state of squash in Punjab
Nadal proves his mettle
Power, Politics &
Olympic Games – III
Euro 2012: Formation
It’s do or die for Pakistan hockey
The national team will have to somehow unshackle itself from the vicious cycle of underachievement in London
By Khalid Hussain
On July 30,
Pakistan will open their Olympic campaign with a game against Spain in
London. The smart money will be on the European side, who will be one of
the chief contenders for a semifinal spot from Pool A. As for Pakistan,
things won’t get any easier as they will also have to tackle world
number ones Australia and hosts Great Britain (world No 4) later in the
league matches of the Olympic tournament. Even Argentina and South
Africa — two of the lower-ranked teams in the group — appear to be
tough rivals for the Pakistanis, who have seen their Olympic
preparations suffering major setbacks in recent months.
So, is there any hope
for Pakistan, three-time Olympic champions, to somehow elbow their way
into the last four of London 2012? Or is it a foregone conclusion that
the Greenshirts will not be able to bounce back from their Beijing
In Beijing 2008,
Pakistan slumped to an eight-place finish, their worst-ever showing in
Olympic hockey history. On current form, some critics believe that even
an eighth position in London would be an achievement for the Pakistanis,
who finished last in the seven-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh
(Malaysia) earlier this month. Pakistan lost five of their six matches
in Ipoh even against lower-rated Malaysia, who haven’t even made the
cut for London 2012. More recently, they were thrashed 6-1 by Belgium in
Antwerp, a result that once again underlined that Pakistan are lagging
far behind their competition both in defense and offence.
The problem with
Pakistan hockey is that it cannot simply sit back before going through
the motions in London. There is just too much at stake. As usual,
Pakistan’s hockey team is the only hope of a country of over 180
million for an Olympic medal. That’s a lot of responsibility and our
hockey players and officials can’t shy away from it.
responsibility rests on the shoulders of Pakistan’s hockey chiefs.
They are the ones, who blundered in their decision to discard several
key players just months before the Olympics. They are the ones, who were
unable to retain the team’s Dutch coach. Michel van den Heuvel was
roped in back in 2010 as Pakistan’s coach amid promises that he will
use his vast experience and technical expertise to put Pakistan back on
track. But he was sacked at a time when the national team was supposed
to begin the final leg of its London homework.
They, the Pakistan
Hockey Federation (PHF), opted to replace the Dutchman with Akhtar
Rasool as Pakistan’s head coach. A former national captain, Akhtar
belongs to the old school and my sources tell me that he is quite out of
touch with the finer points of modern-day hockey. This scenario hardly
paints a reassuring picture.
However, it’s time
that PHF amends all the wrong decisions it has made in the lead up to
the Olympics. There may still be time to salvage Pakistan’s Olympic
hopes as the national team has more than a month to work on its
Last week, there was
some reason for Pakistan’s hockey fans to cheer about when the
Greenshirts edged Germany 4-3 in a test match in Cologne. It wasn’t a
big game but still beating a top-flight team like Germany so close to
the Olympics should have come as a huge morale-booster for the
Pakistanis. Germany, currently ranked number two in the world, are
regarded among the favourites for the hockey title in London.
Another positive sign
for Pakistan is that Sohail Abbas converted all four short corners that
came their way in the match. The aging drag flick ace has often been
criticised for his failure to help Pakistan win major titles during what
has been quite an illustrious international career. His critics regard
Sohail as an average player, who has amassed personal record without
delivering the goods for his team.
I disagree with them.
Sohail has scored almost 400 international goals, the most by any hockey
player in history. That’s a huge achievement. The problem with Sohail
is that he has been an extra-ordinary player in an otherwise ordinary
team. Major titles like the World Cup or Olympics cannot be won on
individual brilliance. And in any case, Sohail has to depend on his
teammates to be able to score goals. A short corner has to be earned and
executed before Sohail can take a shot at the goal.
I’ve talked to
Sohail in recent times and he seems really determined to give his best
in London. He is well aware that the Olympics could be his last chance
of achieving glory. Sohail may be the world’s leading goal-scorer but
he doesn’t have any Olympic or World Cup medal to show for it. The
2014 World Cup is still two years away and at 35, Sohail is unlikely to
last till then. If he wants to realise his dream of winning an Olympic
medal, he has to do it in London.
