(written in July 2010)
The victories of Netherlands and Germany should be celebrated by purists who value teamwork over star players.
Neither of these teams have players of the market value of Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Kaka, etc, but they have stuff which Mastercard cannot buy. They have self belief, they have the ability to bounce back (demonstrated by the Dutch in their match against Brazil), they have the killer instinct, they rely on each other, they celebrate each others’ achievements, and they work hard.
They pass the ball and make space for each other, they fall back to cover for their colleagues – they really love being together.
How many goals have Arjen Robben, or Nigel de Jong, or Philip Lahm or Bastian Schweinsteiger scored? Does it matter? When Mathijsen was in danger of being caught out of position, Kuyt came in to cover. When Badstuber had a moment of self-doubt, it was Podolski who offered help.
This is the most positive thing to have come out of this world cup so far – teams matter far more than individuals. The other is that superstar coaches are not necessary to bring out superstar performances – Loew is well on the way to becoming a superstar, van Marwijk perhaps not as yet. Maybe after this world cup, they will. But they are not in the same league as the fab Dutch 4 of Beenhakker, van Gaal, Hiddinck and Advocaat, or the fab Italians either of Lippi, Capello, Trappatoni, et al.
Leadership does not necessary come only from stars. It comes from someone who inspires and bonds the team.
I am looking forward to a replay of the 1974 Final.
There’s only one team from South America left – Uruguay, a team which also seem to subscribe to the same ethos I have tried to describe above.