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Weekly Football Phrase: Total Football

Total FootballWhat is the meaning of the phrase ‘Total Football’ in football?

  • Find out more about this phrase by reading the transcript below.
  • You can also find many more examples of soccer vocabulary by going to our football cliches page here and our huge football glossary here.

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Total Football

In football players tend to have a fixed position – those in the forward line, for instance, can usually be found in the final third of the pitch attacking their opponents’ goal, while centre halves and full backs normally play much further behind the forwards. Of course, there is some fluidity in these positions with players moving around the pitch but it was not until the great Dutch side of the late 1960s and early 1970s came along that this fluidity became an actual tactic in football. This was called ‘total football‘. This meant that players were expected to play in all types of positions, defenders could attack and attackers could play in defence, so that when needed they could cover a colleague who had changed his or her position. This constant movement also meant that opposing teams were often unsure how to defend against such tactics. The idea of total football revolutionised the game and its main contributor was former Dutch captain Johan Cruyff. Total football.

  • Example: ‘Johan Cruyff – The man who made Total Football reality’ BBC News
  • Example: ‘Total Football’ pioneer: Johan Cruyff remembered –

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