Bristol City defender Lewin Nyatanga has defended the often criticised long-ball tactic, claiming that, should it be implemented in South Africa, it could prove a strategy that could help England win the World Cup.
The Burton-born youngster is now a key player for Wales, but Nyatanga will be cheering England on when they travel to South Africa, and hopes that use of the long-ball could prove critics of the tactic wrong. Having played in the Championship for Bristol City and Derby County, Nyatanga is aware of the criticism that certain sides endure for playing long balls to try to win matches. He believes, however, that international sides will have relatively little experience of the tactic, which could be beneficial to England as many teams will not know how to defend against it.
“I think the long ball play could work in the World Cup,” said Nyatanga. “I do not think international sides are used to it and in Spain and Italy they certainly do not play like that. Every defender will be top class but few are used to having constant aerial battles against people like Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey. They are more used to playing against the likes of David Villa and Lionel Messi – strikers who use clever trickery to sneak the ball past them. I think that going route-one and turning matches into physical battles might be good. Obviously England’s whole game cannot be like that but I think those are the strengths of English football and they might do well playing to them.”
Nyatanga acknowledges that England too will have to adjust their tactics to the way other sides play, and the Welshman, with 31 caps for his country to date, is aware that the differences between English and international football are vast.
“International football is much slower, it is more tactical as you have to keep the ball for longer periods of time, and then when you do attack you go forward with all guns blazing. In the Championship people are always closing you down but in international matches, if you win the ball the other team usually drops behind the half way line, it is only when you go forward that they try to stop you.”
Whatever tactics England choose to employ in South Africa, Nyatanga believes that England have a fantastic chance of winning the World Cup, but admits that any team which hits its peak in South Africa is capable of winning the competition.
“England are in a really strong position, people compare this side with other squads but I’ve always felt England have a good squad with great strength in depth. There is a lot of pressure on the players and to win a World Cup is hard, if they don’t win it then that is seen as failure but other countries such as Germany and Spain have that pressure on them too. I think they have good chance, but if a team scores a 30-yard wonder-goal it can change the entire scenario and football at that level sometimes comes down to things like that. The top teams are so strong, but a month of football is different to a whole season and if a team peaks then you never know – like with Greece in 2004 – who might be successful.”
“At that level when the margin of winning and losing is so small you can’t say which team could cause an upset and it would be disrespectful to say there wouldn’t be one. Every team has earned their place in the World Cup and they all deserve respect, if the lower seeded teams get far it would be a great credit to them. England’s players are mostly playing in top form at the moment, and considering how well they are doing they should get through Group C and then hopefully a bit of luck can take them further – maybe all the way.”