Sohail’s teammates come in. Players like Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmed
and Rehan Butt have the skills and experience to shine on the
international stage and like Sohail need to give their best in London.
importantly, much will depend on how Pakistan’s coaches will fare in
London. Akhtar Rasool may be the weak link in the team management but
there are coaches like Khawaja Junaid and Shahid Ali Khan, who can bring
the best out of their charges. They will need to devise winning
strategies for each of their rival teams. Pakistan’s target in London
is pretty simple. They know they have to brush aside Argentina and South
Africa — two of the more beatable teams in Pool A. Since only two
teams can progress from their group, Pakistan will have to win or at
least avoid losses against two of their remaining three opponents —
Australia, Britain and Spain. It seems like a Herculean task but it’s
not impossible. Last year, Pakistan tamed Australia in their backyard to
win a tri-nations tournament in Perth. It may not have been a big title
but the result proved that the Aussies are not unbeatable.
For Pakistan, it’s a
do-or-die situation. Another Olympic debacle in London will push them
further back in world hockey. Who knows whether we will even be able to
qualify for Rio 2016. If there ever was a time for Pakistan hockey team
to unshackle itself from the vicious cycle of underachievement it is
Khalid Hussain is
Editor Sports of The News, Karachi
Sri Lanka begin their three-match Test series on June 22 after
completing the one-day series on June 18.
Seven players will
join the Pakistani squad for the Tests: Taufeeq Umar, Faisal Iqbal,
Aizaz Cheema, Junaid Khan, Afaq Raheem, Muhammad Ayub and Adnan Akmal.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have played 14 Test series. Pakistan won seven,
Sri Lanka remain successful on three occasions while four series ended
without producing any result.
In all, 37 Test
matches were played, out of which Pakistan won 15, Sri Lanka eight,
while 14 ended without a result. The two teams also met in the Asian
Test Championship twice and won one each.
The first ever Test
between the two countries was played in March 1982 in Karachi that was
won by Pakistan by a huge margin of 204 runs. It was a memorable Test
for Pakistan, as some senior players had refused to accept the board’s
decision following the appointment of Javed Miandad as the captain, but
the then PCB Chief Air Marshal (R) Nur Khan stood firm and inducted
youngsters Saleem Malik, Saleem Yousuf, Rashid Khan, and Tahir Naqqash.
Saleeem Malik scored a century in his debut Test.
The second Test at
Faisalabad ended in a draw while the third Test at Lahore was also won
by Pakistan with a convincing margin of an innings and 102 runs.
Pakistan’s 765-6 in
Karachi in 2009 is the highest innings total in the bilateral Test
cricket. Sri Lanka’s best total against Pakistan of 644-7 came in the
Sri Lanka were bowled
out for just 71 in August 1994 at Kandy. This is the lowest total in
Test cricket between the two countries. Pakistan’s lowest total is 90
that they got in 2009 at Colombo (PSS).
Former Sri Lanka
captain Kumar Sangakara is the most successful batsman with 1830 runs in
13 Test matches at an average of 79.56 with the help of seven centuries
and seven fifties.
skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq is the highest run-getter with 1559 runs in 20
matches, averaging 59.96, including five hundreds and seven half
Younis Khan’s 313 at
Karachi in February 2009 is the highest individual score. Sanath
Jayasuriya’s 253 runs at Faisalabad in 2004 is the highest score for
Former spin magician
Muttiah Muralitharan with 80 wickets from 16 matches at the average of
25.46 is the most successful bowler of the two sides. His best innings
performance was 6-71.
Swing master Wasim
Akram with 63 wickets in 19 appearances at an average of 21.26 is the
most successful bowler for Pakistan. His best innings figures are 8-73.
Former captain Arjuna
Ranatunga played most 22 Test for Sri Lankan against Pakistan while
Aravinda de Silva and Jayawardene played 21 matches each.
20 Test matches against Sri Lanka. Younis Khan who is part of the
current Test squad has played 18 Tests. If he plays all three matches,
he will become the most capped player against Sri Lanka.
the world of squash for decades, Pakistan is desperately looking for
talented youngsters, who can help the country regain its lost glory.
Concerted efforts are
being made at the top level including launch of talent-hunt programmes
at the district level. Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) is fighting
against all odds to make this game popular among the youth and create an
environment wherein they can polish themselves to reach the top of the
Khans from Nawakhili have won most laurels for the country. But there
have been contributions from other parts of the country as well,
especially from Gogi Alauddin whose performances at British open are
hard to forget.
