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The beauty of 'Catenaccio' style of Football

ANALYST
9.17K   //    02 Jun 2012, 00:16 IST

How Catennacio originated?

Catenaccio is an Italian word that means ‘door-bolt’. In this style of football, the major focus is on tightening the defense. Even though ‘Catenaccio’ is an Italian word, this style of football is not of the Italian origin, rather it was first adopted by an Austrian coach Karl Rappan and its origin can be traced back to 1930-40′s when he was coaching Switzerland. However, it came into prominence when the Argentine coach Helenio Herera, who was coaching Internazionale during 1960′s, adopted it for winning games by defending very small leads.

How does Catennacio work?

Catennacio’s main principle lies in tight man marking and the use of an additional defensive player known as ‘sweeper’ or ‘libero’ (in Italian) to form a double line of defense. The underlying idea behind Catennacio is to remove a midfielder and to put him behind the defense, who will be used as a sweeper. Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthäus are perfect examples of such sweepers. The role of the sweeper is the most vital in this strategy. He will nullify the the forwards, pick up loose balls in his own half to initiate the attack and will also sweep throughout the centre of the pitch, typically what full backs do on the wings. The midfielder’s role will be to shield the defense and occasionally to take the ball forward by picking up the balls from the sweeper. The attackers needed to be alert while counterattacking.

How the Catennacio strategy different from Parking the bus?

Parking the bus strategy was employed in some of the very recent matches like Inter Milan vs. Barcelona in UEFA Champions League, 2009-10 at Camp Nou and also by Chelsea against Barcelona in UEFA Champions League, 2011-12 during both the legs. People often consider parking the bus strategy to be identical to that of Catennacio. However, there are differences between these two styles of play.

The first and the foremost distinction between these two strategies is the use of sweeper who not only acts as defensive player but also helps in organizing attacks from the back. He normally is not assigned the role of man marking (however he can act as a double man marker) but to pick up loose balls in initiating the attacks. This use of sweeper is missing in ‘Parking the bus’ strategy.

Catennacio’s is not only defensive, but it relies on counterattacking where the sweeper plays the most important role in organizing attacks which reflects the Italian style of play whereas in ‘Parking the bus’ strategy the focus is not to concede and somehow to get a lucky goal. Parking the bus is harder to break down specially in the final third as there is hardly any space to exploit while there can be pockets of space found in Catennacio.

On the other hand, people can even say that the Barcelona style of possession football is more of a defensive strategy than Catennacio and can even draw a parallel between possession football and Parking the bus by claiming that possession football is an on the ball defensive strategy while Parking the bus is an off the ball defensive strategy while Catennacio is a counterattacking strategy.

Current State of Catennacio

This style of play started declining after the advent of the more attractive form of football named, ‘Total Football’. Further, the disappearance of sweepers from the scenario, has also taken its toll on this style of play. However, in bits and pieces, some teams did adopt the strategy afterwards. Some of the successful teams adopting this style of play were the Italian team of 1982 WC, the German team of 1990 WC that used Lothar Matthäus as their sweeper and more recently, the Italian team of 2006 WC. Currently, a variant of that strategy was being employed by AS Roma before the arrival of Luis Enrique.

In short, it can be said, the underlying philosophy behind such a strategy is “for the opponent to win, they have to score goals”.


ANALYST
I am a P.H.D. student studying at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. I am also sports enthusiast and have a special liking for football. I am a supporter of Liverpool FC and Inter Milan.
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