CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — In a World Cup full of goals and attacking intent, the scoreless draw between Iran and Nigeria stood out.
The Iran side has been criticized for playing defensively, and trying to strangle the game. It joins a long list of teams accused of "parking the bus" in order to grind out results.
While it may not make for entertaining games, defensive tactics have often been hugely successful in football — sometimes even helping underdogs win major titles.
Football has always been a battle between attack and defense, and here are four examples of when the latter came out on top.
INTER MILAN IN THE 1960S: Rightly or wrongly, Italy has a reputation for playing defensive football. Much of that stems from the great Inter Milan side of the 1960s, which won three Serie A titles and two European Cups. Under Argentine coach Helenio Herrera, Inter perfected the "catenaccio" style of football, which translates as "door bolt." Under his system, four defenders man-mark opposing attacking players, while a "libero" sweeps up anything that gets through. The goals would come from swift counter-attacks, often involving long balls. Though offensive innovations, such as the "total football" practiced by the great Netherlands side of the 1970s, contributed to the neutralization of "catenaccio," the tradition of the strong and often ruthless Italian defender has continued through the decades with the likes of Claudio Gentile, Franco Baresi and Fabio Cannavaro.
ARGENTINA AT 1990 WORLD CUP: Argentina was a very different team in the 1990 World Cup in Italy compared to the one that won the title four years earlier in Mexico. Though it was still led by the great Diego Maradona, Argentina won over few neutral fans. Though it made the final, where it lost 1-0 to West Germany, Argentina only scored five goals in the seven games it played. As the tournament progressed, Argentina under coach Carlos Bilardo played an increasingly defensive game seemingly in an attempt to get to a penalty shootout. It won two shootouts in the quarterfinal against an often-exhilarating Yugoslavia side following a scoreless stalemate and then knocked the host out in the semis after a 1-1 draw. One innovation that came largely as a result of the caution displayed by Argentina and other, was FIFA's decision to introduce the back-pass rule whereby a goalkeeper was banned from handling a ball if it was deliberately passed back by a member of his team.