In this article ‘The
News on Sunday’ focuses on what is going on in Punjab, especially
Lahore, in this game. This microcosmic study may not present the overall
picture with 100 percent precision but will discuss all the main issues,
The recovery of squash
in Punjab is being looked after by Gogi Alauddin. Currently, he is
engaged at the Punjab Squash Complex (PSC) in Lahore as head coach.
Talking to TNS at the
PSC, Gogi said the first and foremost need of the time is to make
players work hard and improve their stamina, endurance and mental
composure up to international standards. “It is unfortunate that young
players do not work hard enough. I remember seeing Jahangir Khan go
through rigorous training in London during a competition. The
temperature there was below freezing point and his competitor was no
match, but he did not slacken.”
Gogi said there are
lots of attractions which stop youth from indulging in physical
activity. For example, they waste a lot of time in playing computer
games, watching cable TV and using other gadgets, he said. They must be
told by parents, teachers and peers that there is no substitute to
strenuous physical activity, he added.
While he was talking a
young player Ali appeared. He complained that he was not getting a
chance to play in the court. The reason was simple; few courts and too
many players. Players are allowed to play on ‘first come, first
serve’ basis and the maximum play time allowed to a pair is 45
Gogi said the shortage
of squash courts in the province was a big problem. “There are a
number of squash courts in the city but most of them are for the rich
and the common man has no access to them,” he said. “They are in
elite cubs, top schools or in certain housing societies where only the
residents of the locality can play.”
PSC is a blessing for
squash players from the lower classes, said Gogi. He clarified the
45-minute restriction is only for the private members who come in the
evening. From early morning till late afternoon, the players selected by
Punjab Squash Association are trained by highly qualified trainees and
PSC Secretary Tariq
Khan proudly told TNS that under-15 player Israr Ahmed, who won the
junior British Open title last year, had learnt his basics from the PSC
and that his success boosted the hopes of the youngsters who play here.
Many of them have started playing with renewed vigour hoping to earn
The complex offers
different packages to members of the club. For cement courts, admission
fee is Rs500 and monthly fee is Rs300. For wooden court, admission fee
is Rs1,500 and monthly fee is Rs750.
air-conditioned glass court is a little more expensive option. The
admission fee for the glass court is Rs3,000 and monthly fee is Rs2,000.
As an incentive to encourage players, admission fee for players under 10
years of age has been waived off.
Naeemul Haq, a
qualified squash coach, told TNS that the game lacks popularity in the
country because of dearth of corporate sponsorships, inability of
Pakistani players to participate in international events abroad,
Pakistan’s failure to host international events and unavailability of
government jobs for star performances.
In the past,
successful players were given goods government jobs and PIA helped them
travel all over the world to play in events for free. “Today, this
option is not there. If players miss international events, it affects
their rankings in the international circuit,” he added.
Naeem lamented the
fact that quite often Pakistani players had difficulty in getting visas,
which deprived them of participation in international events.
“Similarly, international players are worried about the security
situation here due to the negative image of the country portrayed in the
international media. Theses issue should be taken up by the government
at diplomatic level,” he suggested.
He said the major
chunk of corporate sponsorship went to cricket. “Businesses should not
ignore squash,” he said. “Even a percentage of the money spent on
cricket can do wonders for squash.”
Kashif Ali, an
academician based in Lahore, said revival of the sport was impossible
without encouraging students to participate. “It’s a pity sports
have been separated from the education ministry,” he said.
His point was that if
admissions to colleges and universities on sports basis were revived,
more and more students would opt for games like squash. Kashif said not
much was spent on constructing squash courts. “And the maintenance
cost is also negligible, especially when compared with that spent on
cricket, football and hockey grounds. Therefore, I suggest all
government and private educational institutes should have squash courts.
This would help a lot in developing the overall personality of
There is a
proverb in French, “Fortune lui permet de qui est prêt à s’aider
lui-même”, which means fortune helps only those who are willing to
Rafael Nadal proved
this maxim true at Roland Garros when he tamed world No 1 Novak Djokovic
of Serbia to win his seventh French Open crown.
The Serbian was
stopped short in his quest to become the first man since Rod Laver to
win four consecutive majors. He had defeated Nadal in each of the
previous three Grand Slams.
The two were the first
ever to play in four Slam finals in a row. Injuries after injuries that
Rafa suffered in the recent past did not prevent him from appearing as a
champion once again.
The Mallorcan suffered
a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 defeat to compatriot David Ferrer in the quarter-finals
at Melbourne Park after sustaining a hamstring injury in the second game
of the opening set last year at the Australian Open.
