera was known as the pioneer of psychological motivational techniques including team pep-talks.

Herrera also introduced the no-smoking & -drinking policy as well as controlling the diet of his players to make them true professionals. Herrera was also known to suspend a player for telling the media, during a press conference, “We came to play in Rome” instead of “We came to win in Rome”.

A hard man, Herrera was slightly defensive in his playing style although his form of the Catenaccio was not as defensive as some the future mutations of the formation, when applied by Italian architects.

One of Herrera’s full-backs, the great Giacinto Facchetti, was testimony to the attacking style of Herrera’s Catenaccio that prevailed in that Inter Milan team. The team was built around the defence, with its main role being to absorb the pressure from the opposition before launching lightning-quick counter attacks.

Using his wing backs to overlap the midfield, Herrera completely transformed the way the world looked at attacking football. Not giving away too much at the back, the team became famous for squeezing out 1-0 wins, leading to the nickname Verrou, meaning “Door Bolt”.


Known as “Herrera’s Inter”, the team would go on to win the 1963, 65 & 66 league titles, the 1964 & 65 European Champions Cup as well as the Intercontinental cup in both those seasons. Herrera also became the first coach to go on and coach three separate national teams, ending his career with a 48.57% winning record.

In his 908 games as a manager, which included teams like Inter Milan, AS Roma, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and CF Os Belenenses, Herrera lost just 241 games while drawing 226. In his 12-club coaching career, Herrera ended with a negative goal difference only three times – with Real Valladolid (-21), AS Roma (-1) and Rimini (-22). Each team was too weak at the time although Herrera did transform Roma into a championship winning team, getting the 1969 Italian Cup with a sub-standard line-up and his famous Catenaccio style of football.


Unlike popular conception, the Catenaccio was not built to shut out opposition. The entire concept of play was to allow the opposition to attack, relentlessly even, before suddenly attacking on the counter. The team would play with five at the back, in a “V-shaped” formation, with the Libero or sweeper at the centre. As the opponents entered the “V”, their attack would be narrowed down, restricting movement and space.

Once the ball changed possession, the defending team had a wingback on either side, already ahead of the advancing opposition’s midfield. That meant that the team could now push out, rapidly, by playing the ball out to these wingbacks, who would have loads of space to exploit.


While the Catenaccio was, itself, a mutation of the 5-4-1 system invented by Karl Rappan for the Swiss national team, the formation underwent a lot of transformation itself. Teams reverted to the original “Rappan-style” by playing the sweeper just in front of the goalkeeper and stationing a flat back-four in front.

Nereo Rocco, coach of Calcio Padova in the 1950s, was another who exploited the system. With three-flat defenders who man-marked the opposition, Rocco would play a playmaker in the middle, just ahead of the defence, alongside two wingers. While these three weren’t the actual midfield, Rocco’s style would use the sweeper behind the central defence as well, to double-team the stronger players.

The midfield would be in front of these three, with a solitary striker up front, leading to a 1-3-3-3 formation.

While Herrera also focussed on man-marking with four of his defenders, his defence was flexible in that it swung from right or left to make it a flat line on most times. This meant that four defenders, aid by the midfield, would effectively man-mark the opposition, which had already been herded through the middle. That left the remaining fifth defender – always a wingback, free to make runs on the counter.


Catenaccio had become the flavour of the month, in the 60s and 70s, catching the fancy of every coach on the world scene. However, it was one man who’s style of play brought Catenaccio to its knees – Rinus Michels.

When faced with the tight man-marking of the Catenaccio, Michels decided to remove the whole concept of playing footballers in fixed positions. He removed the boundaries that separated attackers, midfielders and defenders, teaching all his players to play in all positions. As attackers fell back to the midfield, or even defence, their man-markers were unable to leave their posts and follow in pursuit.

The fact that Michels had the crop of players that he did, to implement such a technique, was the only reason Total Football became a reality.

Catenaccio was no longer the primary choice anywhere as Total Football, or replicas of it, began dismantling defences with their speed and movement. Mediocre coaches, who followed rather than researched, were left with no choice but to fall to the wayside.


Coaches who preached the Herrera principle looked to counter Total Football with a modification to the Catenaccio’s man-marking formula. The answer was quite simple, in theory – Zona Mista.

The Zona Mista was a concept that incorporated man-marking and zone-marking into one strong defensive strategy. While the concept still used the four man defence with the roaming sweeper, the difference was in the way the midfield and the fullbacks supported the defence.

The two central defenders, in the heart of the defence, would play zone-marking. The midfield would have a defensive midfielder, who was required to help out the defence by falling back. A central midfielder would play in front of the defensive midfielder while a winger (usually on the right flank), would support in attack.

Two strikers would play up front, one on the wide left, with one in the centre. The position of the wide striker was determined by the position of the winger – both being on opposite flanks. The winger would act as an additional striker while the wide striker would float in to make it a two-pronged attack.

