Return of orthodox wingers
By S S Shreekumar - BANGALORE
24th June 2012 10:04 AM
Those mesmerising runs, those perplexing step-overs, those twists and turns at top speed, those effective centres after side-stepping defences or shots at goal after cutting inside defences. Well, it looks as though two players in the main, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Netherlands’ Arjen Robben have indeed reinvented the classical or orthodox wingers of soccer.
The orthodox winger has not been seen in soccer for years. But Robben and Ronaldo indeed have brought him back into sharp focus as they hug the touchlines and then begin their weaving runs culminating in centres of shots. Before they let the ball roll of their feet, a lot happens wit it. And this is what a winger has always done and is now doing. Remember the Brazilian ‘bird’ Garrincha? Or England Stanley Mathews?
Ronaldo and Robben are the modern day Garrinchas and Mathews.
Yes, soccer systems slowly but surely gobbled up the classical winger. But wing play has always remained. Unless there is wing play, defences cannot be stretched and openings can never be created. How much of it is possible is directly proportional to the players’ ability to hold the ball. It is here that his dribbling and skills of deception come into play making for a spectacle the crowds love to watch and enjoy. Ronaldo and Robben, and to some extent Robin van Persie, have been doing that.
Teams always want to strengthen the defence and the tendency is to have as many men in midfield as possible. Consequently, coaches have less and less number of players upfront. Often teams have just one spearhead and two functioning a shade behind him.
This protects them from the defenders to some extent and they can give expression to their skills even as the defenders concentrate on the only striker upfront. Yet, despite all the concentration in midfield, players who can stretch defences with their skills at top speed form the most important and even the most spectacular component of a team.
This is reflected in the fact that teams which have players with the ability to hold the ball and release it at opportune moments have always done well. Teams with the lob, dash and shoot approach have seldom done well. Wingers always provide a breath of fresh and fragrant air to the team despite being subjected to constant and even harsh attention by the opponents. When Portugal play, the crowd is eager for players to put Ronaldo in possession. Fortunately, Ronaldo does not hang on to the ball longer than necessary much as Robben and van Persie do.
That reminds you of how the crowd went wild with delight whenever Brazil brought Denilson, that mesmerising master on the wings, in the 2002 Wolrd Cup in South Korea and Japan. He simply blew the opposition off its feet even as he entertained the packed crowds and billions of television watchers with his sublime artistry.
Ronaldo lends a new dimension to all that Denilson signified. He packs a lot more power in his shooting and also has the ability to produce goals off some brilliantly taken free-kicks and diving headers.
Given the total freedom to operate and in full flow, there is no better sight in soccer than a winger at his swinging best. The beautiful game flowers like never before.
- UPA-II anniversary: No honest appraisal
- Woolwich attack provokes anti-Muslim backlash across UK
- Bangladesh allows transit for foodgrains for Northeast India
- Increasing friction between the Chandy and Chennithala factions
- 'Data shows gambling rampant in India'
- Madrasi heart for Pakistani Madrassa teacher
- Somayagam returns after 48 years
- Not a drop of Cauvery for people on its banks