BBC Sport football


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 05:48 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 06:48 UK

Tim Vickery column

By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

The World Club Championship takes place at the end of the year and the coach of the South American representatives is already fretting about meeting Manchester United.

LDQ coach Edgardo Bauza
Bauza is already trying to work out how to beat Manchester United

Edgardo Bauza, the Argentine boss of Ecuador's Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito (LDU) said recently that the Red Devils "are on a different level. They play at 10,000 miles per hour and they do it with such precision".

Moving the ball with both pace and accuracy is a coach's dream.

The South Americans pride themselves on their ball skills but the extra dynamism of the European game worries them. The holy grail is to find a combination of the two.

A key date in the development of South American football is 1974. The continent's traditional big three - Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina - went to the World Cup in West Germany only to discover the Dutch had rendered their style of play obsolete.

Much is made of the attacking possibilities of the 'total football' the Netherlands displayed, with players swapping positions and having the versatility to carry out different functions. It is sometimes forgotten that all of this also applied in defence.

The idea was to have as many of the team involved in the move, with or without the ball.

When the opposition had possession, the Dutch squeezed their space and applied relentless pressure on the ball.

To the South Americans, this was a nasty shock.

Their midfielders were accustomed to receiving a pass, looking up, wandering around, pointing and chattering away, reading the newspaper and only then deciding what they wanted to do with the ball.

Johann Cruyff
Johann Cruyff and his team-mates dazzled the South Americans

Now before they had time to draw breath they had half of the Netherlands running towards them.

A humiliating defeat by the Dutch in their group game marked the end of Uruguay as a major power.

As for Brazil and Argentina, after they had licked their wounds they went off in different directions as they tried to respond to the new challenge.

Argentina kept faith with their passing game but concluded that they had to up the rhythm, which explains why the hyperactive, fetching and carrying Osvaldo Ardiles was so important to their 1978 World Cup-winning side.

Brazil decided that they should aim to match the Europeans in physical terms and then hope their technical excellence would tip the balance.

There was a period in the early 1980s when they returned to an elaborate passing game but in general terms their players have got bigger and their football has become more pragmatic, more based on explosive counter-attacks.

Others have followed their lead. Ecuador have also bulked up and exchanged intricate passing moves for quick breaks down the flanks. Even Peru and Colombia have recently tried filling central midfield with battlers.

But factors of climate and footballing culture cannot be wiped out overnight.

There is not the call there once was for old-fashioned South American put-their-foot-on-the-ball creative midfielders - but, albeit in reduced numbers, they continue to exist - and one is on his way to the Premier League.

Chilean international Carlos Villanueva joins Blackburn from Audax Italiano, a relatively small Santiago club.

Carlos Villanueva
Villanueva may take some time to adapt to English football

It will be fascinating to see how he fares in his new surroundings. The 22-year-old has a wonderful left foot and new Rovers coach Paul Ince has been singing his praises.

But Villanueva is slight of build and not blessed with extreme pace.

South Americans coming to England invariably confess themselves initially bewildered by the speed of the game and the amount of physical contact permitted - this will be especially true in the case of a player coming straight in from Chile.

So in addition to the cultural adaptation to Lancashire life, Villanueva will have to modify the way that he plays.

Whether he operates as a playmaker (his normal club position) or wider on the left (where Chilean national team coach Marcelo Bielsa prefers him), he will have to be quicker with his decisions, with a clear idea of what he aims to do before he receives the ball.

It is the only way his skill can flourish in what Edgardo Bauza identified as the "10,000 miles per hour" football of the Premier League.

You can put your questions to Tim Vickery every week on the World Football Phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme from 0230 to 0400 BST every Saturday. You can also download last week's World Football Phone-in Podcast.


I wanted to know your opinion on Manchester United's Brazilian youngster Rodrigo Possebon. From what I have seen of him he looks to have quality. Do you think he is good enough to start pushing for a first-team spot at United and how much do you and the people in Brazil know about him? Matthew Tamlyn

I get hundreds of e-mails about this player and have to confess that I've never seen him. He's not known in Brazil because I don't believe he played first team football for Internacional - the same is true of United's full-back twins, Fabio and Rafael. They never played in the first team for Fluminense but did represent Brazil at under-17 level.

I don't recall Rodrigo Possebon doing the same. United have clearly seen something special in him and, although he came over when he was very young they were chasing him for some time.

Internacional have been producing some cracking young players of late and from what United fans are telling me he looks like another one. His move - before he had appeared, let alone established himself in the first team - is part of this growing trend for players to come over at an ever younger age. I'm not sure this is always healthy, although I think it will probably increase as a result of "home-grown" quotas.

I noticed that Flamengo had started the season well in Brazil up until recently and have since not won in five or six games. I was wondering if this coincides with the sale of Renato Augusto, Marcinho etc. Do the fans get frustrated with the constant squad changes or is this generally accepted as the current position of clubs in Brazil, to sell their best players continuously? George Douglas

There is a trend developing where Brazilian football is absorbing the talent from elsewhere in the continent - Andres D'Alessandro, once of Portsmouth, has just signed for Internacional, for example. But there is no end in sight to the drain of good players to Europe.

Of course it is frustrating for the fans - they know that if an exceptional or even good player emerges they will not be able to enjoy him for long. The most successful clubs tend to be the ones who best administer their sales policy.

From the point of view of the league championship, it is a disaster that the global transfer window opens up with the season around the halfway mark.

This is Brazil's fault. For silly political reasons, they are out of sync with the global calendar.

The opening up of the transfer window has an unsettling effect on hundreds of players - not only those who go but also those who want to go and are fretting for an offer.

A consensus is growing that Brazil needs to rethink its calendar but the political weight is on the side of inertia.

Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

see also
Blackburn sign Chilean Villanueva
02 Aug 08 |  Blackburn
Tim Vickery column
28 Jul 08 |  Football
Tim Vickery column
21 Jul 08 |  Football

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.