as the stone cold Norwegian I am, I get these waves of nostalgia from time and time again, reminiscing about the glorious nineties where Egil "Drillo" Olsen turned Norway into one of the best international teams in the world. Crowned by the wonderful 2-1 over Brazil the in the '98 World Cup, I've decided to give a go at recreating his way of football. I just watched the entire match against Brazil, and I will base most of my assumptions on what I saw there along with what I already know.
Generally, the norwegian defense in its prime, was damn near inpenetrable. Between 1996-1998, Norway conceded only 9 goals in 18 competitive matches, while scoring 38 - stats defeating more or less any notion of Norway playing one-side defensive football while under Egil "Drillo" Olsens command. Defensively, Norway worked as a unit, where every player effectively "went to war" for one another. All of the players on the pitch covered for each other, intensely chasing the living bejeezuz out of any team trying to occupy Norways half while on the ball. Going off of the famous 2-1 win over Brazil in the '98 WC, I've made the following observations in regards to the defense:
- Right back sits tight in line with the central defenders, delivering diagonal crosses and safe passes to team mates. One job - defend, and defend well.
- Central defence is somewhat split. Dan Eggen was the sledgehammer, near unbeatable in the air, and a great player to stagger the first wave of attack. Ronny Johnsen paired up perfectly with great pace and ball skills, surging forward when given the chance, almost like a libero.
- Left back was slightly more offensive than the right one. Stig Inge Bjørnebye possessed a very precise left foot, good pace and skill on the ball, making him viable as a way to start and/or support attacks.
Contrary to popular belief, Drillos Norway didn't just park the bus around it's on 16'yard box. The idea was for the midfield (DM+RM,CM,CM,LM) to press and hassle the opponent to a point where the defense would more or less "pick up the trash", meaning most passes, through balls and dribbles were usually unprecise or off rhythm by the time it reached the defending line. From here, either the BPD (Ronny Johnsen) would start the counter attack by running up the middle of the park, or it would be let out wide to one of the fullbacks to get a better angle for a direct pass through one of the channels furhter up, where the central midfielders would be making runs. If in space, the DM (Rekdal) would be utilized as a deep lying playmaker, laying it off to him to push it on with more precise passing.
Given Norways defensive shape, the midfield basically consisted of a DM, LM, tow CM's and a RM. Defensively, the DM stay 8-10 yards ahead of the central defenders, only getting out of position to win headers or tackle/pressure players entering his zone (4-5 yard radius). In front of him, by another 10'ish yards, you'd find the central midfielders. Now, defensively, these acted pretty much identical. Standing off until the opposition entered Norways half, before pressure relentlessly, trying to break the ball off or force mistakes further down the line for a quick breakaway. The wingers (for a lack of better terms) were often sat down lower than the central midfielders, giving the midfield more of a 3-2 shape rather than 1-4 if needed. This was meant to completely block of the wings, and force play inwards where there was close to no space.
- Both the right and left wingers were mega-important both offensively and defensively. In defense, they were expected to close off the opponents wing play, and to force play inwards where Norway would always win the numbers game. In offense, they were expected to make initial runs with and without the ball, and from there on provide width and through balls into the channels onto the central midfielders and the roaming striker.
- The Defensive Midfielder was probably the most anonymous player on the field, unless Norway was expected to attack/control the game. In defense, his role was basically to block of space. A close comparison today would the role Michael Carrick successfully does in Manchester United. He's rarely involved in tackles or decisive moments, he's just... there, making sure no one attempts a pass in the area he's occupying. In offensive, his main job is to carry the ball from defense to offense as quickly and precisely as possible - hopefully bypassing the opposing teams midfield entirely, by targeting the space behind the midfield where the central midfielders will be making runs.