When defending, the wide striker would come in to cover for the central midfielder as the latter would drop into a defensive position.


Italy – 1982

The most famous application of this formation was in the 1982 FIFA World Cup when Italy went into the tournament with this brand new style of football. Gaetano Scirea played the role of the sweeper to perfection while the attacking left back was a young 18-year old, who would later go on to become one of the greatest defenders of all time – Giuseppe Bergomi.

Gabriele Oriali played as the defensive midfielder, just in front of Fulvio Collovati and the man who stopped a young Diego Maradona – Claudio Gentile. Marco Tardelli played as the central midfielder while Bruno Conti was the creative genius behind Italy’s Zona Mista success.

While Antonio Cabrini played at the front wide position, it was Paolo Rossi who came into the main striker’s position.

Italy’s success led to an increased use of the Zona Mista although the application remained mostly in the Italian leagues. Teams, in Europe, found it hard to beat this fantastic combination of man- and zone-marking, keeping the Italians ahead of the rest. However, there was always the need of a great striker to take care of the few chances that this format would create – something that most teams lacked.

Italy – 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004

More recently, Cesare Maldini employed the Catenaccio form of play in Italy’s 1998 FIFA World Cup campaign. Needless to say, Italy played defensively, without creating too many waves, eventually getting kicked out in the Round of 16, through penalties. His successor, Giovanni Trapattoni, also employed the same tactics in the 2002 FIFA World Cup as well as in the 2004 European Championships.

In both cases, Italy failed to make any significant progress although Trapattoni would go on to prove his critics wrong by leading Portuguese side, Benfica to the league title.

Dino Zoff, whose team successfully used the Zona Mista in 1982, was the Italian coach in Euro 2000 when Italy went in with the same tactics. This time, Zoff managed to take the team to the finals of the tournament, losing to France through a Golden Goal.

Greece – 2004

Greece used the same format under Otto Rehhagel, at the 2004 European Championships, and successfully so. Greece won the title with numerous 1-0 wins through the knockout stages, all thanks to a heavily defensive style of play.


The Catenaccio was often on the receiving end of criticism from the rest of Europe primarily due to the boring style of football that it promoted. The Italians were said to have made the game “unattractive” however practitioners of this form of football always had results to further their faith in the system.

In most cases, the reason behind the criticism was said to be the inability of most teams to break down such defences, especially in crucial European ties, leading to a loss or a draw that they could ill-afford.


Catenaccio is a dormant formation today. With both man-marking and the sweeper position going out of style, what with the faster pace and television coming into the picture, teams are rarely known to implement such a format today.

You may see the odd variation of this formation when weaker teams go up against stronger opposition however the success of the Catenaccio or the Zona Mista is largely dependent on the quality of the defenders and the wingbacks.

The more physical format of the Catenaccio finds few followers even in the technical format of the Italian league while other formations, such as the 4-1-2-1-2 (midfield diamond) and even the 4-3-2-1 (Christmas tree) formations can be attributed, albeit loosely, to the Catenaccio.

Teams that go down a man or more, are also known to exhibit similar playing patterns although the true form of Catenaccio remains buried under a pile of demands for attacking play.


In today’s scenario, you often find commentators, even some pundits, refer to the Italian game as the Catenaccio style of football. The latest example was the game between Barcelona and Inter Milan, at Camp Nou, during the second leg of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Unfortunately, Jose Mourinho’s tactics were nothing like the Catenaccio style, albeit defensive. Down to ten men, Inter simply held a lower midfield to aid their defence, nothing more. They did was what needed and even Barcelona, with all their firepower, couldn’t break through. It has to be said that while Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing, there was absolutely no connection with the Catenaccio style of defence.

Commentators, especially Englishman, are known to refer to the Italian defensive style of football as Catenaccio, irrespective of whether the team follows the format or not. Catenaccio has become synonymous with defensive play although few understand the true meaning of the term, sadly, even the pundits make mistakes.

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Italy were down to 10-men while playing Australia in the Round of 16. They defended heavily until a winner came in the form of a Francesco Totti penalty, late in the game. An English newspaper, “The Guardian”, famously wrote, “The timidity of Italy’s approach had made it seem that Helenio Herrera, the high priest of Catenaccio, had taken possession of the soul of Marcello Lippi.”

What the reporter failed to notice was that 10-men Italy were playing in a 4-3-2 formation which was just a man short of the regular 4-4-2 that they had started with – Daniele De Rossi, the midfielder who was dismissed.


Like all good things, Catenaccio also had to come to an end. With its end, like with everything else, rose many new formats that are, till date, being practiced by coaches around the world. While the Catenaccio may have been laid to rest with the modern day television’s demand for exciting football, coaches will always fall back to their learning of this system when struggling with their backs against the wall.

Until the next time a British commentator mentions “Catenaccio” in the wrong place, Happy Defending!!!

