The evolution of a position: From fox in the box to box-to-box

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Football is an ever evolving game.The tactical changes in football have compelled it to undergo many sorts of positional operations.

The modern concept of attacking in football is largely different from that of the past. The compact lines of defence, as well as the rigorous screening of the opposition managers before the game, has not only tightened the game’s attacking display tactically; but also has improved the quality and overall inclusive nature of the game. Strikers of the present era are largely different from that of the past.

In the 1950’s, 60’s, and even in the late 90’s and 2000’s there was a unique breed of strikers who were only deployed to convert the chances made by the playmakers of a particular team, they didn’t have any defensive or playmaking duty as the strikers of the present era have.

“The Magical Magyars” refers to the legendary Hungarian team of the 1950’s which undoubtedly was one of the greatest footballing teams ever in the history of the game. The front three of the team comprised of Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti and most importantly “The Galloping Major” Ferenc Puskás. In this team, three of the players had three separate duties. Both Hidegkuti and Puskás were inside forwards and they created many chances, as well as converting many. But Kocsis was a fox in the box. He was solely responsible for converting the chances made by Hidegkuti, Puskás and other midfielders. He didn’t have any other duty than to convert these chances created by the other two. Kocsis did exactly same for FC Barcelona, where his unique finishing skill was instrumental in winning many important games.

The 1966 World Cup saw Geoffry Hurst play the same role as a pure out and out striker who lacked any other ability than finishing the chances, with Sir Bobby Charlton as the man behind him orchestrating the attacking display by providing balls. Speaking of Charlton, his Manchester United teammate Denis Law was an out and out striker as well, who finished the chances created mainly by Charlton himself and the legendary George Best.

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The 1970 World Cup saw the rise of a striker who’s unique finishing skill mesmerized and enthralled the whole world for the next decade. He was none other than Gerhard Müller. Initially being described as a fat lad and irrelevant for football by the manager of his youth team. Müller finally broke out in the Germany squad and also for Bayern München, where he won innumerable titles including the World Cup, the Euro Cup, as well as three back to back UEFA Champions League titles. Müller’s only ability was finishing the ball and he hardly possessed any dribbling or defensive skills.

Paola Rossi in 1982 World Cup and Jorge Valdano In 1986 WC played almost the same role for Italy and Argentina; the World Cup winning teams respectively. The decade of 90’s saw the striker’s role getting changed with the arrival of Marco Van Basten, Jürgen Klinsmann, Ronaldo Lima, Romario and many others who contributed in other displays of the game along with finishing.

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Gabriel Batistuta and Miroslav Klose are the last possible Foxes in the box. Presently, there are no such strikers and the attacking prowess is solely controlled by a bunch of hard working forwards who even dare to move back to help the team defensively.