Tiki-taka is the most successful football tactic of the last decade. But few people know who is the real inventor of tike-taka. Most people assume that Pep Guardioala invented the tiki-taka, but this is completely false because Guardiola’s Barcelona perfected a tactic that has been known since late 1960s. The real inventor of tiki-taka is the late Romanian head-coach Angelo Niculescu. If you really don’t believe me, you can check UEFA’s acknowledgement regarding Niculescu’s contribution to the development of football.
The Romanian football disappeared from Europe’s football map after the Second World War. The inventor of tiki-taka, Angelo Niculescu, revolutionized Romanian football by creating a tactic that was meant to keep the ball in the midfield area and prepare the offensive actions and profit from the newly created free spaces. The tactic was locally called “delaying” because the ball was kept as much as possible inside its own half in order to prevent the opposition to create goal chances. Niculescu’s delaying resembled so much with tiki-taka because the ball was kept in the midfield and short passes were exchanged inside its own half in order to look for offensive solutions and potential breaches. This tactic was then improved by Romania’s Golden Generation in 1994 World Cup and then later on brought to perfection by Guardiola in 2009.
The inventor of tiki-taka developed this style in a critical moment for the Romanian national squad. Romanian national squad had not been participating in any international or continental competition since 1938 World Cup. The Romanian national squad was frequently defeated at 5-6 goals difference in 1950s and 1960s. The reason behind those defeats was the fact that Romania was a closed country due to the communist regime and information from the West hardly penetrated. As a result, most of the Romanian club teams were playing an outdated 1-3-2-5 tactic (a football style that was common in the early 1950s) and some even used interwar tactics like 1-2-3-5. Romanian teams were playing a slow football and were lacking real tactical organization. As a result, Romanian football teams were unable to counter the new football styles from the West. As opposed to their adversaries, Romanian football players were not familiar with the concept of man-marking and did not know how to counter it.
Angelo Niculescu, the inventor of tiki-taka, was named head-coach of Romania’s national team in 1967. Romania suffered a humiliating defeat, 1-7, against Switzerland and failed to qualify for Euro 1968 and Niculescu was brought to save a sinking boat. The inventor of tiki-taka revamped Romania’s style of play with a view to create a tactic that would benefit the abilities of Romanian football players. Niculescu’s delaying was meant to prevent Romanian’s players to enter in long physical duels with opponents and annoy the adversaries that were making pressing by passing successively between defenders and midfielders. By forcing the opponents to lose their patience because they cannot take the ball, the tactic implied that the midfielders will use long balls to exploit the free spaces left by the opposition. This style of play was beneficial for Romanians because it finally managed to counter the tactics of the Western teams. The inventor of tiki-taka based his slow, boring passing style on the premises that the opponents will lose their patience and lucidity and will no longer man-mark the offensive players of the Romanian squad.
The results of this successful tactic appeared immediately. Angelo Niculescu, the inventor of tiki-taka, managed to qualify Romania with ease to 1970 World Cup. It was an incredible performance because Romania managed to qualify from the first position, in front of Eusebio’s Portugal (the bronze of the 1966 World Cup) and Greece. Niculescu’s national squad managed to beat 1-0 the World Cup holders, England, in a friendly match on Wembley in 1969. Unfortunately, Romania was handed a tough group in 1970 World Cup and had to play against World Cup holders England, Pele’s Brazil and Czechoslovakia. England had its revenge over the defeat from 1969 and managed to narrowly beat Romania 1-0. The delaying tactic proved successful against Czechoslovakia (2-1) and managed to create serious problems for Brazil even though Niculescu’s squad was defeated by Pele’s team with 3-2.
Using the delaying tactic developed by the inventor of tiki-taka Romania managed to become a force of the European football in the early 1970s. Romania was unlucky and it did not manage to qualify for the final 4 of the Euro 1972 being defeated by Hungary in the Quarter Finals after 3 legs.
Angelo Niculescu created a style that was later turned by Josep Guardiola into a football masterpiece. Gerd Muller, the legendary player of West Germany, played against Niculescu’s Romania in a friendly match in 1970. Romania surprisingly drawed 1-1 against West Germany and Gerd Muller characterized Romania’s style of play as “tic-toc passes with the loser in the middle”.
My name is Danut Codrescu and I am the main contributor to AthsLife.com. Sport represents a passion for me and I have decided to write about phenomena. I have practiced karate for 13 years, 2 years of swimming and I have started to participate in half marathons and 42.195 km races. I am writing about stories that inspired me throughout my life.