The Specialist: the individual passing action
The fans come to the stadiums to see the artists play. The players who control the ball like no other. The ones that take on opponents and can make the difference. In Holland, FC Twente’s Eljero Elia (21) is one of those players.
It was what football was all about. In the olden days, Abe Lenstra, Faas Wilkes, Rob Rensenbrink, Coen Moulijn, Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer, George Best, Pele, Maradona, Zico, Bruno Conti, Ronald de Boer, Bryan Roy and Zinedine Zidane demonstrated their skills, but modern football is more and more about one touch passing, about physical strength and lungs. Still, the dribble kings are still very much alive and kicking. Players like Messi, Robben, C Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Diego Biseswar are still the most popular players in their respective competitions.
Eljero Elia got rejuvenated at FC Twente where his coach demands of him that he takes opponents on.
Wiel Coerver based his coaching career on it and even designed a coaching and training philosophy on it. When a player is the boss over the ball and can dominate in the one-to-one, he can dominate the game. Where other coaches talk about team, about polyvalent players, about physical fitness, it was Coerver who promoted individual training sessions, based on technical skill. “Why were Pele, Cruyff and Maradona world stars? Because they dominated in the one-on-one and therefore could dominate the whole game. Coerver analyzed their passing tricks and made them available in his training courses. It all starts with the capabilities of beating one man and is built out to beating a whole team.
There are historical football scenes, fixed in fans’ minds. The run in the first minute of the 1974 WC finals. Johan Cruyff picks the ball up on his own half and dribbles past four German players into the box. Or Maradona’s solo past five English players, scoring a goal at the end of his dribble. Then, there’s another legendary action, but you won’t find that on YouTube (or maybe Goose will…): March 5, 1961. Rio de Janeiro. Pele picks the ball up in his own box and outplays six opponents (two of them twice). He reaches the opponents’ box and even tricks the goalie before he scores. It’s called Gol de Placa (the goal that deserves a plaque), but there are no tv-images left…
FC Twente’s Elia
Eljero Elia didn’t learn his skills on training. It was all done on the streets. “Playing on the streets gave it some extra dimension. A grass pitch is always flat and even. Playing on the streets is harder. The ball makes weird bounces. So, you need to master the ball really good. I’d watch videos of great players, like Ronaldo, and I would copy his movements till the cows came home. Every day. And we had a game, called pits. Whenever someone panna’d you (nutmeg), you were fair game and every player was allowed to kick you. You had to run to the goal post and touch it, then you were off the hook. So, you’d be extra careful. You’d either learn to trick others or you’d learn to run very fast, hahaha…”. The panna is one example of a famous trick. In the 1990s, the best players in the world would start to exchange tricks. Edgar Davids was the top dog of trickery. Whenever he had another sweet move, other players would learn and they’d copy each other. Davids would become famous for his brilliance and skills but for his energy and temperament, but off the pitch he would become the benchmark. When Richard Witschge, no slouch either, played for Bordeaux with Zinedine Zidane, he’d practice for hours and introduce Zizou to his Ajax buddies to exchange skills. Zidane later famously said in an interview that he didn’t regard himself the best in the world. “The best I’ve played with is Richard Witschge, without a doubt.” For most skilled dribblers, control over the ball was a necessity. Ronald de Boer: “Frank and I always had to play our games with older guys and they didn’t like it when we tricked them. So, in order to keep our legs save, we needed to develop these ball control skills.” Twente winger Elia was lucky to have played in the Ajax youth. “At Ajax, technical skills are still the foundation of the game. And Foppe de Haan at young Oranje was even angry at me when I didn’t try to take on opponents. Even if I lost the ball, he’d always shout: keep on doing it! Another influence was Frans Adelaar at ADO Den Haag. I loved that Richard Witschge dummy kick. You basically do it to entertain the viewers and to humiliate your opponent. There’s no real efficiency in it. So, I’d take on a player and then I’d do the dummy kick. End result? I had to take him on again. Adelaar told me to stop doing that. He wanted effectivity, not a show. He said, when you lose your opponent, you pass the ball, you take on the next one or you shoot on goal. That was a valuable lesson. I remember my first training at ADO. I was 16 years old. I tricked Saeijs three times, once with a nutmeg. After that, I was constantly on the grass, hahaha…”
“Some players can do anything with the ball on the spot, but you’ll have to go past that opponent. You have to creater a majority. And that was hard for me when I was younger. And it’s funny, because once opponents realize you can take them one and get past them, they have more respect and naturally will give you more space. Robinho is my favorite. Every defender fears him. He wants the ball in his feet and then he comes at you. Six, seven, eight step overs… and he’s not big or strong. He’s actually small and lean, but still he flashes past them. And then you see: skill and elegance are more important than anything else…”
thank you man:), i donno how you come up with these awsome articles, but i love them:). i just looked up some videos of eljero elia on youtube, he is a real good dribbler, looking forward to see him in orange:). man how many talents we have upfront, when are we gonna start talking about big talents for the back line that worries me a lot for the coming world cup!!!
sounds like inter is looking at sneijder or van der vaart
if Perez can go trhough with his madman plan, he’ll try to offload Robben, Sneijder and V.d.Vaart. Stuwhat an idiot, they’re apparently offering V.d.Vaart for a bargain price of like 8 million. Inter looking to trade Mancini for Sneijder.
You wanna know why we don’t have “toptalents” in defence, cause dutch people in general don’t really appreciate good defending as much as others. So we don’t adjust our youth departments to produce pure defenders. We don’t really give much extra care. So most of our young defenders are already behind in their development. And above that, since we don’t really give our defenders much credit, we criticise them a lot, pretty overcriticising, that is copied by people from other countries, that’s how we became known for lack off good defenders and defending qualities and what might be very big defensive talents are often underrated given our self-created reputation. That’s why big clubs abroud are more hesitant to buy dutch defenders of say 22-23 years old. So we spoiled our own reputation and credit. Every now and then a natural defender might come through and will make his way to the top(Stam). But often they’re midfielders of attackers being formed into defenders(Reiziger, Bouma, Koeman, V.Bronckhorst etc.) which sometimes turns out great, but all of this does create the situation that we underrate a lot of defenders, so tho everyone else by it, and that makes them less attractive for big clubs, which makes us extra critical, as they play for say Aston Villa they must be much worse than if they were at Chelsea. The circle goes round again It above all makes us believe we have a lack of good or topdefenders. Now it also creates the situation were we have periods with almost no widely respected defenders or defenders at top clubs. So Chelsea decided to do it in a different manner, they picked up dutch talented defenders Bruma and V.Aanholt at a very young age, to form them more in the english style of defending, while they also have had the benefit of being educated in a dutch style of play at least for a while.
Now that’s just my view on the whole thing.
Posted from Netherlands
aren’t marcellis and van der wiel good talents? same with zuiverloon?
doesn’t donk and vlaar have the talent to do a job for the national team?
boulahrouz, mathijsen and heitinga are all young for defenders too
mathijsen played another good game today in the uefa cup against bremen. Handled Pizzaro quite nicely and cut off many good balls from Diego.
Posted from New Zealand
Thanks… I wrote before that The Specialist series is “borrowed” from VI.nl like I borrow a lot!!
Elia is too strong and not so injury proned,and he runs more than kuyt.we have to take him to the worldcup.he should nt be neglected because he is young
Posted from India
@Tiju – no one runs more than Kuyt!
Posted from Canada
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