All World Cup Teams Look the Same

Different styles have evaporated; everybody looks like Brazil
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2010 1:31 PM CDT
Brazil's Michel Bastos controls the ball during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and Chile at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday, June 28, 2010.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

(Newser) – In World Cups of yore, each country had its own style, and each game was like a clash of cultures. The Italians had a punishing defense, and the English could be relied on to chuck bombs down the pitch. But tune into any game in South Africa, and you'll see a whole lot of teams playing the same way, laments Jonathan Clegg of the Wall Street Journal. They all, basically, look like Brazil.

After the 1990 World Cup, FIFA banned tackling from behind, back-passing to the keeper, and the off-side trap. Add in the tendency of the Jabulani ball to sail through the air uncontrollably, and teams are basically forced to play a technical, short-passing game. The five top-performing teams in the tournament—Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, and the Netherlands—are also the top five sides in passes completed. “The Netherlands are a good team,” Brazil's coach remarked recently. “They play their football like South Americans.”

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