Monday, 8 August 2011

A Brief History of Tactics - Brazil and The Flat Back Four

Brazil and the Flat Back Four

At around the time that Hungary were making their move towards playing with a withdrawn centre-forward Brazil were also in the process of tweaking their formation. The small team of Vila Nova had also adopted a similar system in the early 1950s, and Flamengo won three Carioca championships between 1953 and 1955. 

For the national team though, and the rest of the world, the first time they saw the new Brazil was in 1954. In the World Cup of that year Didi, Brazil’s inside right, began to drop deep to join in the midfield, but his influence was overshadowed by the changes of Hungary who swept Brazil aside in the infamous Battle of Berne.

The first time that Brazil unveiled their back four on the international stage was at the World Cup of 1958. Although they still were not playing what would in modern parlance be termed a flat back four, it was clear that Bellini had been moved from playing a midfield role and covering for the defence, to joining the back four but with license to get forward. This gave the backline, already formidable with the likes of Nilton Santos, Di Sordi and goalkeeper Gilmar, an extra solidity.

In midfield Didi had now dropped fully back into the centre to dictate play and Dino Sani acted as a minder to protect him. It is often suggested that Brazil switched at the 1958 to a 4-2-4, but in reality it was still a hybrid system. The team was fundamentally unbalanced due to the difference of the two wingers in the team, Mario Zagallo and Garrincha. Garrincha was a traditional outside right, an attacker with no defensive responsibilities who could beat any defender with his supreme dribbling. Zagallo on the other hand was known as “The Ant” on account of his industry, and would regularly drop deep in order to track back and help out his midfield teammates.

Brazil (above) v. Sweden, 1958

As a result Brazil’s formation at the 1958 and 1962 World Cup’s can’t really be called  a 4-2-4, a 3-3-4 or even a 4-3-3. It remained a mixture of styles, but was unquestionably effective. Brazil stormed to victory in 1958, and retained their crown in 1962. While their outstanding players were certainly important, tactics again gave them an advantage over their competitors.

Brazil (above) v. Czechoslovakia, 1962

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.
How long was this formation kept up for? Were Pele, Zico, Socrates ever introduced to it?
Formations that unfortunately would get destroyed these days.

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