Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The 4-3-3: Some Thoughts, Part 3

The 4-3-3 is generally considered, these days, a system that depends on a front-man and two wide wingers. But it wasn’t always so.

I recently had the chance to download a recording of the 1962 World Cup final, between Brazil and Czechoslovakia. A very fine game, incidentally, with a few good goals, and lots of eye-catching interplay from both sides.

That Brazil side of 1962 were considered the originators of 4-3-3. In Keir Radnedge’s Encyclopedia of Soccer, the overview of the 1962 tournament begins thus:

“Brazil retained their world crown as Garrincha took centre stage, and 4-3-3 became the subtle change.”

Yet, on viewing the match, anyone can tell that Brazil are playing with two central strikers – Vavà and Amarildo (deputizing most effectively for the injured Pelé). So what’s all this about 4-3-3?

It was an asymmetrical formation. The incomparable Garrincha, tormenting the Czech left-back Ladislav Novak as he had the Swedish defence four years earlier, was playing as an out-and-out winger. But Mario Zagallo, the “false” left-winger, played much deeper, giving support to the ageing midfield of Zito and Didì.

One genuine wide outlet, then, and a double spearhead maintained. It’s a perfectly workable system – as shown, among others, by newly-crowned A-League Coach of the Year Ernie Merrick this season.

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