Nadal left the court
during the first set so that his left thigh could be treated and
continued to have medical time-outs throughout his defeat.
Despite battling on
through the pain, Nadal’s movement was visibly hampered and he was not
able to mount a comeback against Ferrer.And then a knee injury forced
him to retire during his quarter-final clash with Andy Murray at two
sets and a break down at the same event.
After the Australian
Open, the scenario repeated itself at Wimbeldon, when Nadal suffered a
foot injury. He fell behind 3-0 in the tiebreaker and was limping
between points, but saved a set point at 6-5 down and took the
tiebreaker on his fourth set point when Del Potro double-faulted.
“For a moment at the
end of the first set, I thought that I had to retire,” Nadal said.
“After that, the pain goes a little bit down and finally I was ready
to play.” Djokovic fought vigorously for his World No 1 prestige, but
remained unable to put Rafa in trouble. He had to be offensive against
Nadal in rain-delayed final of Roland Garros.
The Serb produces his
very best when his back is against the wall. He amazingly won eight
straight games from 0-2 in the third set to 2-0 in the fourth set before
Nadal finally held serve when play was suspended due to rain. Winning
eight straight games against Nadal should come with a trophy all of its
An analysis of those
eight games highlights the way Djokovic handled adversity — when
attacked, he becomes the attacker. On the other hand the former No 1
Roger Federer struggled for form all fortnight, but he felt he could
take confidence away from his semifinal match with Djokovic on to the
“The semifinal is,
at the end of the day, a very good result for any tennis player. For me
too. I wish I could have done a bit better, especially with the wasted
opportunities. But that’s how it goes sometimes,” Federer said.
“I’ve got to go
and change things around now for grass anyway. I’m looking forward to
that. It’s been a difficult clay-court season.
“I did feel my very
best coming into the semis. I was where I wanted to be, but I ran into
an opponent who was just better. Still, it gives me a little bit of a
lift coming into the grass-court season now,” he added.
In the other half of
French Open that means women’s side (WTA), Russia’s Maria Sharapova
emerged as a queen after defeating Italy’s Sara Errani — in
easy-to-handle-final of Roland Garros — to become the world No 1 and
10th woman in the sport’s history to win all four Grand Slams.
This mentally tough
girl proved her resilience by coming back from career-threatening
shoulder surgery in 2009. Her ranking went from No 1 to out of the
top-100 by 2010 but she struggled and struggled hard. “I’m motivated
by wanting to be the very best I can be,” she said. “I’m not
satisfied with where I am, I want to keep going, keep getting better
every day. The day I don’t want to get better is the day I retire.”
Born in Siberia,
Russia, Sharapova made her professional breakthrough in 2004 at age 17,
when she defeated two-time defending champion and top seed Serena
Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final for her first Grand Slam singles
title. She entered the top 10 of the WTA Rankings with the win. She
subsequently won 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open, before being
forced out of the game for ten months by a recurring shoulder injury,
which ultimately required surgery in October 2008.
Caroline Wozniacki of
Denmark failed to show her expertise in Roland Garros. She reached the
third round but was defeated by Estonian Kaia Kanepi, ranked 23rd.
Brundage departed from Olympics, which had grown beyond his
comprehension and capacity. The NOCs and the IFs were revolting against
his arbitrary administration. He was accused of bigotry and both racial
and class prejudice, not to mention the denunciations proclaiming him
Brundage served IOC as
President for 20 long years — from 1952 to 1972. Michael Morris Lord
Killanin directed IOC for the next eight stormy years. He was an
English-Irish nobleman. Killanin offered new style of management.
Despite various problems the IOC assets had grown from $2 million to
over $45 million.
The USA and a few
other states kept away from the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Killanin’s
biggest achievement was the liberalization of eligibility rules, which
opened the Olympics to professional athletes.
retirement in 1980 for reasons of health, Juan Antonio Samaranch, a
Spaniard, took over as IOC president. Samaranch had rich experience of
diplomacy, as he had served as Spanish ambassador to Moscow for four
years preceding the Moscow Games of 1980. Probably the two greatest
developments in the operations of Olympics Samaranch oversaw were the
increase in the role of women in the IOC and further opening of the
games to professionals.
As soon as the Russian
troops moved into Afghanistan in December 1979, the American government
launched a campaign aimed directly at undermining Moscow Olympics.
