The Copa Libertadores final between Fluminense and Boca Juniors will be held at the Maracana Stadium on Saturday. It’s a big moment for Team Flow, the Brazilian giants trying to win the tournament for the first time. But the game has broader significance because of their team’s tactics.
Fernando Diniz’s football has become magic. Possession play has been reimagined. The opposite of Pep Guardiola, according to Diniz himself. For some, it’s new. For others, it is restoration Bonito gameThe beautiful game.
Brazil as it would like to see itself.
Drawing on ideas from futsal, this is football as freedom of expression where players are no longer restricted to a particular area but are encouraged to interact, take turns and create. “The way Pep likes to have the ball is the opposite of my style. His style is positioned, mine is not positioned.”
To European eyes, these excess burdens, these unbalanced formations, challenge established wisdom. Carlos Carvalhal, the experienced Portuguese coach, describes it as “a kind of chaos” – contorting his face in a way that suggests surprise and astonishment.
For Bruno Pivetti, who once worked as Diniz’s technical assistant, the contradiction between the European game and Diniz’s ideas, the so-called Denisimo Being scouted at Fluminense and now in his role as Brazil’s interim manager, it couldn’t be clearer.
Pivetti worked in Europe as a youth coach, where he studied positional play in Portugal. He said: “This is the European culture of football. What we learned in that European school is that positional play is the best way because it gives you width and depth.” Sky Sports.
“All the players stay in their positions, and this means that when a player loses the ball, it is easier to organize defensively because all the players are already in their positions. This makes it easier to press, and it is easier to get back into defensive shape.” “.
The two-and-a-half years he spent with Diniz at Audax, where he listened and learned, changed his outlook on the game. “When I started working with Fernando, a lot of those models broke down,” Pivetti says. “I realized there are a thousand ways to play football.”
Pivetti is keen to stress that there is more to Diniz’s management than tactics. “He graduated in psychology. He is very intelligent. He has a special way of managing and motivating players. It is very interesting.” But Deniz’s game model is what makes it unique.
“It’s very special. From the first phase of preparation, he wants this very intense rotation of his players. He tries to involve the more technical players in that first phase to help the goalkeeper keep the ball and then move up.” field from there.
“The full-backs come inside and play between the lines and that causes confusion for the opposition as to how they are defending. It creates a dilemma for them. They don’t know whether they should press or stay to protect the area because all the players are rotating.
“The wingers don’t always stay wide. They come inside. All the players play together so the player with the ball always has three or four passing options close by. It’s very difficult to defend against Deniz’s idea because there are so many attacking options.”
When Pivetti talks about possession, he says: “His basic principle is to keep the ball.” When he refers to pressing, he adds: “The players react quickly to press the ball. He is very aggressive and when he recovers the ball, all the players are closed on each other.”
In these moments, for starters, for those of us outside coaching circles, these seem like just variations on a theme. The similarities to the approach now common in the Premier League are clear. But within the game, they realize profound differences as well.
It has sparked debate about the merits of positivism and so-called relationalism. A discussion taking place at the Brazilian National Academy. “We meet as coaches to talk about his ideas. A lot of coaches want to understand Fernando’s way.”
This has now spread beyond South America.
Rene Maric has always been at the forefront of tactics, and blogged about it before finding success as a coach with Borussia Dortmund. “There’s this debate about relational versus situational, but those words aren’t important to me,” Marek says. Sky Sports.
What matters is the idea. Similarities and differences.
“The focus is on having the ball and achieving something in possession just like Robert De Zerbe and Pep Guardiola. But with Fluminense, where you have this overload, they want to keep the ball but they are less focused on the spatial aspect.”
Imagine Jack Grealish drifting inside to play alongside Phil Foden. For Guardiola, this would lead to space congestion. Exactly what he didn’t want to happen. For Deniz, this would create excess pressure, increasing the likelihood of giving in to opening the defence.
