formation (association football)


  • 4–4–2[edit] 4–4–2 formation This formation was the most common in football in the 1990s and early 2000s, in which midfielders are required to work hard to support both the
    defence and the attack: typically one of the central midfielders is expected to go upfield as often as possible to support the forward pair, while the other will play a “holding role”, shielding the defence; the two wide midfield players must
    move up the flanks to the goal line in attacks and yet also protect the full-backs.

  • The system was based on the 2–3–5 formation; Pozzo realised that his half-backs would need some more support in order to be superior to the opponents’ midfield, so he pulled
    two of the forwards to just in front of midfield, creating a 2–3–2–3 formation.

  • In the early days of football, most team members would play in attacking roles, whereas modern formations are generally split more evenly between defenders, midfielders, and

  • A player’s position in a formation typically defines whether a player has a mostly defensive or attacking role, and whether they tend to play centrally or towards one side
    of the pitch.

  • An example of a five-numbered formation would be 4–1–2–1–2, where the midfield consists of a defensive midfielder, two central midfielders and an offensive midfielder; this
    is sometimes considered to be a kind of 4–4–2 (specifically a 4–4–2 diamond, referring to the lozenge shape formed by the four midfielders).

  • Suggested as a possible formation for the future of football,[53] the formation sacrifices an out-and-out striker for the tactical advantage of a mobile front four attacking
    from a position

  • Terminology Formations are described by categorising the players (not including the goalkeeper) according to their positioning along (not across) the pitch, with the more
    defensive players given first.

  • However, the 4–4–2 is still regarded as the best formation to protect the whole width of the field with the opposing team having to get past two banks of four and has recently
    had a tactical revival having recently contributed to Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid and Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City.

  • [5] This formation is also similar to the standard in table football, featuring two defenders, five midfielders and three strikers (which cannot be altered as the “players”
    are mounted on axles).

  • [16] One reason for the partially discontinued use of the 4–4–2 formation at the highest level of the game is its lack of central dominance against other formations like a
    4-3-3, due to having only 2 central midfielders.

  • Teams may also use different formations for attacking and defending phases of play in the same game.

  • A common example is 4–2–1–3, where the midfielders are split into two defensive and one offensive player; as such, this formation can be considered a type of 4–3–3.

  • This allows the remaining three midfielders to play further forward and more aggressively, and also allows them to pass back to their defensive mid when setting up a play
    or recovering from a counterattack.

  • The fourth defender increased the number of defensive players but mostly allowed them to be closer together, thus enabling effective cooperation among them, the point being
    that a stronger defence would allow an even stronger attack.

  • Implemented similarly to how the original 4–2–4 was used back then, use of this formation in this manner is very offensive, creating a six-man attack and a six-man defence
    tactical layout.

  • The first numbering systems started with the number 1 for the goalkeeper (top of diagrams) and then defenders from left to right and then to the bottom with the forwards at
    the end.

  • [1] In Association Football, however, published by Caxton in 1960, the following appears in Vol II, page 432: “Wrexham … the first winner of the Welsh Cup in 1877 … for
    the first time certainly in Wales and probably in Britain, a team played three half-backs and five forwards …” The 2–3–5 was originally known as the “Pyramid”,[2] with the numerical formation being referenced retrospectively.

  • The centre halfback had a key role in both helping to organise the team’s attack and marking the opponent’s centre forward, supposedly one of their most dangerous players.

  • The change had reduced the number of opposition players that attackers needed between themselves and the goal-line from three to two.

  • The formation was dubbed the “kamikaze” formation sometime in the 1960s when former United States national team player Walter Bahr used it for a limited number of games as
    coach of the Philadelphia Spartans to garner greater media and fan attention for the struggling franchise.

  • [20][21] The German team’s stronger midfield stretched out of shape to combat the Americans’ wide threats, opening space for Lloyd’s central distribution.

  • So this formation required that all players, including defenders, are somehow skilful and with initiative, making it a perfect fit for the Brazilian players’ minds.

  • Different formations can be used depending on whether a team wishes to play more attacking or defensive football, and a team may switch formations between or during games
    for tactical reasons.

  • Traditionally, those within the same category (for example the four midfielders in a 4–4–2) would generally play as a fairly flat line across the pitch, with those out wide
    often playing in a slightly more advanced position.

  • The three forwards split across the field to spread the attack, and may be expected to mark the opposition full-backs as opposed to doubling back to assist their own full-backs,
    as do the wide midfielders in a 4–4–2.

  • [29] 4–3–2–1 (the “Christmas tree” formation)[edit] 4–3–2–1 formation The 4–3–2–1, commonly described as the “Christmas tree” formation, has another forward brought on for
    a midfielder to play “in the hole”, so leaving two forwards slightly behind the most forward striker.

  • As association football is a fluid and fast-moving game, a player’s position (with the exception of the goalkeeper) in a formation does not define their role as tightly as
    that of rugby player, nor are there breaks in play where the players must line up in formation (as in gridiron football).

  • [1] Many of the current systems have three different formations in each third, defending, middle, and attacking.

  • The 4–2–2–2 formation consists of the standard defensive four (right back, two centre backs, and left back), with two centre midfielders, two support strikers, and two out
    and out strikers.

  • During open play, one of the side central midfielders may drift to the flank to add additional presence.

  • The Italy national team won back-to-back World Cups, in 1934 and 1938, using this system.

  • Due to the lone striker, however, the centre of the midfield does have the responsibility of pushing forward as well.

  • So the one single number is confusing as it may not actually look like a 4–2–1–3 when a team is defending or trying to gain possession.

