The breathtaking style of this Dutch team in the secenties has gone down in history as ‘Total Football’, but Michels himself preferred another term. “I want to get people away from Total Football, as this is not my expression,” he wrote a few years after the tournament in West Germany.
“For me, it would be better to call my game ‘pressing football’.
The name comes from the concept of not maintaining any fixed formation, with total 10 outfield players running for the ball, pressing high and capable of playing multiple roles on field.Their formation consisted of a high defensive line and rapid interchange of positions upfront to create turbulence in opponent defence. 4-5 Dutch players moved to press aggressively against the player having the ball.
While attacking while other teams involved vertical or horizontal switches in position, the Dutch team involved in wholesale positional switch, making it tough for the opponent to mark their position.They often played pass and go to make it easier.
The major risks about this tactic was the time when you leave any one of the nearby players unmarked. So one of them attacks the opponent, while the others either mark his team-mate or block any possible path of the ball. The unfortunate soul who is in possession when this orange wall appears can’t even hoof the ball upfield. The Netherlands’ last line of defence is near the halfway line, meaning any opponent in the Dutch half is offside.
Just imagine you have the ball and a bunch of velociraptors charging towards you to tear you apart. That drained the opponent both psychologically and physically. The outcome was highly productive provided the tactics are used efficiently. It meant higher possession of the ball, immediately regaining possession and starting a devastating attack in opponent half.
● Counter Tactics:
This ‘hunting for the ball’ tactics needed 3-4 best players in your team. One wrong step leaves your defence open to any attack. West Germany used the tactic of aggressive man marking each and every opponent in 1974 Final and flooding the midfield with more players to get absolute control over the game. But on their day it was next to impossible to stop Netherlands.