Marek refers to the role of Paulo Henrique Ganso in Fluminense. An elegant playmaker, now 34, his time in Europe was very short, but he was pivotal for Deniz, moving deep to collect the ball. “It’s not like Ganso is aimlessly creating groups,” Marek explains.
“He’s allowed to roam, but he still follows similar principles to De Zerbe’s centre-backs. He keeps the ball, draws them in, draws them in, creates space. But instead of doing it all over the pitch with good distribution, they do it in one part of the pitch.”
It demands a lot from Deniz’s players because “it’s more about timing than space.” Rondo And Tables, a continuous spiral of doubles, is required to move the team up the field. But when it works, as it did so amazingly with Fluminense, it can be beautiful.
Maric is aware of similar patterns in the work of Rulani Mokoena at the South African club Mamelodi Sundowns and Henrik Rydstrom at the Swedish club Malmo. Martí Cifuentes has experienced recent football up close as coach of Hammarby in Sweden.
Like Maric, Cifuentes is reluctant to label this style on the grounds that there is nothing really new in football. But he recognizes him. “It is true that there is a certain direction in this relationship and that Malmö follows some of those principles,” he says. Sky Sports.
Cifuentes is a diplomat. It highlights the principles with which it agrees. “I think the relationship has some things in common with positional play, which is creating good relationships with the players. It’s about creating the edge to help you score.”
But as a Catalan coach in Europe, it is his own inspirations that determine his view of the game. He explains: “In my opinion, the ball will always be faster than any player.” “That’s why I think good positioning on the field will always allow you to play faster.”
What impact does the new QPR coach have on Deniz? Nothing, straight away. But it is useful to think about across Europe among Guardiola followers. This is important when it is the prevailing view among the men who coach Brazil’s best players.
Diniz, now 49, has endured a difficult start to his career with the national team. A disappointing draw at home to Venezuela in October was followed by defeat to Uruguay. Argentina is waiting at a time when professional players in Europe are struggling to adapt to its demands.
On the one hand, it must be easier for Deniz to succeed now that he has reached the top. It is a far cry from his time in the second division of the São Paulo state competition alongside Pivetti a decade ago. “He’s working with the best players now,” Pivetti says.
“His ideas are very similar to what they were then, but now he is at the top and has the quality to put his ideas into practice. At that time, we were playing on very bad pitches, for example. Now, he has it much better.” Conditions necessary to implement his ideas.”
On the other hand, his playing style requires more imagination from players. It takes time for relationships to develop. The time he doesn’t have. “With the national team, he only has a few days to prepare the team, only a few training sessions,” Pivetti adds.
As a result, Diniz felt sad after the defeat to Uruguay because “the team did not know how to build and the main responsibility fell on me.” He remains convinced that his methods can work but still struggles against the prevailing football culture.
And not only in Europe. Jorge Jesus’ success in winning the Copa Libertadores with Flamengo in 2019 sparked a rush to appoint Portuguese coaches to the biggest jobs in Brazil. In this context, Deniz’s rise can be seen as an attempt to fight back.
Abel Ferreira, the Portuguese coach in charge of Palmeiras, noted that he himself is fighting against the Brazilian instinct to try to implement a positional game there. It’s a view shared by Pivetti Denisimo It is a more natural way for Brazilians to play.
He added: “The players here come from a different football culture, so I don’t think it is very difficult for Brazilians to adapt to his way of playing because it is similar to what we did in our childhood in the streets of Brazil.” From Fernando’s idea is street football.
“The players there don’t have a fixed position and they rotate all the time. It’s very similar in futsal, which plays a big role in the formative years here. You need to press hard and rotate. Fernando is trying to put those futsal skills into his game idea.”
To do so with Brazil on the international stage would be the ultimate achievement, reviving the spirit of 1970 and showing that the glorious football of 1982 can still work. But winning the Copa Libertadores with Fluminense? This would be a sign too.
This could lead to a renaissance in relationships, a different way of seeing the game, and a turning point in Brazilian coaching. “Here, the coaches are just working to survive,” Pivetti says. “But Fernando had the courage to try his ideas. I hope he wins the title.” He is not alone.