An alternative analysis of the World Cup – by the man who helped shape Guardiola’s City

The football game is over and now whatever happened, I dare not say. The purpose of the game has been destroyed – now they want customers more than fans, the industry needs TV money.

But, even so, I have seen every game in this World Cup, I always see it.

I prefer international football to soccer because, for me, the best players come together for international football, so the interactions between them are stronger. I can assure you of this – I have thousands of game data between 1950 and 1990. Twelve terabytes are sitting on my desk in front of me.

The best players gather for international football, and thank God, they are not held by all the powers of the manager, because there is no time to train. It is admirable, the fact that the managers will not change the game too much in the World Cup for the most important – the players.

It’s really wonderful because we, the managers, have a lot of influence. It is unbearable. We have our own opinions and we say that we encourage them to help people understand the game. Bull! It should be for the players to understand the game as they understand it.

And everything is still global. In terms of teams, if you go to a course in Norway and South Africa, they will be the same. ‘Look inside to find places outside’, ‘go here, go there’. Good dribblers are gone, my friend. Where can you find them? I don’t see anything.

I watch all the world championships. I am working in Qatar now, I was in England recently. Japan, China, South America… well, in South America you can still find a good player with qualities that are taught on the street rather than in an academy.

We don’t even realize the mess we made. We have taken the global trend to the point where it has entered the World Cup: if you had the players of Cameroon and Brazil change shirts at half time you would not notice. Maybe with tattoos or blonde hair, but not performance.

It’s all ‘dos ​​toques’. It involves two. Because they all practice with double tap, they all play with double tap. We have forced ‘El Dostoquismo’, as I call it.

And I say this as a great exponent of many ways and ways of thinking! I am like a sad father.

If there was one person I would like to talk to now, it would be me from 25 years ago. Don’t trust someone who says they have no regrets in life.

However, this World Cup. I remember Tunisia–Denmark from the first week. It was my favorite sport; 0-0 but it was full of chances. Even more so in Spain’s 7-0 win against Costa Rica, where, by the way, they played very well. With the right tempo, right places, fast action…

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Spain is unlucky to come up against two teams, Japan and Morocco, who did not feel the need to open up spaces in their defense to try and win the game.

Morocco’s idea was that when the opponent has the ball 50 meters from where he was, he should behave as if he were ten meters away. Many teams have done that in this World Cup.

Morocco did not settle much against Spain, sometimes defending 10 meters outside their area.

It is true that it may look like Spain needs to put more balls in the box, try to provoke random actions and go for the second ball, but to win the second ball you need to press up and they are very close to the opponent. . If that second ball goes to Hakim Ziyech or Sofiane Boufal – what a player! – and they go down the field, set up a counter, score a goal, everyone will criticize you too.

It’s funny now when everyone talks about high block, low block… In the garage? Without a garage? This desire to find words makes it even more difficult to understand football. Whatever Morocco had, it was a lot of players working together, paying an amazing desire not to open spaces.

It’s getting harder and harder to beat this trend. Teams can move an entire line — midfield, defensive line — from one side of the field to the other faster than the ball can move. You have to have a lot of value to beat it.

Spain was so worried about being caught that it didn’t put people in danger.

It was different for Argentina when they lost to Saudi Arabia; they were trying to get the killer through very quickly, and if you do that, you are exposed to a counter attack. Against Poland, Argentina changed some players but above all they were more patient, chewed things up and improved.

But I wouldn’t dare to say which team was the best because they are all very similar and the players are the same.

It is true now that there are no more bad players. But there are no outstanding players. By trying to kill bad people, we have also killed good people.


There are alternatives to this World Cup – and they’re not all bad! I think we saw how the teams, when they were defeated, were more, they dared to do more things. And when they measured, they immediately stepped back. That happened a lot.

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And one thing we should start thinking more about: there are more and more goals from cutbacks, or pass-back passes.

Because teams try to play as far as they can, when they break through the opposition’s defense they move so quickly that the midfielders are ahead of the ball holder. I used to say in Manchester that the last player in the box is the first to shoot. I tell my attackers that all the time: the closer you get to the goal, the more you keep scoring.


Each team is so concerned with protecting and controlling the areas around their target that there are now more threats from afar.

Sometimes you need to take a step back.


So let’s talk about the view. People are talking about Cristiano Ronaldo not starting in the last 16 for Portugal and it is a good decision. This was already covered by the Greek philosophers: all is well that ends well. But until it’s over we say nothing, if only…

This is called probability, it’s as simple as that.

How many football comments do you hear at the beginning of games? Pay attention to what’s being said before the game – as long as it’s within reason, of course. After the game, everyone is smart.

You know that if Portugal had lost 2-0, it would have been a bad decision to leave Ronaldo. “How on earth do you give a kid the No. 9 shirt to a kid who spent four days in top-flight football?”

Sometimes I think that the 90 minutes of the game is a bit of a distraction for some people who want to praise the winners and talk bad about the losers.

So I will tell you the things I believed before the competition. I don’t want to be an opportunist!

For me, England and Portugal are two teams with a large number of top players in the age group that will give them good opportunities in the future. One player I’m mad about for England and hasn’t played at all – James Maddison. I love this man, he makes me happy.

He is a true football player, more a product of the street than a product of the school. He dares. He has nerves. The manager may tell him to do A, but if he believes that B is the right choice, he will do B.

I just love this. Any idea that pops into James Maddison’s head is 100 times better than any idea you’ll get at any training session.

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Look at the quality England have in their squad, even some of the boys left out!

And again in Portugal… Benfica midfielder Antonio Silva is not playing. Do you know how cute this baby is? Amazing. He has no sense.

The guy who replaced Ronaldo, Goncalo Ramos… I’m even more surprised that when Ronaldo doesn’t play, it’s not Rafa Leao who replaces him.

I almost say, ‘Wow, Leo isn’t playing, is there something going on with him?’. But there is also Ramos, a guy who could not only score three goals, but every time he met the ball he made the movement better. He improved everything. He was really clean. And Joao Cancelo can make better decisions in the final third than most strikers.

It’s hard for me to highlight some of the new characters – because I already knew them. And I don’t do that to promote myself, but because there is so much analysis and so much analysis that no player seems new to us.

You watch Sofyan Amrabat against Spain – I already knew him. I hadn’t seen him play a complete game like Monday, but I know what he’s like as a player.

In previous years, the World Cup was also about discovering new football players from unknown countries. They had their own characteristics, they were not identical players like nowadays.

This scouting is like picking mushrooms in the forest, as we do in Spain. If you go to the forest after 7am you will see that all the trees are gone, people have already taken all the beautiful mushrooms. With football players it is the same. They’ve all been there and seen them all. It is difficult to find mushrooms that have not been picked.

Are you wondering how we bring football back to the way it was? Forget it. The type of football player is different now, but that happens in every field: music, art, whatever. We are shaped by the culture around us and the younger generations will get used to VAR as a matter of course – don’t get me started on that. Or statistics.

You and your situation are one and the same. For example, take a cactus. Years ago, the cactus had no spine. We adapt to the environment, the conditions in which we live. So, over time, the cactus grew on its back. That’s what we have now.

This column was written with our reporters Sam Lee and Pol Ballus after a video call in Spanish.

(Above photo: Sam Richardson)



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