Like playing systems, many different styles of play have developed over the years. From the slow tempo keep ball Brazilian sides to the direct no fuss Norwegian style, different international teams and club sides have had varying degrees of success using different styles of play.


British Style: Aggression in one on one situations and non-stop action are often trademarks of British football. Often there are no changes in the tempo or game rhythm which is kept high throughout the match. Although some teams do succeed in playing a more controlled or "skilful" game, many others still use the simple and direct method of long passes. These are played to attackers to challenge for near the opposition penalty area. The style of play is simple and rudimentary and has been argued by some to be statistically the most effective. All players are as well expected to work hard to win the ball. Once possession is gained, they aim to play it as quickly as possible towards the opponents goal to keep up the pressure and create chances. Set pieces are an important factor in the game. Corners, free-kicks and long throw-ins are played directly into the penalty area and much practised by teams.

A fine example of these direct methods was the Republic of Ireland team of the 1980s. Tall front players such as Cascarino were used to win headers from the long high passes played from the back. Wimbledon, English FA Cup Winners in 1988 were famous for their aggressive approach and team spirit. Known as the "long ball" team, players like Vinny Jones would work tirelessly to win possession, spoil the oppositions game plan and hit long direct passes for players like John Fashanu to win headers and cause problems for defenders.

Norwegian Style: Although the Norwegian style is similar to that of the British Style, it is worth mentioning the subtle differences. Firstly, this particular style was developed in order to maximise the limited playing resources and to cope with the harsh weather conditions in Norway. As well, the former appointment of Egil Olsen as national team coach played a large influence due to his belief in using detailed statistical information produced from soccer match analysis.

The Norwegian style aims to identify the demands of particular match situations, especially the balance of the opponents defence. If the defence is unbalanced during a counter-attack for example, then the aim is to finish the attack as quickly as possible using fast direct methods. This does cause frequent loss of possession but does according to the Norwegians lead to more scoring opportunities. If however the defence is balanced, then a simple long high ball is made. The Norwegians have analysed methods on how best to use these long passes against organised defences. It seems to require players collectively moving forward and players moving behind the first attacker who flicks the ball on. Finally, another advantage of the long ball is that it avoids Norway losing possession in it's own half of the field.

France v Norway 1998: Goal - Flo

This schematic representation shows the simplicity of the Norwegian game from a free-kick based attack. Only two passes are required to score.

Rather than passing short and building up the attack, the Norwegians play the ball directly into the French penalty area to generally cause problems and increase the chance of scoring.

The 4-5-1 system of play with zonal defending used by Norway is interesting to analyse when the team is not in possession. Generally the five midfielders play almost in a straight line and tend to gather together in the vicinity of the ball by pushing across as a unit. Also the midfielder nearest to the opposition player in possession will press him. As soon as the player in possession leaves the zone covered by the player doing the pressing, the midfielder retreats back to fill in the space behind him and another player will take over to challenge for the ball.

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