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Neuer the Keeper Sweeper

Joachim Löw played his defenders in a very high line against Algeria which with the heat and not exactly speed players seemed like a risky strategy with balls over the top tempting for the opposition.
However, Algeria found the imposing figure of Manuel Neuer, who Löw described as playing as a keeper sweeper.
Neuer made some fantastic clearances coming out of his area to clear the danger. There were some tricky moments like when the Algeria striker Islam Slimani got around him but ran out of space to turn the ball in.
Neuer made a number of heart in mouth sliding tackles outside his area but his timing was superb.
“Neuer played an extraordinary game,” Löw said. “He didn’t have to make saves on his line but he participated in the game. With all those long passes from Algeria, he saved us very often. He played as a libero. He delivered for us.”

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Sweeper Keeper session



Neymar warms up with great free kick – watch his technique



How Oscar and Hazard fool recovering defenders

davidscwnewWhen Oscar or Eden Hazard are running with the ball watch how often they do a skill which fools the chasing player. They change direction or pace with simple movements like this reverse pass.

It is the speed of the initial reaction which makes all the difference when players lose the ball and the opposition counter-attacks. Running in counter attacking situations often means players are being chased by defenders. I get my players to prepare by playing this game. Not only does it get players to react quickly to a change in possession but it also involves a skill and a technique.

The skill is a reverse pass, followed by pressing the player on the ball – and the technique is both with and without pressure.

How to play it

  • Put down two cones 20 yards apart – further/closer depending on the physical fitness of your players.

  • You need players at each end of the exercise.

  • Play starts at one end with a player running with the ball.

  • When he reaches the far end, he passes to the player at that end with a reverse pass – he runs past the first player in the queue and use a backheel pass across the standing leg.

  • The receiving player starts running to the opposite end, the player who has made the reverse pass must turn and give chase.

  • When players get to the far end, the player with the ball reverse passes to a player at that end then turns and gives chase.

  • The original chasing player joins the back of the queue.

Key coaching points

  • When running with the ball, players should use the laces for each touch, making sure they run in a straight line.

  • Players run as fast as they can, complete the skill and turn to give chase.

  • Make sure your players put maximum effort into this exercise so they get all the benefits of fitness and skills.

Change the pass

  • If your players are having trouble with the reverse pass across the front of the standing leg get them to try a normal backheel (without crossing the legs). Even this may be hard with some young players, but keep pushing this skill – they will get it with practice.


Why a long ball isn’t always a bad ball

davidscwnewWatching my Under-11s play at the weekend reminded me that a long ball can be really effective when it comes to creating space in midfield. Sound silly? Let me explain…

We were playing against a tough-tackling midfield-heavy outfit. It was near half-time and we hadn’t even produced a meaningful shot on goal. The opposition had been pressing us hard in midfield and our fast passing game was hitting a brick wall.

I could see my players were getting frustrated with being unable to get the ball through the midfield – that was, until one of my centre-backs decided to take the game into his own hands, and punted a ball over the midfield and behind the opposition defence. One of my forwards eagerly took it in his stride and found the back of the net – fantastic!

The opposition then had a problem in deciding how to defend against the type of ball that had caught them out. After a couple more lobs over the top, they had to pull players out of midfield. Reacting to that, we quickly reverted back to our fast passing game, and the success we know that brings.

The long ball isn’t pretty, but used tactically it can be very effective. And I have to admit I had nothing to do with instigating it – it was my players’ frustation that led to them formulating their own instinctive solution, and that’s something a coach always likes to see.

Players need to be aware of all sorts of things in matches and space is a certainly one of them. If they are struggling to find space then they need to do something to create it – individually, by losing markers, or as a unit, by stretching play.

After all, if you watch passing teams like Barcelona or Brazil you will see them pinging long passes forwards or sideways to lose the predictability of their set-up play. So even for the best in the world, a long ball maybe isn’t such a bad thing!

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Greedy players limit the final third

David Clarke

By David Clarke

When a player like Bixente Lizarazu talks, you listen. After all, he can lay claim to one of the most impressive CVs of any French footballer – a World Cup winner with France in 1998 and European Championships winner two years later, he has also clinched numerous honours at club level with German giants Bayern Munich.

I was listening to him talking about his time at Bordeaux playing with Zinedine Zidane. That was where they first built up the understanding they were to use with such devastating effect at international level.

I think you’ll be interested to hear what he had to say:

“I played with Zidane, and Christophe Dugarry too! That’s where our triangular interplay first began, though that period didn’t last for long as Zizou went off to Juventus and Duga to AC Milan. “But we’d worked on those moves so often that every time we lined up together for France the magic was still there. It was like I had a luminous presence by my side.

