Monday, July 14, 2014

The Problem with Superstars.

The routes that both teams took to the final were quite different. The Germans had been exceptionally successful and made history by crushing the host nation, Brazil (A nation that considers the World Cup its birthright) by seven goals to one. The Argentinians by contrast scrapped through all their games and were to all intents and purposes, saved by Mr. Messi’s talents.

World Cup 2014 has been a success by most counts. Despite protest against the World Cup, the football on display has been spectacular with a record number of goals being scored.

What’s been especially wonderfully pleasing about World Cup 2014 has been the fact that this has been the year for teams from obscure nations without great superstars. The biggest of giant killer was Costa Rica, which defeated both Uruguay and Italy in the first round and were only knocked out in a penalty shootout against eventual third-place finishers – the Netherlands. You could say that it has been an occasion for the triumph of the team over the superstar.

This is not to say that superstars aren't important. A single brilliant individual can make the difference between success and failure. One only has to think of Diego Maradona, who inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 (My English friends will no doubt remind us that he did cheat a little via the “hand of God” incident) and despite the lackluster performance of the Argentine team, he managed to get them into the final of the 1990 World Cup.

However, while we all admire brilliance in an individual, depending on a single individual player is downright stupid. The biggest example was found in the host nation, Brazil. The Brazilian team of 2014 was built around of the brilliance of their striker, Neymar. While Brazil did reach the semi-finals, it often looked as if they needed Neymar to either score or create the scoring opportunity. Then Mr. Neymar had to be carried off in a stretcher after the quarter final against Columbia. This proved to be the beginning of the end. In the semi-final, Brazil was humiliated with the 7-1 drubbing by Germany and couldn’t salvage any pride in the third-place play-off when they lost 3-0 to the Netherlands.

By all accounts, the Brazilian team, which had brilliantly conquered all in the Confederation Cup a year earlier, was lost without Mr. Neymar.

By contrast, the Germans knew what they were doing. There times when they struggled but by and large, the German team had found a way to play tactically sound and yet exciting football week. The Germans, as an article by Businessweek stated, had planned this moment over forty years. After a low moment in the late 1990s, the Germans invested in things like talent development and management. The results proved to be spectacular, with Germany coming third in both 2006 and 2010, losing only to eventual Champions, Italy and Spain.

Germany has been played as a team. Traditionally, the Germans were considered a team that played defensive football. However, the latest German team has found a way of becoming more exciting in attack and yet remained tactically careful in defense. The results speak for themselves.

Somehow, Germany has avoided the trap of building its strategy around a single individual. The focus has been on the team.

We may yet see Mr. Messi provide that stroke of genious that inspires Argentina to World Cup Glory. Many will be hopping to see the World’s Best player make some magic.

However, it may healthy for Germany to win. It will remind us that football, like much else in life, is often a team effort, where success is a combination of many efforts.