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Flávio Costa: Diagonal, how the story is told

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2021-12-22 14:41:14

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Diagonal, how the story is told
Flávio Costa | 23/08/1948

With the intensification of debates in the press around the tactics of Brazilian football, Mario Filho asked for my statement, also bringing a modest contribution to clarifying the matter. And given the imperative of Mario Filho's request, who is without favor one of the most authoritative scholars of the matter, here I am after the brilliant sentences of Vargas Neto, Ari Barroso, José Maria Scassa, César Seara, Geraldo Romualdo da Silva and Ricardo Serran, to write something unpretentious but true about the history of the diagonal.
First, the baptismal name of the Brazilian tactical system — which has already crossed our borders, as in Europe (Portugal & Spain), in the south of the continent and beyond Andres, I found coaches concerned about knowing details of the diagonal, and at Prata and in the mountain range, it already appears as the favorite weapon for teams to lift the championship — it's due to our perceptive press, who noticed the structure of teams on the field, with one more advanced than the other, called it "geometrically" diagonal.
The origin of the use of the diagonal was due to the need to apply to our football, in a state of brilliant development, a game discipline that would enable the coach to give the frame a controllable performance up to a certain point, even giving him means to block the opponent's vital points. Solidifying the defense, it also had conditions to arm itself in attack, in order to try to surprise the opposing defenses, or maneuvers planned on the field.
Kürschner, on the other hand, had tried, without success, to use the WM system at Flamengo, as he did not know how to choose suitable men for the posts. It is said in São Paulo that, before Kürschner, the aforementioned system had already been applied, in the S. P. R. or Ipiranga, under the direction of De Domenico. The failure of the famous Hungarian coach in Rio, putting the WM in inferiority compared to the classic and comfortable Brazilian style of marking by zones, caused it to be abandoned, with the Hungarian coach, however, having the great merit of planting the seed, what more later the diagonal would germinate.
The British system, more rigid and depending on absolute perfection in its execution, could be the ideal to be practiced by English players, but in Brazil, where the player was everything, the difficulties to import a certain game system could only be overcome, with the creation of a style that is easy to adapt and that, due to the immediate success, made it believed by the performing players.
It can be pointed out, as a fundamental difference between the WM and the diagonal, that in the former, due to its rigidity, the error of one is almost fatal for the team, while on the diagonal, being more mobile, the mistake is immediately corrected by the conversion, being that the cover system is the secret to the perfection of the full performance of the tactic.
So, the diagonal was a system idealized for the Rio de Janeiro player, in accordance with our temperament and yet without depriving us of what we are always proud of — the national player's gift of improvisation. It was the diagonal used for the first time, in a team under my direction, at the beginning of 1941. The team was Flamengo and we were in Buenos Aires, to face Independiente, the local champion. The idea was already mature, it was launched after short preparation and the results were very encouraging. The six goals scored by Maril, De La Mata, Erico, Reuben and Zorilla can be taken into account by the poor performance of goalkeepers Valter and Yustrino. The final result of 8x0 satisfied the balance with which the game transformed. In the following press, the diagonal's prestige with practicing players was solidified, as we ended up completely canceling San Lorenzo's attack, led by Lángara, with this more than famous top scorer being successfully marked by the extraordinary Domingos da Guia. And Lángara failed to shoot to the goal.
Flamengo's 1941 campaign, in the Campeonato Carioca, consolidated and perfected the system that later received the name diagonal. And in the tri-championship of 1942, 43 and 44, the victory was based exclusively on the development of that style of action.
I don't pretend to be the owner of the diagonal or even to be its creator, however, what I created in the framework directed by me was the conception of a practical system capable of being developed by players with the temperament and qualities of the elements from our environment. For that, it was necessary to have at that time a star like Domingos, Volante, the disciplinary piece, and an uninterrupted work machine called Zizinho. All of these, and others who completed the work, made possible the success in the field of what had been traced out of it and which they understood as skills.
Today, with the system fully developed, even with its own nomenclature, as there are: back marker for the center and point, advanced and retracted halves, spear points, etc., players soon improve for its execution, making the work easier from the coach.
Finally, I can say that the game system used by Brazilians in international matches has almost always placed us in technical superiority, and, naturally, appearing better to the observer's eyes, since using our opponents' different systems, it stands out. the advantage of the style we use. It remains, however, that we never forget that all tactics are good, as long as they lead a frame to victory, and to execute them, whatever it may be, the coach depends on the man factor. Without the ball artist, without the disciplined player and capable of fulfilling the determinations of a coach on the field, everything will be a simple theory.
Thus, we are already in the middle of the directed football era — with two or three generations of aces who have gone through it — and we must try to prepare the players of the future, as the life of Brazilian football depends on it.