For any New Zealand football fan that wanted to understand the difference between how we play the game compared to the rest of the world the last fortnight has been particularly illuminating.
A direct comparison between the best European and American countries with the fare served up at the Oceania Nations Cup is a little unfair given how little the All Whites have played in the last 12 months. However there is no getting away from the fact that, watching the Copa America or European Championships compared to watching New Zealand play, is like watching a different sport.
Player movement is the fundamental difference.
Even England, for so long ridiculed as dull long ball exponents, has evolved into an attacking team with flair at Euro 2016.
Desperately unlucky to concede a late goal to draw 1-1 with Russia, it was hard not to be impressed with an England team that created opportunities and played attractive football.
Attacking midfielders Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling both made frequent movements from the flank towards the centre of the pitch. When coupled with the advanced positioning of play-maker Dele Alli, the Russians were often overloaded on one side of the midfield and were not able to close down all passing options for the ball carrier.
England have some fine passers of the ball – Wayne Rooney in midfield and Eric Dier. For those players it must be wonderful to have attacking options to play to when in possession.
Our Young Players
These England players have grown up being exposed to high quality football. They understand that football is a dynamic game.
It is not enough to make a pass and admire it. A player needs to be able to pass and then create an option or diversion for the ball carrier.
Unfortunately, this skill is not apparent in a large amount of Auckland junior football, which is primarily result driven as opposed to being focused on development.
Already this year Top Flight footballers are developing a good understanding of how to provide passing options to one another. Yes, occasionally mistakes will be made and goals conceded through trying to retain possession, but the overarching goal has to be one of development.
Performances at the two big continental tournaments currently being held confirm that if we want to become a respected footballing nation we need to develop players with football intelligence.
This intelligence won’t come from a game based purely on the long ball where the only barometer of success is the scoreline. It comes from a playing philosophy of purposeful possession, of knowing where to move and when so that the individual arrives at the same time as the ball.
England played with a dynamic positioning that allows its formation to morph into one of many potential forms at various points in the attacking process.
The benefits of dynamic positioning over static are widespread. These are primarily based around the effects that a player moving from one position to another may have on defenders.
Dynamic positioning is a more efficient way of playing as the team system responds collectively to opportunities by moving players into positions on the field that will make a difference to creating chances.
Playing young players in different positions is vital to developing this sort of dynamic game understanding and fluidity.
The irony of watching England against Russia was that it is playing a very different style from its more infamous, one-dimensional approach.
It is unfortunate that many junior and youth coaches in New Zealand have not grasped the fact that the world of football has evolved.
For New Zealand to be in a position to match international teams in the future we too need to evolve. That means starting with the development of our young players so that they understand the value of movement and acquire the football intelligence to be the difference on match day.
Share this Post