Mourinho Boosts South American Prospects At The World Cup

So…

If there was any lingering doubt about Jose Mourinho’s “Special” status in the world of football, that has surely been extinguished with Inter Milan’s clinical defeat of Bayern Munich in the final at Bernabeu. As with most of Mourinho’s teams, Inter started with a world class defence.

There was a moment in the dramatic game at Camp Nou in the second leg against Barcelona where Lucio lunges to intercept a low cross and kicks it out for a corner. He then proceeds to punch the air much like a Nadal after winning a long and key rally against Federer. That moment illustrated something important for me. A top class football team needs players who LOVE to defend. Many teams have defenders, but how many are actually defenders with a passion for their art? And how many have simply discovered they’re good at it, or even that they would rather be up front with the attackers? When I look around, I see Terry, Vidic, Lucio and Carragher as the type of players who love to defend. Their best instincts come to the fore when they’re facing up to attackers. Lucio is highly unusual, coming from a land where defence is a necessary evil, rather than a sought after art form. Having even one player like this with the attitude and the capability can do wonders for the defensive capabilities of the team.

From a defensive perspective, one of the major ironies of Mourinho’s Inter becomes more interesting going into the world cup. Out of the 7 players in key potentially defensive positions (goalkeeper, 4 defenders and 2 holding midfielders), Inter Milan has 6 South Americans and 1 Romanian. Wait a minute! Aren’t South Americans supposedly poor at defending? Don’t they love to just charge up field at every opportunity? What are 2 Brazilians and 3 Argentinians doing, implementing the most sophisticated Catenaccio we’ve seen in recent times? And isn’t this the same Brazil who would trot out goal-keepers who looked like they’d been plucked out of some outfield position and made to play in goal for one game? Well we know that’s changed, from the time of Tafarrel and Dida and now the imperious Julio Cesar – arguably the best keeper in the world.

Certainly great news for Dunga and Maradona, though you suspect the former is much more appreciative of his defensive wards than Maradona. Also, the number of 5 Argentinians and 3 Brazilians augurs well for the world cup. 5 Dutch players and a smattering from Croatia, Serbia, Ghana, Columbia, Turkey, Cameroon and Ukraine make up the Champions League final, alongside the 9 Germans. Arguably, if it wasn’t Bayern, the German quotient would have fallen dramatically. Or if Barcelona had made it to the final, we would have essentially had Germany v Spain. Notably, England and Spain contributed no players to the Champs League final. France should have had one (Ribery) and Italy had Materazzi who made it on the field for a few seconds.

Does this have any bearing on the world cup at all? Well, European teams should definitely worry if Brazil and Argentina turn up with high quality defensive play to go with their dashing attacking skills. Maradona’s obscene options for his front line include Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguerro, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi. Between them these 5 players have scored 141 goals this season. 5 players, 141 goals. Think about it. Dunga may not have such an embarrassment of riches, but Brazil are a tightly knit team that combine strong physical play with flair and instinctive creativity. What this boils down to is, who will stop the South Americans? Will it be Spanish flair or German efficiency? English obduracy or Italian tactics?

Watch this space.

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