Carter’s administration facing re-election in 1980 virtually screamed
for a strong response. Calling for unity against Soviet action in
Afghanistan, the United States then sent messages to over 100 heads of
state, urging them to shift the Olympics from Moscow.
Killanin came out
openly to protect the Olympic truce. He objected strongly to what he
considered the White House’s “arrogance” and “high handed
approach”. President Carter announced his “irreversible” decision
of boycotting the Moscow Games.
He used his
presidential powers to block business involvement in Olympics including
NBC’s televising the Games, the US Postal Services sale of
commemorative stamps and post cards as well as export of “any goods or
technology” for Moscow Games.
In contrast to their
earlier pronouncements on the relationships between sport and politics,
the soviets now spoke of the need to keep politics out of sport as they
worked with IOC in defence of Olympic Games.
The extinguishing of
Olympic flame in Moscow put Los Angeles on the spot. The Soviets called
for sanctions against the Americans including taking 1984 Games away
from Los Angeles (USA).
By that time Killanin
had stepped down and Juan Samaranch had taken over. The IOC’s
agreement with Los Angeles for 1984 Games was controversial from the
start. The Russians had announced their decicion not to send their
athletes for 1984 Games due to security reasons.
In the end, the Soviet
boycott fell short of its objectives, as only the soviet Socialist
allies supported it. The Los Angles Games passed into Olympic history as
the first “Capitalist” games, and many commentators bemoaned the
open presence of giant sponsors.
Some Olympic officials
insisted the Americans were to blame for Soviet boycott. An American
television magnate took the full opportunity of the situation by
bringing American and soviet athletes together in a new multi-sports
competition known as “Good-will Games”. This was a great challenge
to Olympic Games. Ted Turner who was a yatchman, businessman and an
idealist, approached the soviets directly. Turner announced that the
first Goodwill Games would take place in July 1986.
The opening of
Goodwill Games in Lenin Stadium displayed a prominent political
dimension. Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev personally greeted the
On the other hand IOC
approved the admission of professionals in soccer and ice hockey. In
June 1987, it approved the admission of tennis professionals into the
1988 Games, which were to be staged in Seoul.
Samaranch now had a
mammoth task at his hands; this was a true test of his management,
diplomatic and strategic understanding and abilities. Samaranch’s task
had prodigious dimensions; he literally had to restructure the
“Greatest Show on the Earth”.
Despite all efforts,
uncertainty still hung over the plans of Seoul Games and indeed over the
future of Olympic Games. There were tensions between North and South
Korea just as between India and Pakistan.
Following the example
of 1964 Tokyo games, the South Korean government looked at Seoul
Olympics as a demonstration of their country’s newfound economic
Although no one knew
it at that time, but the Olympic Games of 1988 were the last to occur in
the context of cold war between the world’s superpowers.
By the time of
Barcelona Games in 1992, the Soviet Union would no longer exist.
Koreans successfully hosted the 10th Asian Games, which was
perfect dress rehearsal for 1988 Second Olympics. In 1987 political
convulsion shook South Korea. Chun Doo Hwan lost the presidential
election to Roh Tae Woo, and the East European governments declared
themselves satisfied with developments in South Korea.
Soviet Union followed
by China announced that they will attend the Seoul Olympics. Mikhail
Gorbachev’s programme of perestroika aimed at making the Soviet
economy more efficient and productivity, but for Soviet sport this meant
some cataclysmic changes.
Soviets lead the Seoul
Olympic medal table with 132 medals, followed by East Germany with 102
and the United States trailed at No 3 with 94 medals.
Championships are generally considered superior to the World Cup in
terms of the quality of football (both in terms of possible match-ups
and the football itself) that is on show in the group stages, let alone
in the later stages of the tournament. This is owed in large part to the
format of the European tournament, which this year fielded 16 sides, as
opposed to the World Cup, where the draw covers twice as many sides.
As with most things in
life, there is a trade off between the positive and negative aspects of
having this small draw. The positive, as an example, is the possibility
of Spain and Italy or Germany and the Netherlands playing against each
other in the first few days of the tournament.
In the World Cup, some
of the group matches appear to be a mere formality, with the gap in
quality between teams is much more pronounced. The down side comes from
the style of play, more specifically, the tactical outlook of the
participants. In this respect, the World Cup has more to offer than the
Euros, and this is directly due to the participation of teams from other
continents. To elaborate further; the formation used by teams in Europe
is largely similar, a variation of the 4-4-2 than can meld into a 4-3-3,
with a good sense of balance throughout the formation. In the last World
Cup, we saw Brazil’s lop sided attack mindedness, Chile’s slick
Bielsa-inspired movement, and North Korea’s odd shape which outrightly
surrendered large tracts of the pitch while congesting some key areas.
