Total Soccer Beats Title Soccer

Today is another article by guest blogger, Terry Michler.  Terry is the nation’s winningest high school coach with over 800 wins at CBC High School in St. Louis.  Terry is also the author of these books, Dutch Total Football, Coaching Soccer Champions, Full Season Training Program – Elite Team and is the subject of our recent release Find a Way to Win.

We are always interested in articles from guest bloggers.  If you are interested in submitting an article for the blog, please email me.

Total Soccer Beats Title Soccer

Within the first few minutes of the broadcast of the Championship game of the 2010 World Cup, Martin Tyler mentions whether it will be ‘total soccer’ or ‘title soccer’ for the Dutch.  Spain answered that question rather convincingly during the next 120 minutes of play as they put their stamp on the game.   It was the Spanish 11 that demonstrated ‘total soccer’ that has forever been associated with Dutch football.  The Dutch, in their quest of ‘title soccer’, failed to produce anything close to resembling the style of play that we have come to expect from the Oranje.   It was a most inopportune time to produce such a haphazard performance.  In each of the previous games, there was always the feeling that the next game would produce more of the Dutch quality in the game, and then when the Final rolled around, they fail to produce with their last chance.

It was the Spanish who played the ‘dutch’ game with fluid movements of passing and interchanging of positions.  It was short, quick, crisp, meaningful passes that always landed safely on the foot of a teammate in an open ‘pocket’ of space.  It was cat and mouse and the Dutch struggled to catch up with the passes. Positional play was also very important to the Spanish attack as they could always find a player with space on the wing, and at the right time, play a through ball to a player breaking in on goal.  They defended with high pressure and forced turnover after turnover, never allowing the Dutch any chance to establish any rhythm in their buildup.  The only chances for the Dutch came on the break, and then they failed to take advantage.  So, it was the Spaniards who demonstrated the ‘total soccer’ that the Dutch had made famous in years gone by.  Johan Cruyff said before the Final that Spain played more of a ‘dutch‘ game than the Dutch themselves.

When Bert van Marwijk interviewed with the KNVB for the National Team job, he told them his goal was to win the World Cup.  He knew all the history of the Dutch National teams and how they imploded over the years and he took the approach that a change was necessary to have a chance for the title.  His approach yielded wonderful results as they did not lose a game until the Final.  But the ‘title soccer’ approach only got them to the same point of disappointment that they have been before, but not beyond.  So, at the end of the day, when the dust settles, it was Spain that produced the best soccer and even had Holland scored on one of their chances, it would have been an injustice to the quality that the Spanish produced, against all the recklessness of the Dutch.

On a personal note, being a staunch supporter of the Oranje, Dutch Vision and ‘Total Soccer’, it is extremely disappointing that they could not deliver the goods at the right moment.  It is ironic because one of the biggest coaching points in the dutch philosophy is to play in the right moment – to do the right thing, in the right way at the right time to the right place.  To pass the ball at the right time, with the right speed, to the right place, in the right way — that is the basis of their play.  Unfortunately, with the whole world watching, waiting and wanting to see the best of the best, they failed to hold up their end of the deal.  It was a moment that could erase the emptiness of ’74 and ’78 and put that first star on their jersey, but to me, more importantly to show the world their quality.  Maybe, when you deviate too much from makes you special, you come up short.  ‘Total soccer’ carried them a long way, ‘Title soccer’ left them a bit short.

Terry Michler – CBC High School


  1. Tyler Dennis says:

    I completely agree. There is no need to flop around on the ground as if your leg was cut off. I’m surprised these guys aren’t embarrassed. Especially when you see all of the YouTube videos making fun of them. The referee needs to issue more yellow cards for this type of playacting.

  2. I admit England where not very good in thier approach to the world cup,but if the English game is not as good as it should be,Why oh Why are we the only team on Setanta that we have to pay to see them.

  3. Chris Tardelli says:

    Well, it is now getting to the point that those who do not care for have legitimized their distaste for the game. A colleague of mine asked me “Are acting lessons are mandatory at practice now?”?
    I hate to say that the only way to combat this, is to bring it into the 21st century with replay. Naturally, it would have to be based on extreme sitautions. Goals counted or not counted. Possibly a delay if a “dive ” is recorded resulting in a penalty.
    Game suspension(s) and heavy fines for both club and player would be a great way to get the point across.
    Nothing works better than threats and finacnially loss, and I beleive it has come to that.

  4. Simon Whitehead says:

    The State of English Soccer

    OK – I’m going to say it – I’ve had a week or two to calm down. England, as expected, were rubbish. They were barely a round of 16 team….nothing more. The English FA should be banned from training any coaches ever again in England. The FA is obsolete. For all the young boys and men that are playing soccer in England – getting trained by the “full badge cronies” that the FA turn out – why cant we come up with 2-3 forwards that have the balls, speed and skill to run at a defender? Or how about 2-3 midfielders that have an ounce of creativity? Or what about a couple of defenders that squeeze the ball when it counts and are strong enough to out hustle any marauding forward? Why can a tiny country like Paraguay come up with technically better defenders than England? And please – don’t tell me that David James is the best goalie in England…..he was BRUTAL against Germany. He cannot save routine shots – let alone save games and he was going for everything with his feet.

    I hope this sticks a twig up the arses of the Old Boys Network running the FA – to scrap their stupid coaching schemes and start producing PLAYERS – not Coaches!! Start again – bring in young coaches who have been abroad. Learn Spanish. What we have been doing for the past 40 years IS NOT WORKING!!!!!

    Yes – the reffing was horrific – but I think we all realize that if we had been Brazil, Argentina, Spain or Germany, we would have got that second goal…but England are NOT amongst FIFA’s Royalty anymore so we have to earn our way back!

    Back to the FA. It all “jobs for the boys”. You get your FA Full Badge (now called UEFA A) and the FA set you up with a job because they know people and you do what you are told. You don’t think outside the box or you are done. You don’t bring in new and different techniques, philosophies or ideas because if it’s not the FA’s idea, it’s a bad idea. The boys in the Blazers and Ties know best of course because if it worked for Alf Ramsey, it will work now. They pay “lip service” to all the successful practices being implemented in other countries because they are too stubborn to change. They roll their socks up, tuck their shirts in and hide behind their coaching badges while the ever evolving world of international soccer passes them by. They are not producing World Class Players good enough to truly compete in the World Cup and think they are close because some are employed by big Premier League Clubs and their Academies. But these clubs are largely being carried by International Soccer Stars – something that is hard to admit for the people that run English soccer .

    Funny that Rooney plays great when he is surrounded by International superstars setting up chances for him, but he was found out when having to play with such electrifying talent as Heskey, Wright Phillips, and the rest of the crew whose names are easy to forget. Even the vaunted English attributes of passion, hard work, good honest sweat, and tough hard nose tackling were not there. And they couldn’t blame the “heat” for that either like the other World Cups! What a joke… and I don’t blame the English Public for chastising them on that score because the least they have come to expect is passion, desire, and hustle. Of course if they did start to demand more – like world class skill, clinical finishing, accurate passing and flair – the National Team Bosses might even listen. But sadly – that has never been the case and they English soccer public got what they asked for – mediocrity with chips.

    Simon Whitehead
    Proud US Citizen
    Proud Ex Pat Englishman
    Disappointed England Fan