With the Netherlands having completely decimated reigning world champions Spain with the score line reading 5-1 in the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil it certainly looks like the concept of “Total Football” has once again returned in the world of football and that too with a bang. The question then to be asked is what is this concept of total football all about and by whom and where did this concept really originate?
So to begin with this initial concept of total football first originated in Hungary by the Hungarian national team who were managed by Gusztav Sebes. The concept was then refined by Jack Reynolds who was the manager of Ajax in Netherlands which was then passed on to Rinus Michels who played under Reynolds and who himself became the manager of Ajax in 1965. This concept was then carried forward by new Ajax manager Stefan Kovacs after Michels left Ajax for Barcelona in the year 1971. It was the Dutch led by their talisman Johan Cruyff that was the first team to use this concept to great effect on the world stage. It was in 1974 FIFA World Cup that Holland under Rinus Michels as the manager and led by the genius of Johan Cruyff that they reached the finals where they lost to host West Germany. Although they lost to hosts in the final with a score line reading 2-1 the concept of “Total Football” brought in by the Dutch during this world cup managed to capture the imagination of football lovers all over the globe.
This concept of “Total Football” basically consists of constant interchanging of positions between players on the field. This demands players to understand the concept of making space, coming into space and thereby eventually creating the perfect opportunity to score a goal. This concept also requires the players to be adept at passing the ball around the field with accuracy. It is for this reason that this concept demands players to possess great technical ability along with great vision during passing. Like the great Johan Cruyff once rightly commented about this concept by saying that “Simple football is the most beautiful but playing simple football is the hardest thing” which is also why very few teams have been able to master this concept. As this concept is based on constant switching of positions it demands that the player should have the ability to play in multiple positions thus enabling the player to develop into a multi dimensional player. This concept has also led to the invention of “Tiki-Taka” style of play made famous by Spanish club Barcelona as well as the Spanish national team.
The “Tiki-Taka” style of play basically consists of quick short passing and movement among the players on the field of play. The term “Tiki Taka” which basically means quick short distance passing was first coined by Spanish broadcaster the late Andres Montes during television commentary for LaSexta during 2006 FIFA World Cup. This concept is a variation of total football with just a minor difference. The minor difference being while total football relies on interchanging of position between players Tiki-Taka is based on quick short passing and movement of players into spaces. So while total football is difficult to defend against due the concept of interchanging of positions Tiki-taka due to emphasis on short passing can be defended by tight man marking of the players and using a counter attacking style of play.
So the concept of Tiki-Taka which is an extension of total football was first introduced in Spanish football by the legend Johan Cruyff during his tenure as a manager at Barcelona during the years 1988 to 1996. This concept was then fine tuned and further developed by subsequent coaches namely Louis Van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard, and Josep Guardiola. This concept was then introduced from the Spanish LaLiga into the Spanish national team. With technically brilliant players possessing great vision such as Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and having successfully used this concept in the LaLiga especially by Barcelona the Spanish national team tasted great success by becoming champions at the Euro 2008, FIFA World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012 competitions. Unfortunately though this concept of Tiki-Taka was eventually worked out by oppositions. The first sign that this concept has been exposed was during 2012-13 Champions League semi-final when Bayern Munich decimated Barcelona home and away with an aggregate score of 7-0. During this match Bayern used a counter attacking style of football as a solution to the Tiki-Taka style of play of Barcelona and which worked quite brilliantly as was seen by the result.
This concept got exposed even further and was very much evident in the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup when defending champions Spain were knocked out of the tournament prematurely in the first round itself. With the Netherlands completely destroying them 5-1, a vibrant Chile convincingly beating them 2-0 and, eventually only a 3-0 win against a listless Australia to show. It certainly looks like the magic of “Tiki-Taka” is waning and it will be prudent for Spain to look for an alternative strategy that will allow them to dominate the world of football once again in the near future.
So with the emergence of total football very likely as was seen in Netherlands performance against Spain in the ongoing world cup it remains to be seen if this concept will prove to be effective in the long run. Until then it is perfect time for football lovers all over the world to just sit back and watch the magic unleashed by a concept called “TOTAL FOOTBALL” in a sport fondly known as “THE BEAUTIFUL GAME”.