Opinion – Tostão: There was a Xavi missing in the midfield of the derby between Brazil and Argentina


One of the most spoken words in football is space. Serves to explain everything. When you win, it’s because the team took advantage of the spaces, when you lose, the reason is because you left too many spaces. “We need to compact and reduce spaces,” coaches like to say.

Every team that scores too far behind and reduces spaces in defense is pressured and too far from the other goal. When the midfield advances too much and the defenders remain glued to the penalty area, as is more frequent in Brazilian football, there are many spaces between the two sectors. If the team scores in a block, further ahead, there are spaces between the players and the goalkeeper. You have to know how to play out of goal.

People say a lot that in the past it was much easier to play because there was so much space. On the other hand, bad players didn’t cheat, they didn’t have the excuse that they didn’t have space, as happens today.

A great evolution in football is to alternate, during the same game or in different matches, different types of marking, according to the moment, the opponent and the characteristics of the players. Brazil and Argentina scored on the entire field, from the ball out of the goalkeeper, very efficiently.

The Brazilian team has been much stronger in the defensive system than in the offensive. All players press on marking. Fred and Fabinho canceled Messi. The Argentine, like Neymar, shows a technical drop, with less movement on the field.

I hope it’s fleeting. The two teams lacked the main thing, the enchanting one, the exchange of passes, the triangulations, the chances created for a goal and the encounter between the midfield player and the ball.

The good performances of Paquetá, in Lyon and in the Brazilian team, even without the shine of the stars, and the evolution of Vinicius Junior, in Real Madrid and now in the national team, can improve, along with Neymar, the offensive talent. Paquetá can be an option in several positions, according to the moment.

In the South American derby, Xavi was missing in midfield, now coach of Barcelona. Xavi said, when he played, that football is the understanding between time and space, the use of space at the right time.

At Barcelona, ​​Xavi did not like giving the pass to the free player beside him, as the play did not continue, nor to the marked teammate, so as not to be disarmed. I gave the pass to the player next to the marker. The latter tried to anticipate, and the teammate played at first, and so, successively, they advanced with the ball until someone infiltrated to receive it closer to the goal.

In order to have such precision and ingenuity in midfield, it is necessary to have a Xavi, an Iniesta, a Gérson, from the 1970 World Cup, a De Bruyne, a Falcão and others. They command and reinvent the game.

Throw from the chronicle

In my youth, I used to read a lot the extremely lyrical chronicles, marks of the time, which spoke of life, of everyday life, with no pretensions of dictating rules and behaviors.

I’m rereading some texts by six great chroniclers at the time (Fernando Sabino, Paulo Mendes Campos, Vinícius de Moraes, Stanislaw Ponte Preta, Rubem Braga and José Carlos Oliveira), an anthology organized by writer Augusto Massi. Pelé, Garrincha, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, the Beatles, Clarice Lispector, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Louis Armstrong and many other geniuses are from more or less the same period.

The world and football have changed. They were neither better nor worse. They were different.


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