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 1-1-8: The oldest formation in football history

  • 1-1-8: the oldest formation in football history.
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 17:02 IST

Football is a beautiful game. In theory, it is simple as Kevin Keegan famously said that his tactics for winning the match are to score more goals than the opposition. Football is a lot more about tactics than individual skills because you may be a skilled player, but in a wrong setup, you will probably have zero impact on the outcome.

There are some people who might have better technique than me, and some may be fitter than me, but the main thing is tactics. With most players, tactics are missing. You can divide tactics into insight, trust, and daring. In the tactical area, I think I just have more than most other players. Johan Cruyff

Managers spend a lot of time thinking about tactical formations, studying the opposition team play style, managing players and their ego and this list go on. What we see on the pitch over 90 minutes is just a small piece of a much bigger process that usually go unnoticed.

What formation to pick, primarily depend upon which players are available and against what opposition are you playing.

The decision to pick a particular tactical setup depends upon the strength and weakness of the player present at his disposal.

In this article, we look at the oldest football formation. Football evolved over the years, and with the passage of time, several rules changed, there was a tactical evolution, different managers brought different game plans and playing style, and gradually these formations became rare, redundant and irrelevant.

The oldest formation: 1-1-8 and its other two variants, 1-2-7 and 2-2-6

This formation was very popular in the 1880s but as one can see it is not balanced with no focus on defense. In the early 1890s, 2-3-5 started to gain popularity as it was more balanced tactical setup. This was later employed by all the team in the first FIFA football World Cup in 1930s

This is how teams used to line up in 1-1-8 setup

In the first international game, between Scotland and England on 30 November 1872, England played with seven or eight forwards in a 1–1–8 or 1–2–7 formation, and Scotland with six, in a 2–2–6 formation. It is not difficult to see how much attention was given to the attacking play by the team in the 1870s.

Both teams employed what might today be considered rather attacking formations - Scotland (2-2-6), England (1-1-8) - but back then the game still retained many of the mob-football characteristics of kicking and rushing and, in tactics at least, probably more closely resembled modern-day rugby than football- FIFA official website
The other two variant of 1-1-8, On the left 2-2-6 and on the right 1-2-7

1-1-8 and its other two variants clearly indicate and show the all-attacking nature of football in the pre-modern era. People may find this tactical setup crazy and weird, but this formation seems fair and logical if you consider the offside rule in the pre-modern era of football.

With the formation of England football association in 1863, the first rule regarding offside came into existence. The new rule said that any player in front of the passer is offside and cannot play the ball.

Charge- dribbling and the long balls to upfield was the central highlight of most of the games. Players hardly passed the ball as it was usually useless and ineffective due to the offside rule and therefore all the focus and attention was directed towards physicality and dribbling skills. Players tried to dribble past as may players they could. In simple words, players would try to take the ball as far as possible and then kick it for someone else to chase.

Published 03 Aug 2018, 08:59 IST
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