“I’d give them the ball and they’d give it back to me as carefully as if they were handing me a flower. And that isn’t easy!

“Sometimes you’ll pass to a player and you know that he’ll never give you the ball back. As a result you stop making as many runs and the team’s play stagnates.”

It is the final sentence I found most interesting. If an international player stops running off the ball because he feels he won’t get it back, how will a young player react to the same situation?

Last weekend a coach friend of mine asked me to come and watch his team play in a friendly. They’ve been losing heavily and not scoring many goals, and he hadn’t been able to understand why. I watched his team play and they did everything right – quick passing into the opposition half and good support.

But once they got into the final third whoever got the ball tried to jink and weave their way through alone. This was often despite having players over in good supporting positions. As the match wore on the team got hit on the break as players began to stop running – and Lizarazu’s words came back to me.

They stopped running because they had passed the ball and knew they wouldn’t get it back. The problem was obvious to me but it wasn’t until I pointed it out to the coach that he got it.

Now he needs to run a few weeks of training working on passing and movement in the final third of the pitch. Simple one- or two-touch games will be hugely influential to his team because players will be forced to see what’s around them rather than insisting on going it alone.

After all, it is a team game.

Watch the highlights of the 1998 World Cup Final between France and Brazil to see some fantastic play in the final third with Lizarazu, Dugarry and Zidane:



The Brazilian attacker

David ClarkeAre you Jairzinho in disguise?

Brazil have a team that could win the next world cup not just because it’s on home soil but because they are beginning to put together a fabulous young team that will give Spain and Germany a run for their money.

They play a fast passing game 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 and at the top of the formation is a young striker called Lucas Moura – and finally it seems Brazil have a player to match the Brazil great Jairzinho.

Like Jairzinho, Lucas, aged 19, can play as a quick forward or winger and will hope to emulate his fellow countryman. Jairzinho was part of the legendary Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup – he became one of only three players to have scored in every game his team played in the tournament.

Lucas has a low centre of gravity and runs with speed at defenders, dribbling past them or using skills to beat them. He has also been compared with Porto’s Hulk and AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato, but I like to think of him as Jairzinho.

He’s being chased by Inter Milan and Manchester United both of whom hope to prise him away from Sao Paulo but it’ll take a lot of Euros.

Lucas also wears Jairzinho’s number seven shirt for the national team.

Watch him in action in the clip below:

See also The English playmaker

See also The German defender



My top six penalty misses

David ClarkeIt’ll sson be Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine and that usually heralds a whole load of penalties – here’s my six top penalty misses in all competitions.

John Terry, CHELSEA v Manchester Utd (Champions League Final 2008)

After a 1-1 draw on the night, Cristiano Ronaldo missed his spot-kick to put Chelsea within touching distance of the trophy, but his crucial slip sent the ball crashing against the outside of the post, leaving the England international on the floor and in tears.

Lionel Messi, BARCELONA v Chelsea (Champions League Semi-Final 20120)

Barcelona started the second half 2-1 up but Chelsea were down to 10 men. Messi had the chance to gain the psychological advantage but hit the bar and Chelsea went on win the game.

Denis Bergkamp, ARSENAL v Manchester Utd (FA Cup Semi-Final replay 1999)

Bergkamp could have won the game with a last minute penalty. The match was notable for a disallowed Arsenal goal, the sending-off of Manchester Utd’s Roy Keane for a second bookable offence, a last-minute penalty save by Peter Schmeichel, and finally and most memorably a winning goal by Ryan Giggs, intercepting a pass near the half way line, before taking the ball past five Arsenal defenders and scoring past goalkeeper David Seaman.

Ruud van Nistelrooy MANCHESTER UNITED v Arsenal (Premier League 2003/04)

With the scores level at 0-0, United were given a controversial penalty in injury-time after Patrick Vieira had earlier seen red for a kick-out at Van Nistelrooy, but the Dutch striker made it three consecutive misses from the spot after he rattled the underside of the crossbar.

Gareth Southgate, ENGLAND v Germany (Semi-Final Euro’ 96)

After Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed at Italia ’90, it fell to Southgate to end the hopes of the Three Lions on home soil six years later, as football ‘came home’ but then swiftly left for Germany on penalties.

Roberto Baggio, Brazil v ITALY (World Cup Final 1994)

The first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, it was a moment that would define Baggio’s career despite some of the great things he achieved for both club and country.




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