Many people know that Brazil has flair, skill and is well known for dribbling abilities. The Dutch are known for their total football and the Germans for their organization on the field. The Italians have mastered the art of defending well and absorbing pressure. This style of football was first unveiled during the 60s, and they ended up perfecting this strategy by supporting to win.

This style of football is known as ‘Catenaccio’ and in literal terms means ‘Calcio’, which translates to bolt or lock up in Italian.

The Italians and their clubs in the Serie A have used this defences strategy since the early 60s for over 40 years to dominate international football. During this time, they claimed 4 FIFA World Cups and 16 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE trophies; of which Juventus won 5, Inter Milan won 4, and Ac Milan won 7 trophies in that period.  

So how did this strategy come to be? How did the Italians incorporate it into Serie A? We tackle all these questions in this post.

The origins of ‘Catenaccio’ football 

The essence of ‘Catenaccio’ football is tightening a football team’s defence. The Italians may be well known for this style of football; however, the style didn’t originate in Italy. The man responsible for introducing this strategy is an Austrian, Karl Rappan, who used this style while being the head coach of Switzerland in the 1930s and 1940s.

Taking a closer look at the ‘Catenaccio’ strategy 

The original strategy used a sweeper in a defence known as ‘Libero’ in Italian. With the added defender in the sweeper, the position served as a double defensive line, making it difficult for opposing teams to penetrate. It also relied on tight man-marking in defensive positions. A player in the midfield had to be sacrificed for the sweeper to take up his place. In this regard, some of the best sweepers were Lothar Matthäus and Franz Beckenbauer.

The sweepers’ role was to nullify attackers, get hold of any loose balls and start an attack in his half while also carrying out sweeping duties in the centre of the pitch. The sweeper was so vital in the ‘Catenaccio’ strategy.

Is the ‘Catenaccio’ strategy still relevant today?

Today in Serie A, the Catenaccio strategy has gradually declined due to the prominent ‘total football’ that is more attractive to the fans. Furthermore, sweepers have become obsolete these days as the teams in Serie A are keen on loading the team with more attacking players.

As time went on from the 80s, 90s and 2000s, the defending of Italian teams started being celebrated and acknowledged. However, the Serie A and the Italian national team have become synonymous with producing great defenders due to the’ Catenaccio’ strategy due to the’ Catenaccio’ strategy. As time went on from the 80s, 90s and 2000s, the defending of Italian teams started being celebrated and acknowledged. Because of the ‘Catenaccio’ way, defenders adapted to not only clearing the ball in possession, but they garnered the skill of passing it out of tough spots. Furthermore, they also didn’t shy away from confrontation, and if the situation required, they would give away fouls in a tactical situation which gave them an edge in games.

It is evident today when Italy reached the quarterfinals of the Euros in 2016 and only lost on penalties. Their latest achievement was winning the 2020 Euros with a resilient defence, and many people said the fortitude of their defence was their most significant asset in this tournament. Through the years, they have consistently produced world-class defenders. That’s why so many people prefer to make bets on Serie A football.

Some of the most famous names include Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Alessandro Nesta, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci. There are also some new prospects on the horizon with Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani, and Adam Masina.


The Catenaccio style of play in Serie A will forever be ingrained in the league and National team. It has led the Serie A teams to become defensively solid and resilient. When facing a team from the Serie A, all other teams know they are in for a tough match, and they will need to break down their defence. With new players carrying this method forward, maybe we could see the return of the ‘Catenaccio’ strategy.