The transfer window officially closed this past Friday so it is now time to observe which European clubs were best improved. This is an inexact science and only time will certainly tell which clubs have benefited the most, but the following three clubs look to have emerged on this side of summer in the best shape.

1. PSG – Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the most famous of the French club's incoming transfers and is sure to bring world-class ability to the attack at PSG. Having played at Inter Milan, Barcelona, ​​and AC Milan, as well as amassing 80 appear internationally for Sweden, Ibrahimovic is as good as they come and should help take PSG to the next level. Also arriving at the club were experienced Brazilian center back Thiago Silva and the exciting Argentinean talent Ezequiel Lavezzi. Further, they signed a young 19 year old named Marco Verratti, a creative midfielder who has been compared to Andrea Pirlo. Expect PSG to dominate France's Ligue 1 and make some noise in the UEFA Champions League.

2. Manchester City – Although it was a rainy quiet summer until just a few days ago, Manchester City showed again why having infinite funds is so much fun for assembling a squad. They decided to buy up a great deal of young English talent with Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell. Sinclair, a winger, has been an integral part of the recent success for Swansea City. Rodwell came through the ranks at Everton as a defensive midfielder and has recently been called up to the England national side. They also bought Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia from Benfica and young Serbian defender, Matija Nastasic. Finally, they purchased right back Maicon from Inter Milan, a veteran right back. Although most of these signings will be seen as projects, the club is already an incredible squad and they have displayed a strong desire to build for the future. Last year's Premier League champions were also to hold onto all their stars so they have greatly improved.

3. Manchester United – They basically upgraded two positions that they were already strong in with buying two superstars. They offload struggling Dimitar Berbatov and bought in the EPL's best striker Robin van Persie. The Dutchman had a world class hat trick this weekend and probably could have scored 6 if he had converted a penalty and scored a few of the other numerous opportunities that he just missed. Also, the club bought Shinji Kagawa, a wonderful Japanese midfielder who has been impressed in Germany for Borussia Dortmund. The great thing for this team is that they did not sell anyone of note. Yes, their midfield is aging and they should have bought some more youth there, but Giggs and Scholes are still quality and their strikers are the best in the world now between Van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Many teams bought and sold players this summer, and although many teams will feel that they improved, those teams were also guilty of selling their best players. Chelsea, for example is thrilled with new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar, but legendary striker Didier Drogba left the club. Players like these will be missed and their former clubs will have to make do without them. Since, since Man United, Man City, and PSG retained their best players and merely upgraded by purchasing great talent, I felt that they had the most successful 2012 summer transfer season.This article has been provided by soccer uniforms supplier SoccerShirtsOnline.com; re-publication of this article is permitted but all text and links must remain intact, including this paragraph

The win takes Man U past Chelsea at second place and is only two pints behind Liverpool. The Red's next game will be a Merseyside derby with Everton but the match will be played on Monday, giving United the chane to overtake the leaders as they go to the Reebok Stadium to face Bolton Wanderers this coming Saturday.

After beating Chelsea Football club 3-0 in one of last Sunday football results, United played one of their matches they have on hand and finally recorded the win after Wayne Rooney scored in a tap in from a Cristiano Ronaldo assist at the first minute. Wigan tried to look for the tying goal through the match but failed to break the United defense which surprisingly, held its own despite the absence of central defender Rio Ferdinand who continues to suffer from a back injury, defender Wes Brown who still has two weeks to go before he gets back to the side after ankle surgery and left back Patrice Evra, who suffered a foot injury right after the match against Chelsea and has been ruled out of future United games for three weeks. He actually injured his foot when he delivered the cross that Rooney turned into a goal. It was such an unfortunate stroke of luck for Evra who just returned to the side after being suspended for four games for his participation in an incident after a match against Chelsea last April.

It will be a big loss for Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United Football Club's title aspirations as in form striker Rooney might possibly join the list of injured players. He suffered a hamstring injury during last night's game and could probably be missing in action for three weeks. He scored the winnning goal but impeded out of the game moments later and Carlos Tevez was sent in for Rooney's place. Ferguson hopes though that Ronaldo's recovery from surgery and his recent triumph as FIFA's Word Player of The Year will be enough for the winger to continue his progress and be the dominant player like he was during the last season.

The controversial Tevez can benefit from Rooney's expected absence as he will fill up the other striker's position in partnership with Dimitar Berbatov. Recent reports in English papers have said that the South American striker is unsettled and wishes to leave United. But Tevez personally debunked these reports himself and insist that United manager Ferguson has not talked to him or his agent to start contract negotations. Tevez joined Manchester from West Ham United on a two year loan that is due to expire this summer. And he willingly wants to make the move permanent.

Wigan cave a good account of themselves during the match. Emile Heskey and Wilson Palacios were constantly pressing for opportunities. Wigan manager Steve Bruce's prized find Amir Zaki was kept quiet by the United defense. The loss however did not affect Wigan's place in the team standings as they are still in seventh place.