In today’s football,formation and tactics reign supreme.Though formation is just a number,since there are roles and inter roles assigned to various players within the match, which makes the notion of stating certain numbers in a formation moot,yet it provides a basis to the general structure of the team and general roles of the players,however vogue they might be.Today we are going to discuss the quintessential Latin American formation known as the magic rectangle or the magic square or the box system and can be stated as the 4-2-2-2 formation in modern terms.Its quite different from the traditional 4-4-2 and even more different from the 4-4-2 diamond formation. This is a formation immortalized by the dominant Brazil National side of the 60’s and 70’s and none more than the Brazil 1970, considered by many to be the best National Side ever.
Let us go back in 1970,a few months before World Cup 1970.Brazil was in disarray and their outspoken and controversial manager,Saldanho was being booted out of the team after dismal performances of the team on field and a series of controversies off field. Saldanho used to openly criticize Pele for not defending and even was crazy enough to shout out at the country dictator,Emelio Medici.Naturally he was replaced with Mario Zagallo,who quickly set out to assemble the greatest talents he had at his disposal and gave them the freedom to play.He didn’t gave much emphasis on strategy and let the fluidity and the talent of the team to work out on field. Perhaps this was the last time,that a team assembled with solely crafty and nifty playmakers dazzled the world and won it all.That team had a converted midfielder in defence and a skillful right back in Carlos Alberto,who used to bomb up regularly,unthinkable for defenders of that time.Midfield comprised of three playmakers and one winger and two non traditional roaming and playmaking strikers played as centre forward,one of them was a certain player named Pele.It is an unthinkable thing in modern times to put up such an unbalanced side, ramming up so many creative players with somewhat similar style and strengths in the same side,but all these player collectively dazzled in the 4-2-2-2.In the heat of Mexico,pressing from opposition was almost non existant,and the creative players of Brazil were free to put up a spectacle which mesmerised the world. Without collective pressing and medical fitness and other scientific aspects being still in its nascent stage,the attacking flair of the talented brazilians were at its vintage best.In today’s footballing world, with every player having superior fitness, pressing and strategies being at their pinnacle, perhaps never shall we witness a team fielding four attacking players in their midfield and prevail supreme. Mexico 1970 was the last time we saw it and the magic rectangle was at its devastating best comprising of four cerebral attacking players in Gerson,Clodoaldo,Rivelino and Jairzinho and was spearheaded by Pele and Tostao.
The goalkeepr was Felix who was ok but nothing extraordinary.Piazza was a converted midfielder and was the first man to initiate attack from back and entrust the ball to the midfield.Brito was a physical presence and along with Piazza and Everaldo,ensured to sniff out dangers at back.It should be mentioned here that Brazil shipped 7 goals in that World Cup,and no WC winner had shipped so many goals since.But it did not matter,since the front seven including Alberto ensured that Brazil always outscored their opponents.They neither knew how,nor ever attempted to shut up the shop,and in the finals,where Brazil was leading Italy 3-1,instead of sitting back,they kept pushing on and then scored that remarkable fourth goal, considered by many to be the greatest team goal ever scored.
Clodoaldo was an energetic all action midfielder.Pairing him was the fantastic and cerebral Gerson,the “Xavi” of that 1970 side.Another fantastic dribbler, the man who solely made the “elsatico” or the “snake” famous,was the crafty Rivelino stationed on left. Jairzinho ,”The Hurricane”,was on the right and scored in every game of the tournament. In front,both Pele and Tostao were playing as roaming Centre Forwards,with Pele,famously called “El Rey”,occupying the traditional “Ponta de Lanca” role. With Pele and Tostao roaming and playing in gaps,Rivelino and Gerson combining and Jairzinho shifting inside looking for finishing,resulted in the right side being occasionally open,which was utilized by the fantastic Carlos Alberto Torres, the first modern fullback,for his bombing attacking runs.In the final, the fluid movement of the cerebral Brazilain attackers and the man marking of Italian side meant,the right side opened up which was called “the avenue” ,which was then cleverly exploited by Brazil while scoring the final goal. 1970 was first time,when the World Cup was televised in colour on TV sets Worldwide,and millions of people over the world witnessed the majesty of the magic rectangle at its finest.