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The History of Numbers: Argentina

The History of Numbers: Argentina

Recently, we examined how the ‘classic’ English numbering system came into being through a series of gradual changes. Different methods evolved in different countries, however.

If you’re on this site, you probably have more than a passing interest in numbers and therefore it’s likely you have wondered more than once why South American teams tend to have the number 5 in midfield. For Argentina, for example, Fernando Redondo, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago have all been what is known as el volante or ‘the rudder’.

When the 2-3-5 was in use in Argentina, it was numbered the same as in Britain: 2 and 3 in defence, 4, 5 and 6 the half-backs and 7-11 across the forward line.

With the change to three in defence, however, there was no set in formula. Where the number 5 dropped back between the full-backs in England, in Argentina it was the right-half who now operated as a right-back, with the other two defender shunted across but retaining their numbers.

When a four-man defence was adopted, as in Britain it was the number 6 who became a centre-back, but here he partnered the number 2 with 3 moving across to left-back. Number 8 became a midfielder while 10 withdrew slightly from the attack. Eventually, this would become a 4-3-3, with 5, 8 and 10 in midfield.

Later, the number 11 became the left-midfielder with 7 partnering 9 up front, though playing in more of a withdrawn role. This is the numbering style that Argentina have used more or less to the present day, though sometimes 11 operates as the second striker.

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  1. Alex Howells
    June 14, 2019 at 23:52 — Reply

    Noticed even Argentine women’s World Cup team v England today had a back four of 4 2 6 3.

  2. June 20, 2018 at 19:25 — Reply

    […] The History of Numbers: Argentina […]

  3. Pablo
    February 28, 2018 at 19:28 — Reply

    This is great. I was reading old entries thinking “There should be a post about the numbering we use in Argentina” and here it is. Spot on.
    It is still current, and it’s weird for us to see a number 2 playing at right back and a number 5 playing defence.
    Great work, as always!

    • May 2, 2018 at 09:10 — Reply

      Thanks a lot Pablo, and apologies for the late reply!
      Am I right in thinking that players in Argentina don’t really like high numbers and the aim is generally to get down to 1-11?

  4. October 18, 2014 at 20:03 — Reply

    I love that someone is writing about this. Does the Argentine method also apply to Brazil? Their recent national teams have tended to use numbers 2-3-4-6 across the defence, with number 5 in midfield (Cerezo, Alemao, Mauro Silva, Cesar Sampaio, etc). Their forwards have also often worn 7 and 9 (Muller and Careca in ’86) or 7 and 11 (Bebeto and Romario in ’94).

    • October 18, 2014 at 20:06 — Reply

      Hi James,

      Thanks for the comment. The Brazilian way will be featured in a post of its own, hopefully next week.

  5. October 16, 2014 at 12:13 — Reply

    This of course went to pot when Argentina allocated squad numbers aplabetically in 78 and 82.

  6. Jay29ers
    October 16, 2014 at 10:42 — Reply

    Hnnnngggg. This really is too good. I had never thought about the patterns, or that there could be a specific system in place here. Immediately I think of Claudio Lopez wearing #7 in 1998, for example, and things start to make sense. Brilliant.

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The History of Numbers: Argentina