Iran Entering the Era of Modern Football
NOTE: Afshin Ghotbi is Los Angeles Galaxy’s first assistant coach. He was the technical analyst for South Korea during World Cup 2002 and USA during World Cup 1998. As a contributing editor, Afshin will regularly provide articles about modern football at large and Iranian natioanl team in particular to Irankicks.com.
Modern Football is a game of moving chess. The ball dictates the position of 22 players at any given moment. The ball is circulating at incredible speeds in international football requiring a higher priority on tactical organization of teams. Eleven players with a clear tactical objective on defense and attack can beat a team with better players. The goal is to build a team that the whole is greater than the sum.
Iranian National Team has been playing a traditional 1-4-4-2 organization in the last two home games in the World Cup Qualifying against North Korea and Bahrain. Based on the last two games, here are some observations:
Defensively the back four form a linear block zoning their respective channels (Right, Central Right, Central Left and Left). In Midfield, the Iranians form a diamond with one defensive midfielder, one attacking midfielder and two wide midfielders taking compact wide positions. Iranian midfielders have high work rate and do a good job getting numbers around the ball in the midfield. The Strikers drop back and in establishing the first line of defense shrinking the passing lanes into the midfield.
In principle, the objective is to deny the opponent scoring opportunities. Reducing the playing areas and placing pressure on the ball with numbers are the keys to defending success. Iranian defending success is based more on their individual effort, energy and team’s fighting spirit than tactical organization. The distance between lines of defense is too large leaving gaps between the defenders and midfielders and midfielders and strikers. Iranian defenders should keep their block of four higher on the field reducing the midfield spaces. The tendency to drop back as soon as the ball is lost is a common tactical behavior in Asia. The defenders are afraid of having the spaces behind them exposed. Well by dropping back, they make the midfield spaces only larger for the midfielders and hence, making the task for the midfielders harder. There are times the back four must drop back and retreat, then the midfielders and strikers must also drop back to keep the ten field players connected and compact. The idea is to make spaces as small as possible for the opponent. Keeping the team compact vertically and horizontally will be crucial in Iranian team success in World Cup 2006.
In Principle, the objective in football is to score goal or maintain possession of the ball in attack. Maximizing the playing area gives the attacking team the space and time necessary to create the goal scoring opportunities. Creating depth by pushing the strikers as high as possible and width by positioning the side midfielders and outside defenders wide are principles of attack in many systems of play. The ball is also the best space maker in football. The higher the ball speed, the more space can be made in attack. The ball can travel faster than any player, and the ball will never get tired.
Iranian National Team possesses the players with great technique and ball handling speed. This is the by product of street soccer and “goal-koocheek” (small goal game) in Iranian football culture. We must use this quality as the foundation to our attack. Iranian players’ ability to win the one-on-one duels in attack, use combination football to get behind the defense, and our threat in the air in danger zones has distinguished us as one of the best in Asia for decades.
To achieve the same success in international football and the World Cup, Iran must improve by attacking with more tactical discipline and organization in front and behind the ball. Iran needs to improve in our spacing and angels we offer one another making it easier to keep possession. When you compare the speed of the ball in the top teams in the world vs. the Iranian National Team, there is a definite difference. This may be a small detail, but it makes a big difference. A ball arriving a second earlier gives our strikers one extra second in front of the goal. Football’s difficulty is seeking the simplest solutions in every action with the fewest precise touches in the shortest time.
Finally, Team a Melli can be more organized behind the ball offering support to the ball carrier and taking vital spaces with enough players preventing opponent’s counter attacks. In the next article, I will evaluate the individual players in more detail. In closing, Iran, aim high. We have potential for great things in the World Cup 2006.
------- Below, Afshin Ghotbi responds to Kaveh Mahjoob of Irankicks regarding the above article.
How do you view the speed of Iranian national team in today’s modern football? Where do we show good speed and where do we don’t?
Speed can be broken down to three areas:
is defined by the ability of players to read the game and take early positions and actions in relationship to the ball, teammates and opponents. Players with good football brain and experience excel in this department.
is defined how quickly players react to events around them. We can train our nervous system to decrease the time from seeing an event to reacting to the event.
is defined by the rate and length of our strides. Basically, the distance a player can travel in a time frame.
The present Team-A-Meli has average team speed in most positions, exception speed on the right column of the field with Kaabi and Mahdavikia.
You have talked about the gap among the lines. Based on the matches you have analyzed, where do we most see the gap?
The gaps are between the defending block and midfield block. We also can reduce the gap between the strikers and midfielders.
How do you feel about the substitutions used in the games you have reviewed?
Not knowing enough about the fitness, form, and qualities of all the Iranian players, it is better for me not to comment on this.
When you say that “we need to improve the spacing and angles we offer to one another,” what do you mean?
Simply by creating diamonds and triangles all over the field in attack, we give each other options to play forward, right, left and back making it easier to possess the ball. The proper spacing stretches opponents creating spaces and gaps making it easier to possess the ball and penetrate into danger zones of opponent.
In the 4-4-2 system that Iran is using, you have identified that we use linear block zoning. Is this the right formation to defend the ball or do you prefer man-to-man over zone defense?
In my opinion, zonal defending is the easiest way to defend. It will keep the team organized, reduced the work load on all players, place pressure and numbers around the ball, and in transition from defense-to-attack the team can take an attacking shape and organization much quicker
Thanks again for your time and we look forward to more articles from you.
– It has been my pleasure.