Thursday, December 25, 2014

Beckenbauer from the midfielder to sweeper

Franz Beckenbauer is forever known as the player who personified the sweeper position.  In reality, he played as a box-to-box midfielder for most of his career.  In 1966, he dominated the midfield at the World Cup Finals at the age of 20.  He ran and down the field.  He demonstrated his power and skills by scoring 4 brilliant goals.   By 1970, he was playing a more withdrew position, but not yet the sweeper position where he would became  known for.  Finally, he played his first WC as a sweeper in 1974, where he was credited for revolutionising the position.


Backenbauer the midfielder in 1966

Throughout the 1960's, Helmut Schön, the German manager at the time,  did not want Beckenbauer to play the sweeper role.   He believed that Beckenbauer should be playing as the link between midfield and attack.  His talents would be waste at the back.   Beckenbauer spent most of his playing time in the midfield while Germany used mainly Willi Schulz or Karl-Heinz Schnellinger as their sweeper. Many people in Germany shared the same view.  However, Beckenbauer viewed the sweeper position differently.  By playing behind the 9 other outfielders on his team,  he could see the entire field in front of him, not only a third.  The sweeper could control the attacks more thoroughly from behind.  



While Beckenbauer could not play the sweeper role with the national team, he got his opportunity to play there for his club team, Bayern Munich.  Tschik Cajkovski, the Bayern manager at that time, received a lot criticism for "wasting" Beckenbauer's talent at the back.  Soon, Bayern Munich found successes with Beckenbauer playing at the back.  Suddenly, Beckenbauer playing as an offensive-minded sweeper, it seemed, was visionary.   By 1971, public opinion switched.  Beckenbauer had physical prowess to tackle and play central defence.  He also had the intelligence to organise a defence and his ability as a playmaker allowed him to move the ball quickly up the field. The rest is well-known history in soccer.  Beckenbauer became known as the father of the offensive-minded sweeper as West Germany won the WC in 1974.


The Sweeper winning the World Cup in 1974

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

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