ABU DHABI // The opposing styles of play of each team at the Club World Cup is unquestionably one of the main attractions for fans attending games. But for teams wishing to progress, the ease and speed with which they can alter their natural shape to neutralise the tactics of an opponent are just as important, according to the Pohang Steelers coach Sergio Farias.
The Brazilian tactician would know. Farias implemented a half-time masterstroke on Friday evening when, trailing the African champions TP Mazembe 1-0, he switched Pohang's rigid 4-4-2 set-up to an interchangeable formation which allowed more numbers in both defence and going forward. The decision to switch to 4-5-1, or 4-3-3 when attacking, reaped dividends as Pohang exploited gaps on the counter. After a quiet opening period, Denilson, a former Al Shabab, Al Nasr and Paris Saint Germain striker, scored a brace in the 2-1 win while playing up front on his own.
"We were a bit nervous in the first half and found it difficult to attack," said Farias. "There was tension because of Mazembe's goal and we failed to find space in wide positions. The play was concentrated in the middle and we were unable to retain possession and feed our forwards. "We corrected this at half-time and were better in possession and finding width - this is how we equalised. I removed a striker, because playing two wasn't working, and added an extra defensive midfielder to help us build from the back. Eventually, we got the winner. The changes we made allowed our wide players to find more space in Mazembe's defence and close up space in midfield."
Despite the Steelers' determined second-half recovery, Farias said the Korean side, whose playmaker Kim Jae Sung spurned three glorious chances, had made life hard for themselves. "We made some mistakes in front of goal which are typical in a youthful team like ours," he said. Pohang clearly found the unpredictable Mazembe strategy tough to grasp, a factor that Farias attributed to the two teams' contrasting football cultures.
"When you play against a team with a defined tactical plan, your team adjusts too," said Farias. "But Mazembe, like a lot of African teams, didn't keep their positions and instead expressed their technical qualities. That made it difficult for us because we are used to playing teams who are tactically organised. We just had to maintain our natural way of playing and keep the ball until we found space to attack." firstname.lastname@example.org