FFA’s Football Philosophy can therefore be summarised in the following statement of a national playing style:
A proactive brand of football, based on effective possession with the cutting edge provided by creative individuals.
Defensively the key components are quick transition and intelligent collective pressing.
The Playing Style is underpinned by a strong ‘team mentality’, capitalising on Australia’s traditional strengths.
This means we must focus on developing teams and players that are able to execute this playing style and we therefore looked at the main prerequisites.
Dominate and control the game through effective possession
Get the ball and our players into goalscoring positions in a structured manner
Break down compact defences through individual skill and creative combination play
Strive to possess the ball
Win the ball back through quick transition and intelligent collective pressing
Quality positioning play
High technical level (all players must be comfortable on the ball)
A suitable playing formation
Willingness and ability of all players to immediately transition from BP>BPO and BPO>BP for 90 minutes
High level of football-specific fitness (the essence of the Football Conditioning methodology)
To explain further, a characteristic of possession-based football is to dominate and therefore control a game by retaining the ball. Effective possession means that keeping possession should not become an aim in itself but that it should be
a means to getting the ball and our players into goalscoring positions in
a controlled manner (as opposed to ‘trust to luck’). Effective possession should also lead to a higher number of successful entries into the attacking third, more shots on goal and more shots on target.
To be able to do that all players, including the goalkeeper, must be technically proficient and all players must understand and be able to execute quality positioning play.
What is also important in breaking down compact defences, as well as combination play and individual skill, is stretching the opponent’s defence and using the width of the pitch. The FIFA analysis mentions this as a characteristic of all of the top 3 teams of the 2010 World Cup. All three had creative and fast wingers, which is one reason why we have a preference for a 1-4-3-3 formation. Another reason is that pressing an opponent’s defence is easier with three attackers who are spread across the width of the pitch rather than with two.
A high-intensity playing style like this is only possible if all players are able and willing to consistently execute the team and individual tasks during the whole game. Whether players are able to do that depends on their football-specific fitness while their willingness to do that depends on discipline and perseverance: traditional Australian characteristics.
FIFA reports that ‘the most successful teams had a clear attacking strategy’. We believe that the processes that have been put in place in Australia as a result of the National Football Curriculum will provide our National Teams with this attribute. A ‘clear attacking strategy’ is much easier to achieve when you have a clear philosophy on football and the vision to make it happen. We look forward to the day when football experts look at our teams and easily recognise the ‘Australian style’ and our specific brand of attacking football.
A link was observed between those countries who have been very proactive and successful in Youth Development, and the countries who performed well in South Africa.
Australia aims to enhance and extend its Youth Development programs and educate more Youth coaches in order to achieve similar success at senior national team level. One can already see how Japan have demonstrated the value of such a policy.
What does the future look like?
‘The football of the past we must respect;
the football of today we must study;
the football of the future we must anticipate’
In projects such as this National Football Curriculum, the first two of the above should not pose too many problems. However, the third one is not so easy.
We have used an evidence-based approach to identify trends and patterns in current top-class football. But where is the evidence of the future? Of course, it doesn’t exist.
Therefore, FFA plans to constantly monitor world football, regularly review the journey we have set out upon, and where necessary re-adjust the compass.
We feel, though, that football in the future will always require technical players who make clever and creative decisions quickly, which is our stated focus in Youth Development.
We also feel that the Australian culture will not shift away from the proactive, never-say-die, winners mentality, and therefore the fundamental philosophy is well-positioned.
Perhaps one could say that a true ‘proactive’ nation will be one of those that actually shapes the future rather than react to what others are doing: because if you are always trying to copy others, you will always be at least one step behind.