  • Formations are described by three or more numbers in order to denote how many players are in each row of the formation, from the most defensive to the most advanced.

  • The 4–2–4 formation made use of the players’ increasing levels of skill and fitness, aiming to effectively use six defenders and six forwards, with the midfielders performing
    both tasks.

  • In these cases, the opponent’s defence will be forced to fall back early, thereby leaving space for the offensive central midfielder.

  • The goal is to outnumber the other team in all parts of the field but to not completely wear out all the players on the team using it before the full ninety minutes are up.

  • [17][18] 4–4–1–1[edit] 4–4–1–1 formation A variation of 4–4–2 with one of the strikers playing “in the hole”, or as a “second striker”, slightly behind their partner.

  • The formation has also been used on occasion by the Brazil national team,[46][49] notably in the 1998 World Cup final.

  • The defensive midfielder is sometimes used as a deep-lying playmaker, but needs to remain disciplined and protect the back four behind him.

  • This formation has been very frequently used by managers all over the world in the modern game.

  • In club football, the team that brought this formation to the forefront was the famous Ajax team of the early 1970s, which won three European Cups with Johan Cruyff, and Zdeněk
    Zeman with Foggia in Italy during the late 1980s, where he completely revitalised the movement supporting this formation.

  • The Scottish outfield players were organized into pairs and each player would always attempt to pass the ball to his assigned partner.

  • This led to the introduction of a centre-back to stop the opposing centre-forward, and tried to balance defensive and offensive playing.

  • For England, one player would remain in defence, picking up loose balls, and one or two players would roam the midfield and kick the ball upfield for the other players to

  • Former Lioness-turned-commentator Eniola Aluko said the tactical shift “failed massively” as the United States scored in the 10th minute and again in the first half, while
    England struggled to connect play.

  • In association football, the formation of a team refers to the position players take in relation to each other on a pitch.

  • We always need at least one player to create width for the team.

  • Variations of any given formation include changes in positioning of players, as well as replacement of a traditional defender by a sweeper.

  • However, it is also common for the three midfielders to be energetic shuttlers, providing for the individual talent of the two attacking midfielders ahead.

  • The formation can be used to grind out 0–0 draws or preserve a lead, as the packing of the centre midfield makes it difficult for the opposition to build up play.

  • For example, the “4–5–1” formation has four defenders, five midfielders, and a single forward.

  • While the initial developments leading to the 4–2–4 were devised by Márton Bukovi, the credit for creating the 4–2–4 lies with two people: Flávio Costa, the Brazilian national
    coach in the early 1950s, as well as another Hungarian, Béla Guttman.

  • [9] 3–3–4[edit] The 3–3–4 formation was similar to the WW, with the notable exception of having an inside-forward (as opposed to centre-forward) deployed as a midfield schemer
    alongside the two wing-halves.

  • The 4–1–3–2 gives a strong presence in the forward middle of the pitch and is considered to be an attacking formation.

  • [9] The lack of an effective centre-forward in Bukovi’s team necessitated moving a forward back to midfield to create a playmaker, with another midfielder instructed to focus
    on defence.

  • The system was also fluid enough to allow the formation to change throughout play.

  • In this approach, the middle of the three central midfielders act as a playmaker while one of the attacking midfielders plays in a free role.

  • 4–3–3[edit] 4–3–3 formation The 4–3–3 was a development of the 4–2–4, and was played by the Brazil national team in the 1962 World Cup, although a 4–3–3 had also previously
    been used by the Uruguay national team in the 1950 and 1954 World Cups.

  • [31] At international level, this formation is used by the Belgian, French, Dutch and German national teams in an asymmetric shape, and often with strikers as wide midfielders
    or inverted wingers.

  • [22] In the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-finals, Phil Neville employed the 4–4–1–1 as manager of England against the United States, but deployed right attacker Nikita
    Parris out of position in the hole and forward Beth Mead also out of position deeper in the midfield.

  • The gap in the centre of the formation between the two wing halves ( Half backs ) and the two inside forwards allowed Arsenal to counter-attack effectively.

  • 4–5–1[edit] 4–5–1 formation 4–5–1 is a conservative formation; however, if the two midfield wingers play a more attacking role, it can be likened to 4–3–3.

  • [52] 4–6–0[edit] A highly unconventional formation, the 4–6–0 is an evolution of the 4–2–3–1 or 4–3–3 in which the centre forward is exchanged for a player who normally plays
    as a trequartista (that is, in the “hole”).

  • The formation is usually played without wide midfielders.

  • The formation focuses on the attacking midfielder moving play through the centre with the strikers on either side.

  • Historical formations In the football matches of the 19th century, defensive football was not played, and the line-ups reflected the all-attacking nature of these games.

  • Opposing teams with fast wingers and strong passing abilities can try to overwhelm the 4–1–3–2 with fast attacks on the wings of the pitch before the three offensive midfielders
    can fall back to help their defensive line.

  • Denise O’Sullivan, captain, North Carolina Courage[38] The 4–2–2–2 with a box midfield was deployed by the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL from 2017 to 2021, using a front
    four with freedom to fluidly switch sides and move wide while served by high-playing fullbacks.

  • The 4–2–4 needed a high level of tactical awareness, as having only two midfielders could lead to defensive problems.

  • The lone striker may be very tall and strong to hold the ball up as his midfielders and full-backs join him in attack.

  • The extra player in midfield allows a stronger defence, and the midfield could be staggered for different effects.

  • The relatively empty midfield relied on defenders that should now be able not only to steal the ball, but also hold it, pass it or even run with it and start an attack.


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