Monday, 11 July 2016

Where does Portugal's Euro 2016 victory rate on the 'anti-football' scale?

http://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/99/8b/cristiano-ronaldo-portugal-france-uefa-euro-10072016_nllzl7v5gwe71i437ezpvvmox.jpg?t=-694592435&quality=90&h=630The Seleccao's victory in France was hard to stomach for a fair number of football's neutrals, but were they really as negative as their detractors are making out?
Three group stage draws, a round of 16 win in extra time, victory against Poland only through penalties and a 109th-minute winner in the final. Portugal's Euro 2016 triumph was hardly comprehensive.
Football is split on the Seleccao's first major tournament victory, albeit rather one-sidedly. While some feel Fernando Santos's men should be lauded for sticking to their guns and grinding out results, no matter how uninspiring, others feel crestfallen that a brand of wholly unexciting football has been rewarded.
It matters little to Portugal, however, whose boss Fernando Santos has welcomes the harsh critics: “They say we don't deserve it but that makes me happy. I'm going home very happy.”
Like it or loathe it, Portugal are the European champions and the manner in which they achieved their goal is not an isolated incident.
To get an idea of where the Cristiano Ronaldo-led side rank in the list of all-time lacklustre triumphs, Sportmasta looks back at some of football history's dullest success stories.
Argentina 1990
World Cup 1990 saw just 2.21 goals per match - the lowest in the history of the tournament - which goes some way to explaining how Argentina reached the final despite scoring less than once per game.

Four years after their Diego Maradona-inspired triumph, the Albiceleste opted for the cynical approach and went tantalisingly close to lifting the trophy again.

Argentina, led on the sidelines by Carlos Bilardo, scored just five goals in seven games. They defeated Brazil 1-0 in the second round despite being outplayed from start to finish. They then progressed via penalties in the next two matches versus Yugoslavia and hosts Italy. It took West Germany until the 85th minute to score in the final and put the anti-attackers to the sword.

Arsenal 1992-95
The chant "boring, boring Arsenal" became synonymous with the Gunners in the early 1990s thanks to George Graham's insistence on grinding out results, whether or not they had goals in them.

Graham took charge of the north Londoners in 1986 but it was not until 1992 that he threw his attacking plans in the bin. In his final three seasons his team averaged 40 goals per league season compared to 66 goals in his first six campaigns.

Although Graham did not taste league success again with his new defence-centric Arsenal, he did make them the first team to do the FA and League Cup double in 1993. Graham's famous offside-playing back four of Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn is regarded as one of the best back lines that English domestic football has ever seen.

Greece 2004

Greece's Euro 2004 victory remains arguably the most remarkable underdog story in the history of top-level football.

Otto Rehhagel realised that his team were far from the best in the tournament and he had no flair players upon whom to rely, so he carved out a formidable defensive plan which saw them play patiently (or painfully, for the attack-loving neutral) and only commit men forward for corners and set-pieces.

Greece might not have set the continent alight with their style but, as Rehhagel himself put it: "People tell me my tactics are not modern but modern football is about winning."
 
La Grande Inter

Inter's side in the 1960s were the most successful to use the Catenaccio style - which means 'bolted door' in Italian.

Grabbing a goal or two on the counterattack was the name of the game, leaving opposition forwards frustrated with the cautious defenders surrounding them.

Iconic Inter coach Helenio Herrera guided his Nerazzurri ranks to two European Cups and three Serie A titles with the system - world-class defenders such as Giacinto Facchetti, Tarcisio Burgnich and Armando Picchi ensuring misery for all opposition attackers.
 
Rangers 2008


Turning Catenaccio into the mockingly named Waltenaccio, Walter Smith had his fair share of critics during Rangers' 2007-08 European endeavours.

Lionel Messi, yet to hit his unplayable prime, grumbled that "Rangers didn't want to play football, they practised anti-football from the first minute" after Barcelona were held to a goalless draw in the Champions League by the Scots.

Away from the big guns after demotion into the Uefa Cup, Smith ploughed on with his ultra-defensive approach and it almost paid off: they clawed their way to the final by scoring five goals in eight games - only to be beaten 2-0 by Zenit St Petersburg.
 
Stoke 2008-13


It took Stoke City 116 Premier League games to record possession statistics of over 50 per cent in a Premier League match following promotion in 2008 - a baffling statistic considering that they had never really been threatened by relegation.

Tony Pulis imbued a brand of direct football that took no interest in flowing, fluid or even fun football and the Britannia Stadium was frequently a fortress because of it.

Only once in Pulis's five full seasons in charge of the Potters did they score more goals in the league than games played and eventually the fanbase and club craved more creativity, which led to his departure.
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