So it is that I come
to write this piece with a sense of satisfaction on the variety of
formations that have taken to the field in the competition so far,
regardless of how successful or not they were. The two formations that
immediately stood out as more unique flavours, showed up on the second
day of the tournament, and that too in the same match. Spain took to the
field sporting a 4-6-0, with no recognised striker and just a ‘false
nine’, while Italy were strutting a 3-5-2 with a Libero. The
‘broken’ 4-2-4 employed by the Netherlands was fascinating in its
own way, but more on that later.
their dominance in world football over the last 4 years by following the
Barcelona model; using players with technical ability and movement to
use possession as a means of defence and attack, allowing them to carve
up the most resolute of defences. If one takes the tiki-taka style of
football to its ultimate conclusion, it calls for a team who are simply
footballers, and not penned into one particular position; everyone is
good on the ball, everyone is active off it, and the players rotate
positions depending on where they were in relation to the ball. A key
point here is the removal of the role of the designated striker. This
year, Spain sought to do this to some extent. Hence the 4-6-0, where six
midfielders would move around in front of a back four with one of the
six meant to stay further up than the rest, yet deeper than a natural
striker would be. Against Italy, this task was given to David Silva.
was less of a surprise, as Cesare Prandelli had already declared that
they would be playing a 3-5-2 with Barzaghli as a Libero, the
sweeper-cum-ball playing defender. A few days before the tournament,
however, Barzaghli picked up a calf injury, so it was assumed that
Prandelli would see reason in reverting to a more traditional setup, but
to his credit, he stuck to a system the team had worked with. Italy also
benefited from the skills of Daniele De Rossi, the Roma midfielder who
had, on occasion, played this role before. The interesting things about
a 3-5-2 is how it can be read as a 5-3-2, since the two full backs push
up to join the midfield in attack. The deep playmaker was Pirlo, who is
not the most mobile of players when defending. This meant that Marchisio
and Thiago Motta would have a busy time doing the running in midfield
behind Italy’s only real option of a front pairing, Cassano and
The match ended in a
draw, but Italy were more successful with their formation than Spain
were. Spain’s midfield kept getting congested due to their lack of
natural wingers who could provide width, as every player drifted to the
centre. For Italy, Pirlo put in a great performance and the Azzurri
stood toe to toe with the European and World champions. However, the man
of the match was definitely De Rossi, who was outstanding in defence and
in playing the ball out to both the midfield and directly the front line
with long, accurate diagonal passes. Fabregas’ goal vindicated del
Bosque’s formation, although they looked a much more potent attacking
force when Navas and Torres were brought on late into the game. That
said, Italy’s goal also came after a change in personnel up front,
although the formation remained the same.
That is why I was
happy to see Italy stick to their guns when they played with the exact
same line up and the same formation in their second game against
Croatia, though they had to settle for another draw. Spain, however,
chose the safer option and opted to have Torres spearhead the attack.
The plan worked, as he scored a brace to put Ireland out of the
competition, but it was disappointing to see them revert to something so
extensively tried and tested.
I mentioned the
Netherlandsí 4-2-4 and how it was a broken formation. This is because
with De Jong and Von Bommel in holding roles, there was no link between
midfield and the front four, which leaves them to construct and execute
all the attacks themselves. This sounds good in theory, in how it leaves
a front line devoid of any defensive duty, able to break quickly and
make mayhem as they wish, but it never quite played out that way for
Oranje, as they wasted a few chances against Denmark before being
stifled by a deep defensive formation played by the Danes. Against
Germany, they never got that much space to operate, and Van Marjwick’s
refusal to change to a more proactive approach until late in the game
doomed them to their inconceivable fate of two losses out of two
Sure, Italy and
Netherlands did not get ideal results, and Spain were quick to do away
with their experiment, but it has been great to see teams try something
different than what is so much common fare. Hopefully, this trend will
continue, and other teams will follow suit, making the Euros more
exciting than it is now. Already, the tournament is moving nearer to the
World Cup (the next tournament, in 2016, will feature 24 teams), and one
would hope that Europe is able to churn out a similarly wide variety of
playing styles, to maintain the quality it has exhibited thus far.