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When size is the difference – Roberto Carlos v Jan Koller

David Clarke

A cup game involving one of my Under-10s teams this week ended up giving me plenty to think about. Knockout matches can see your team coming up against all manner of sides, offering different challenges both in terms of technique and tactics. We’ve played some great teams in this cup run and learnt a lot from our opponents.

The weekend match saw us take on a side who were top of the league above us – in other words the top dogs in our age group. But watching the first 10 minutes of the game, you wouldn’t have known it. We out-passed our opponents and it was only due to some fabulous saves from their goalkeeper that the scores remained level.

That said, they had a very strong striker and a big midfielder – neither were overweight, just big for their age. Between them, the pair seemed to have the ball all of the time. They were effective with it and slowly got on top.

While they presented a formidable obstacle, if we were playing this team every week we would win more often than not, because as a unit we pride ourselves on the ability to change tactics as the game develops. And over time in the opponents’ team, the two larger players would gradually lose their advantage as other players catch them up in size.

Anyway, as the game progressed, we found that when the big midfielder ran at our defence each defender would turn sideways fearful that a powerful shot was going to hit him. The result was an easy goal against us. At the end of the game the backline all agreed that had they tried to tackle him they would have been able to win the ball, because his skill level was less than theirs.

This is a situation they will eventually get used to and big players will hold no fear for them. When we looked back at the game and analysed each half (both of which were relinquished 2-1), it seems a conclusive defeat, but it was a match we felt we could – and probably should – have won. I suppose, in a sense, we were the winners because, as a team, we learned a lot more about ourselves than our opponents did. One of the dads came up to me at the end and told me he thought the performance was encouraging considering we were playing the ‘best’ team in our age group.

And in many ways he was right, we had passed well and our tactical planning was, for the most part, thorough. And next time we play a team with bigger players, we will put our latest lesson in place, namely to stand up and not be intimidated.

Watch this video of Roberto Carlos 5ft 6in v Jan Koller 6ft 7.5in below and see who heads the ball:


Roberto Carlos scores from a corner

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Fabio Capello to Save English Football
Fabio Capello was appointed England national team manager on 7 January 2008. Fabio has an almost perfect soccer CV. He has played for and won trophies with Milan, Juventus and Roma, as well as the Italy national team. He has managed and won trophies with Milan, Real Madrid and Roma.So we know he’s good. But what is he worth? Well, his annual salary is £6m (around US$12m). That’s around £13,561 a day. Give or take. Plus expenses.

And what does he do to earn his salary? Well, he watches lots of matches. He appears before the press every now and then. He fires and appoints other coaches and assistants on a regular basis. He does the occasional photo opportunity to help with his and the FA’s public profile.

Oh, and occasionally he gets together with the England players for a spot of coaching before a friendly. A total of five days since his appointment in January. At a cost of around £2.5m to the FA. He picks the team, he calls the tactics and he makes the substitutions.

And what of his coaching style? What is he bringing to the English game? The word most often associated with Capello is “discipline”. Predrag Mijatovic, who played under him at Real Madrid describes him as “A painful but necessary medicine”. Roberto Carlos at Real said of Capello’s style “There will be no spectacle, it will be 1-0…But the team will be there, correctly set up and balanced on the pitch. And always winning.”

I really hope so. I’m as disappointed as the next fan that England aren’t at Euro 2008 (and I’m Irish!). And maybe Capello can secure qualification for World Cup 2010. Clearly, the FA believe that if he can his astronomical salary will have been worth it.

But here’s the thing. Forget 2010 for a minute. What about 2022? If England are successful at that tournament it will have been down to the likes of you and me as youth coaches. Somewhere out there on the playing fields of England are the future generations of Steven Gerrards and Rio Ferdinands. Hopefully they’ll play a more expansive and open style than we’re used to from Capello. And we’ll have done it for a heck of a lot less than £6m a year. And we’ll spend an awful lot more time with our players.

That’s not me being bitter – that’s me being proud of what we’re doing for the future. I’m realistic about the commercial imperative of steadying the England ship and hiring the best available coach at whatever cost. In the short term England might even win something. But the long term is down to grassroots coaches doing it for free week in week out, year after year.

The FA know this. Let’s see some more support. Let’s see some action.

Dwyer Scullion, publisher, Better Soccer Coaching