Changing trends

By Paul Mukatabala

The famed but increasingly out dated 4-4-2 formation where teams would deploy two out and out strikers, commonly referred to here in Uganda as ‘twin strikers’ is slowly being phased out.

In the past, it was often to see Romario and Bebeto for Brazil, Rudi Voeller and Jurgen Klinsmann for Germany, or in Uganda’s case, Magid Musisi(RIP) and Umar Ssenoga, deployed as their countries’ strike forces.

A quick look through the 32 teams at this year’s World Cup, reveals only two nations have started matches with two out and out strikers. Uruguay, who regularly do so, have had Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez, starting games and Senegal did it too in their opening Group H game vs Poland, starting with Mame Biram Diouf and M’baye Niang. Otherwise, it has mainly been teams employing one central lead striker, flanked on either flank, by lateral strikers.

But why is the 4-4-2, a formation that sees two strikers deployed in front a flat or diamond shaped midfield of 4 players, so marginalized? The chief reason is that with many teams choosing to use a 4-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation, it’s easy for the opposition to stifle and swamp the midfield of a team employing a 4-4-2 formation.

Coaches are now so keen to dominate in the central midfield department, they won’t have it any other way. The 4-4-2 formation is prone to leaving a team ‘thin’ in central midfield. Only in desperate situations, when a team is chasing a result, have we seen a coach throw on an extra striker.

Brazil bringing on Roberto Firminho to play alongside Gabriel Jesus in the second half against Costa Rica and Germany bringing on Mario Gomez to partner Timo Werner, as they chased their match against Sweden. Otherwise it has mostly been a case of like for like, a coach pulls off one striker and replaces him with another.

*The writer is a three-time winner of the Ugandan League with SC Villa and played in two continental finals (1991 & 1992).

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