During the past week, most national teams have been playing either friendly matches or qualifying games for different tournaments. Teams such as Argentina and Brazil, after going through difficult times over the last World Cup, are playing international friendlies with a view towards the Copa America, the most important national team tournament in South America, to be played in Argentina in July. On the other hand, European national teams are playing qualifying games for the next Eurocup, in 2012.
Teams like Argentina, Spain and even England are taking Barça’s style as a reference, as a model, in order to achieve important goals. Argentina, as well as England, have been suffering for a few years, since they appear to have lost the style they had once and, being big national teams, cannot afford being in the shadows of international football any longer. Argentina is fighting to find a new style, to re-enchant their fans after a disappointing era under Maradona’s influence. In this fight, Sergio Batista, known as “El Checho”, is using Barça’s style as a model. In his current team, the column Milito-Mascherano-Messi seems untouchable, all of them Barça players. In the last game, against the United States, Batista played Messi on the right wing, but the Barça star ended up in the centre of the attack, which is one of the changes introduced by Pep Guardiola (Diari El Punt). However, as Mascherano stated in a recent interview with Diario Olé, playing like Barça sounds like a good idea, but it is quite difficult, especially for a national team that has little time to work. Batista has also declared that, despite the result, he was quite satified with his team. He is already seeing some improvement, some adjustment to his idea, which was quite noticeable in the first half of the last game. (Diario Olé)
It was also surprising to notice that England’s national team is apparently trying some of Pep Guardiola’s concepts. Even though they seem uneasily suited to Barça’s style with their predilection for long balls, they are adopting Barça’s pressing to add to their game. As Jack Wilshere stated in a recent interview with Fifa.com, English players have been watching Barça games and their coach, Fabio Capello, has instructed them to improve their pressing as Barça does. Their new midfield composition, with Scott Parker as the only defensive midfielder with Frank Lampard and Wilshere, also suggests further Barça influence. (Wilshere’s interview)
Spain also shows more Barça concepts than we could imagine. Not only do they have a majority of Barça players in the squad, but they also use some of Barça’s tactics. For example, Ramos as a right back with attacking responsibilities. And in midfield, even when Xabi Alonso is an important player, and Spain tries to play with two defensive midfielders (Busquets+Alonso), when things go wrong Alonso is usually subbed for an attacking player. And Iniesta is given more freedom, just as Pep does with Messi. In the last game against the Czech Republic, Iniesta was playing in Messi’s position while Busquets, Xavi and Cazorla were behind them in midfield in the second half. (Diari El Punt)
What these national teams will be able to achieve in the future remains to be seen. Will Argentina find its lost style and beat Brazil in the next Copa America? Will England be a powerful side again? Will Spain continue its reign over international football? All these questions will be answered in the short term, and part of the answers are related to Barça.