By Cui Can
BEIJING, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Young Chinese players should play attacking football, generally with 4-3-3 formation, exercise one-against-one dribbling skills, and build the Chinese Football DNA, Chris Van Puyvelde, technical director of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Friday.
As the former technical chief of the Belgian Football Association (KBVB), Van Puyvelde was one of the masterminds behind the Belgian team at the 2018 World Cup Russia, where they finished third.
After signing a four-year contract with the CFA until 2022, the 59-year-old Belgian came to China in November 2018. In the past five months, he has watched games at all levels including the quarterfinals between China and Iran at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which China lost 3-0, and picked out the challenging factors for the Chinese side.
"Iran are very strong and quick. When the match tempo became fast, the Chinese team would make a lot of mistakes," said Van Puyvelde, "Chinese players have a one-two-three process. One, you get the ball. Two, you think who you give the ball to. Three, you have the solution. In top football teams, it's the one-process. Before you receive the ball, you have to know what to do."
"It's not the matter of one player, it's about the team's level, and in order to raise the level, we need the right process and to make it step by step, only after that you can get the good result."
He takes Qatar as an example, saying that the Qatari team which took the title at the 2019 Asian Cup has had Spanish coach Felix Sanchez Bas since 2006. Their patience paid off when the side beat Asia's top teams such as Japan and South Korea.
"Good results can only be achieved by sticking to the right process. Now my job in China is to push forward this process," said the member of the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee.
Meanwhile, Van Puyvelde said he would work with the CFA's task force to inspire Chinese youth coaches and players to play attacking football with 4-3-3 formation, but he would not try to "persuade" others. Instead, he will be willing to express his ideas through training demonstrations and go through "co-creation" with his Chinese colleagues.
Van Puyvelde believes that the foundation of a footballer is to learn one-against-one dribbling skills, which can help him to master overall tactics in the future.
He assumed that even if a youth team encountered a strong opponent like Manchester City in training, he would not encourage the team to pack their defense deep at the penalty area, but would require them to press forward.
When it comes to the selection criteria in China's youth training, Van Puyvelde believes the old standards should be changed. "Some players are late maturing. You can't pass a player just because he's not tall and strong enough at a young age. I hope to choose a skillful player with great potential in the future."
Also, he pointed out that players should learn to scan their surroundings like a radar before they receive the ball.
"Players need to know the space around them. I call it 'scanning'. In training, I always asked players to raise their arms and describe the positions of the opponents behind them."
After the defeats at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, Belgian football began to change their playing style, by transforming defensive zonal marking to attacking football with most of the teams adopting a 4-3-3 system.
"We brought everybody together in the task force to discuss what our playing style should be. In addition, we put emphasis on attacking football and one-against-one skills in youth training," he said.
As a supporter of Pep Guadiola's football philosophy, Van Puyvelde also stressed that China should develop its own playing style rather than just duplicate the models from other countries, and announced a so called "Chinese Football DNA" plan after talks with CFA, which advocates a series of values like "attacking football, more speed, have more fun, smart, more confidence and creativity, more aggressive, ball possession and flexible."
In the meantime, the task force will build a scouting system for Chinese football, improving the design of youth competitions and introducing the licensing system.
One CFA official told Xinhua that the plan also includes job descriptions and assessment for foreign coaches and asks them to cooperate with Chinese coaches, with a view to have more excellent local coaches in the future.