Team work makes the dream work

I have had an odd relationship with the World Cup this year. Every four years my life was punctuated by the event and spectacle that is the World Cup.

However, this year’s World Cup finished after penalties of the final in 2006. Why? Well as an Italian supporter, that was our moment, and we would be dining out on that (as would the players) for at least another World Cup or two.

This year I have been able to watch the World Cup in South Africa with a pragmatic and analytical approach. My conclusion? Team work makes the dream work. The rise of the team like never before.

The number 10 has long been dead in the modern game: the fantasist, the one man team. Perhaps Messi or Ronaldo could fit that mould, but not at this World Cup.

Gone are the days of Roberto Baggio carrying (on one leg) an average Italian side to a heroically tragic end. Or Maradona pulling the strings in 1986. Even in World Cup 2006 we had Zidane in the last chance saloon, dusting some magic over a terribly awkward French team.

This year we have seen the rise of the team. The premise is slightly odd. “We have always had teams you fool” I can hear you cry; “The Germans! They are always a machine-like team.” Well, not really. Not since 1990 were they really efficient. Even at the Euro’s in 1996 they could not be described as machine-like.

No, this year we have seen that the team must always be greater than the sum of its parts. Germany, Uruguay, Holland. All semi finalists, all nations where the team comes first.

The irony is not lost on me that Holland have a fantastic chance to win their first ever World Cup, even if  the names of Gio Van Bronckorst, Andre Ooijer, Khalid Boularouz and Dirk Kuyt do not compare with those of Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and more in the country’s illustrious football history. But for Holland, team work is making the dream work.

Similarly Germany, the breakout team of this World Cup, have put the team above individuals. Sure, they have some fantastic individual players, but to play the counter attacking football that they do you need disciplined team mates filling in to allow the explosive Muller, Ozil and ahem, Klose, to break out.

What of those who put individuality above the team? Look no further than the current France squad, or to England, who seem mentally incapable of performing on the big stage.

Are the days of individuals carrying a team to World Cup or international glory gone? I think so. European leagues are much stronger, with more global recruitment strategies. Small countries are more tactically aware, space is at a premium and Adidas like to make sure the playing field is as level as possible with lighter balls that mean more unpredictably.

The classic number 10 position hasn’t disappeared from the game, and Messi and Ronaldo will make sure of that, but the number 10 will just have to be another number – ready to add some dream dust to the team work – when appropriate.

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