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FC Barcelona: Will Counter-Attacking dethrone the Blaugrana's Total Football?

Ozil is one player who works brilliantly in a counter-attacking system
Ozil is one player who works brilliantly in a counter-attacking system

With the Copa America finally finished, a number of conclusions have been reached. The first is that International football is dying, unless you belong to an elite group that is comprised of Spain, Germany or Holland. If the 2010 World Cup was an embarrassment for Brazil and Argentina, this year's Copa America can be considered public humiliation, all while the world witnesses the resurgence football's original World Champions, Uruguay.

However, Forlan is getting older, and whether Suarez can lead this Uruguay side at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is beyond me. Still, Spain look aeons ahead of what any South American team currently have to offer, although if Joachim Low is still in charge, my pick for the Brazil tournament 2014 is Germany.

I’m digressing, so back to the conclusions.

Apparently, the stats from the Copa suggest that ball possession is not vital, which is surprising considering the dominance of Barcelona and Spain. But equally not so, with the relative success of Germany, and any team Jose Mourinho manages. All of the semi-finalists from the Copa held less than 50% possession on average, so perhaps a changing of the guard is imminent?

It would be ironic if counter-attacking succeeded over Barcelona’s "Total Football spin-off", just as the world and its dog clamour to emulate the Blaugrana and the principles they champion.

Maybe I’m fear-mongering, but the warning signs are there. Barcelona nearly lost out to Arsenal in the Champions League, with Wenger adopting a counter-attacking system, the antithesis of his usual approach. Real Madrid has won the Copa after a lightning counter attack, finished off by Cristiano Ronaldo. Hercules also adopted this counter-attacking approach to great success, most notably in their infamous 2-0 victory at the Camp Nou.

Now many suggest this approach is anti-football, and I know many people who label this as Cantenaccio Mark.II, and in more extreme cases, as Mourinho being "a coward". While it may seem odd to my colleagues, I like nothing better than seeing a perfectly executed counter-attack, as possession football is not all it is cracked up to be.

Barcelona are not a one-man team by any stretch of the imagination, but without Lionel Messi, they look pedestrian, and dare I say it, toothless.

Weaving pretty patterns in the pitch, but ultimately failing to threaten the opposition.

Again using the example of Germany, their system is exceptional. Organised in defense, but when the opportunity arises, they counter with such a pace the opposition cannot possibly defend. The 4-1 victory over England was the perfect example, as they sat back, invited pressure, and countered time and time again. There was only one word for it:


The trouble is that countering the opposition is easier, with examples of perfect counter-attacking are evident in Germany’s 4-1 win over England, Inter’s 3-1 win over Barcelona, Real’s 1-0 in the Copa, and Hercules, in their 2-0 win.

Examples of truly exceptional Total Football performances during the same time-span are few and far between, with the Manita Clasico, and Champions League final being the only examples that come to mind.

My fear is that Barcelona’s possession game has reached its glorious peak, while the counter-attacking principle is advancing, ready to take its place at the top.

August 14th, and August 17th, we will find out.

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