On show at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ are several players who are fulfilling roles they would not ordinarily perform for their clubs but whose versatility and ability to slot into unaccustomed positions makes them invaluable to their coaches.
Among this multi-faceted number is Argentina's Jonas Gutierrez, the Newcastle United right winger has been deployed at full-back by Albiceleste coach Diego Maradona, who sees the leggy wide man as the ideal candidate to patrol that flank. For the moment at least, the former Mallorca man is enjoying the change of scene. "I wouldn't play somewhere if I didn't feel at ease," he said after debuting in the role against Nigeria. "I feel good in this position and I think the team acquitted themselves well defensively. The key is to talk to the other defenders on the pitch. That stops you getting caught out."
Brazil duo Michel Bastos and Daniel Alves have also been handed new roles by their coach Dunga. Deployed by his Lyon boss Claude Puel in a more advanced position, Bastos played at left-back against Korea DPR in the South Americans' opening match, while Alves, the swashbuckling Barcelona right-back, took up position in right midfield when he came on for Elano in the same game.
The vision both players possess, not to mention their defensive and offensive capabilities, make them valuable pawns in Dunga's tournament strategy. And as Bastos explained, this is far from the first time in his career that he has assumed defensive duties. "Back in Brazil I played left-back for nearly five seasons," he said. "Then, shortly after I moved to Lille, the coach started using me on the left side of midfield and even on the right wing. In fact, that's something that happens a lot with Brazilian full-backs when they come to Europe."
Germany's Thomas Muller made a successful start in a wide attacking position that differs from his usual role at Bayern Munich. A support striker at Bayern, Muller marked his FIFA World Cup debut with a goal against Australia, an indication of his ease in his new role. "When the pace of the game begins to drop my job is to add a little zip. With my direct style I can bring something extra to the team," said the 20-year-old, describing his brief under Joachim Low. Georgios Samaras, a centre-forward with Celtic, is doing a similar job for Greece albeit on the opposite flank.
The question of where to play Steven Gerrard is one of the biggest conundrums facing England coach Fabio Capello. Gerrard's midfield partnership with Frank Lampard has never quite lived up to expectations and the all-action Liverpool man has already been switched from the centre to the left side of midfield in South Africa in a bid to find a winning blend. That latter role is not one he particularly enjoys, however.
"The coach has put me there and given me strict instructions to link up with Wayne Rooney," said the England captain. "He wants me to carry a threat from midfield and not just from the left. I think he understands that I'm not a left winger." Many England fans would like to see Gerrard slot in just behind Rooney and supply him with the service that the Manchester United striker has so far failed to receive, with Capello's men firing blanks in the sterile 0-0 draw with Algeria on Friday.