- The central midfielders are rabid dogs, expected to run their silly heads off for 90 minutes, both on the ball and off the ball. When defending, they are expected to close down any players running or reciving the ball in the middle of the park, trying to force unprecise deliveries to make the job easier for the next line of defense. As soon as Norway wins the ball, they are the main focal point going forward. They will bomb towards the 16yard box, trying to find space to recieve a quick pass going forward.
Tore Andre Flo was the ultimate lone striker - until Zlatan came along. Much can be said about the lanky Norwegian, but he was strong, surprisingly quick and had a wonderful touch of the ball, making him a huge pain in the ass for any defender. He was the kind of striker you just couldn't ignore - you knew you had to pay attention. He was the closest to a free role in the team you got, and was allowed to move more freely and not spend too much energy closing down opponents. Of course, he'd close down if the ball came near him, but he didn't go full Carlos Tevez either. When attacking, however, he could basically make things happen out of nothing. He was expected to get on the ball, try and beat his marker or hold the ball up and let it on to a supporting midfielder, before surging into the box expecting a cross.
Based on these intial observations, I've assigned the following roles to my team:
GKd (Frode Grodås)
RB - LFBd (Henning Berg)
CB - LDx (Dan Eggen)
CB - BPDc (Ronny Johnsen)
LB - LBs (Stig Inge Bjørnebye
DM - DLPd / Anch / DMd (Kjetil Rekdal)
RM - DWs (Håvard Flo/Jostein Flo)
CM - BWMs (Øyvind Leonhardsen)
CM - BBM (Erik Mykland/Roar Strand)
LM - DWs (Vidar Riseth/Mini Jakobsen)
ST - CFs (Tore Andre Flo)
I'm tempted to use 'Very Fluid', based on the team working as a whole from top to bottom, and giving more supporting roles more freedom to contribute going forwards aswell. There is simply no way either of the central midfielders had an attacking role, I think. Both MIGHT be BBM's, though, as they pretty much fulfilled the same role on the pitch, alternating on making runs and being the first defender. I'm pretty happy with the setup in defense, and CFs seems to be the most logical choice for the lone striker. He was never a target man, and a DLFs is too restricted. The wingers are giving me a head ache, though. I'm not sure how the wingers will contribute when going forward, however I think they'll perform as desired when defending.
Here's a pickle. I'm tempted to say counter. Norway was known and feared for their explosve and ruthless counterattacks, but the counter mentality on FM15 is a very cautious one. Norway would try the counter most of the times, even if only one player was avaliable and the chance of success wasn't that good, as they 'worst case' could hold the ball up for a couple of seconds and move the team up the pitch. If counter is not the way to go, the only other option is attacking, which I fear is to risky. Any thoughts here?
As I mentioned over here, I actually think the way to go would be Very Fluid. Fluid is out of the question, as it splits the team into two units. I need the team to act as a unit. Structured would make sense, but I fear that won't allow the players to rely on each other to the same extent. I'm thinking it might link up the which mentality I go with.
Counter/Very Fluid | or | Attacking/Structured
Given specialist/half specialist/non specialist descriptions, I think my choice of roles containt just a tad too many specialists to carry a Very Fluid system, however, I am afraid structured would to us being a bit one sided. I'll have to try this out. Any thoughts here?
A few dead give aways. Direct play, high tempo, get stuck in, drop deeper. Norway would pin their 4-1-4-1 inside their own half, hassle the opponent until they made a mistake, then explode towards the opponents goal. I feel 'Play More Disciplined' is a realistic choice here, as the players had very specific roles to cater to. Same goes for 'Hold Position'.
'Pass Into Space' is also very much expected here, as the breakaways where consistently based on passing the ball onto a run in an open channel.
- Direct Passing
- Pass Into Space
- Drop Deeper
- Hold Position
- Play More Disciplined
Any other TI's would need the added according to what kind of team I'm facing, I think.
I also think all closing down instructions will need to be added with PI's instead of TI's.
I'm gonna add some screens and game examples in the next few days, but first, I need some sleep. Feel free to make contributions and suggestions!