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The Formations – Hockey’s concealed chemistry

On 9th March 2008, the coffin was ordered and on 11th August 2012, the last nail was driven into it. Well, you would have probably gotten the answer if you are an Indian hockey fanatic. But for the rest, it’s all about missing the Olympic berth in Santiago after playing Great Britain and taking the Wooden Spoon, a never–thought-of bottom place at the games after losing to the South African side. When the fans and supporters hid their faces with humiliation, the players left the ground in vain and with pain. By the time they reached their hotel rooms, people back home would have already got onto their nerves, burning effigies and even uttering the most dismal verbs. For the media (electronic), a new project and for the media (print), a curtain raiser for yet another writer’s bout.

We felt blue with hostility as we marched ahead bravely and tried to decode the flaws. Be it over valuing the defenders, belittling the goal tenders, or carrying the ball a few feet away from the body and gifting the defenders, errors have happened. The coaching department and the administration are not spared and some harsh questions are flung at them. The one thing we omit mostly is the hidden chemistry of the game – the formation. An attempt to fathom the depths of our minds might just take us to the roots, the systems. It’s this very major area which opens up to all the plight and consternation.

What’s there that is pressing in a formation?

The concealed players – the formations – lay a strong foundation and make the difference between defeats and victories. Proper lack of this education will lead to the former. As evident, the lack of offside rule in Hockey, unlike football, tests the defensive skills at a top level and the on field positioning of a player makes a huge difference. In a formation, or rather a numbered system, the lines of positions in the field are given as defenders, midfielders, forwards, sweepers and a goal tender.

The classic formations are a 2–3– 5 pyramid, Herbet Chapman’s WM (3– 2–5), Marton Bubkovi’s WW (2–3–2–3), a 3–3–4, and a 4–2–4. Having said all this, I would like to discuss three common modern formations employed in the game today.

The 4–4–2 system: The emphasis is more on the midfielders. They have their task cut out to support the defense and the attack by playing a holding role or even moving forward to the goal line for guarding the widely positioned full back defenders. Of late, this has been phrased as 4–2–3–1.

The 4–3-1–2 system: This advancement from 4-2–4 paves the way for a strong defense.  The midfield plays close to it as the forwards are split to mark the opposition full backs. This structure is regarded as inspirational when implemented from the start of the game.

 The 4–3–2–1 system: This product of the above is often called “The Christmas tree” for its appearance. The striker here gives way to the central attacking midfield by running with the strikers on either side of the pitch.

Above all these, other compositions like 3–4–3, 4–5–1, 5–4–1, 4–4–2 Diamond, 3–6–1 and 4–2–2–2 are deployed more often.

Lastly on an ending note, I figure that one should fit into the system the coach deploys. The coach should read a player truly and thoroughly before placing him. Provided a good work at the grass root level of the game, one can be a winner. If not, a fighting loser.

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