Like a lepra messiah…

Writing in The Guardian’s Sport Blog recently, Jonathan Wilson explored the influence Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa (and his methods) has had on the modern game. Wilson, author of Inverting the Pyramid and editor of quarterly football magazine The Blizzard, suggests that in recent years football ‘has gone through a process of Bielsafication’.

While Bielsa confronts training ground site managers in the Basque Country, back in his hometown of Rosario one of his former players is spearheading a bielsaissance in the stadium bearing El Loco’s name. The club is Argentine primera side Newell’s Old Boys, and the former player is Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.

Martino, who turned 50 last Tuesday, returned to La Lepra this year for the first time since leaving in 1996. Since then he has made a successful transition from playing to management, and encountered great success in Paraguay, winning several league titles with Libertad and Cerro Porteño before taking over the national side in 2007.

Following the dismissal of head coach Diego Cagna, it was rumoured Newell’s were trying to bring back Marcelo Bielsa as his replacement. Of course, this never came to pass, but in Tata Martino they certainly got the next best thing. Continue reading Like a lepra messiah…

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Checking in with the Seleção: part II

When we last spoke about the Seleção the London Olympics were just around the corner, and coming off the back of a promising run of friendlies, Mano Menezes’s boys looked dead certs to grab gold.

Prata com gosto de lata

However, as we know football is rarely so cut-and-dried. In the tournament’s early stages, Brazil lived up to expectations to some degree, winning all five of their matches on the way to the final, scoring three goals in each. Although, their second-half struggle against Egypt and difficulty in putting away Honduras hinted towards a deeper defensive problem.

In the final at Wembley, Brazil faced a quick and expansive Mexico side who managed to take the lead in the first minute of the match. The seleção failed to recover properly and lost the match 2-1 – forcing them to make do with the silver medal.

Of course, an Olympic medal of any substance should not be sniffed at. But for Brazil, this really was uma prata com gosto de lata – a silver that tastes like tin. Continue reading Checking in with the Seleção: part II

Menezes’ Seleção take a huge leap towards Olympic success

The appointment of Mano Menezes as Brazil head coach didn’t really blow anyone away. He took the job in 2010 after the Seleção’s disappointing World Cup display, and was the CBF’s official second choice to take the reins behind Muricy Ramalho, who had just signed a lengthy contract with Fluminense (and unofficially the third choice behind Luiz Felipe Scolari, who signed an equally long contract with Palmeiras).

Right away, he emphasised the need for a change in the Seleção’s style, correctly identifying that as hosts in 2014, they would not be able to rely on counter-attacking football to earn results. Menezes – always well-spoken and thoughtful in his press conferences – talked about Brazil needing to “take the game to their opponents” and often repeated the importance of being “the game’s protagonist”. Continue reading Menezes’ Seleção take a huge leap towards Olympic success

Universidad de Chile 6×0 Deportivo Quito: La U’s attacking master class

In last week’s Copa Libertadores last 16 second legs, we were treated to a veritable football feast. Each of the eight matches were filled with drama and laced with a dash of tension. We had Lanús and Vasco go all the way to a penalty shoot-out where the Brazilians came out on top, and Vélez versus Atlético Nacional and Fluminense versus Internacional were tight right up until the final whistle, both home sides ultimately being victorious.

In the Brazilian state of São Paulo, Santos grabbed the headlines with their indomitable 8×0 victory against shell-shocked Bolívar, but the prize for the week’s most impressive attacking display – even though they scored two less – certainly goes to Jorge Sampaoli’s Universidad de Chile side as they hit Deportivo Quito for six. Continue reading Universidad de Chile 6×0 Deportivo Quito: La U’s attacking master class

Game of the Week: Atlético Nacional 2×0 Universidad de Chile

Another week, another game. This time Game of the Week heads to the north-west of the continent to the Colombian city of Medellín. There, nestled in the Aburrá valley, a noisy crowd packed in to the Atanasio Girardot to witness a superb game of football. But first, some back story.

It is easy to forget today that back in the 80’s and early 90’s, Colombian football was one of the biggest forces on the continent. While the Cali and Medellín drug cartels operated almost unopposed, the country’s infamous drug lords pumped their dirty money into the game, and into their favourite teams. Continue reading Game of the Week: Atlético Nacional 2×0 Universidad de Chile