Scott Minto on how to win the World Cup
Who will win the World Cup? If we knew that for certain, we’d re-mortgage the house, put it all on that team and end up living in Barbados for the rest of our days! But unless we can steal the DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future films, we’ll all have to have a bet and then keep our fingers crossed.
What you need though is great players, the right style of play, the ability to get past a penalty shootout and luck!
All the countries involved either have the players or they don’t. And there’s not a lot you can do about luck. The other two can be worked at though.
Let’s start with the style of play. To lift the World Cup, you need to win 7 games in around 28 days. Ok, you don’t have to win all the group games, but the winners will have to play one game every four days and still be in peak condition at the end of the tournament. A tough thing to do in the hot and humid conditions of Brazil.
In Euro 2012, Spain did it well, coasting to the semi-final, they came up against a stubborn Portugal (but were still by far the better side in the second-half and extra-time), then blitzed Italy making it look as if it was ‘La Roja’s’ first game of the tournament, not their last.
They played a style of football that didn’t exhaust them, only their opponents. It is a lot more tiring to play without the ball, – chasing, hustling, harrying – than it is to have it.
Even if you see stats where one team has a lot more possession than the other but they have similar running distances, trust me, the team without the ball will feel a lot more tired mentally and that will build up through the tournament.
Any team that bases its play on running a lot, pressing all the time and hoping for mistakes, will not win the World Cup. With a lot of the harsh weather conditions in Brazil, the bottom line is that you need to keep the ball, be happy in possession and look to receive it even if you are marked. Barcelona have shown recently that possession hasn’t always been key, but in a tournament, with the games coming thick and fast, it is the best way of keeping players fresh.
In Euro 2012 I saw an England side who didn’t want the ball under pressure, defenders who were scared to drop off and get it from Joe Hart, and a goalkeeper who kicked it long every time he received a back pass (maybe because there were no options).
Roy Hodgson’s 2014 version seem to be very different. He has picked a young ‘fearless’ squad with pace and power. He must insist, and demand it in training, that they draw teams out by being comfortable with the ball, wanting to receive it and playing with freedom.
That’s easy to say but if the manager has come out publicly and said he wants his players to play that way, then the player who makes a mistake will not feel the country will want to hang him out to dry.
Pep Guardiola was a perfect example of that when in a Clasico three seasons ago. On that occasion the Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes gave a poor pass away, and subsequently conceded a goal in the very first minute, in front of 80,000 people at the Bernebeu with nearly half a billion watching around the world. Despite the early setback, he carried on playing out from the back, Barca wore Real Madrid down and ran out 3-1 winners. Guardiola said it was all thanks to Valdes. It wasn’t, but we knew what he meant.
Let’s get on to penalties. The days of people saying ‘you can’t replicate the pressures so there’s no point in practicing’ have long gone. Jonny Wilkinson practiced, practiced, practiced in front of no one for hours on end. When it came to the real thing, he must have been very nervous but as most of his kicks went through the posts, we all thought he wasn’t.
There must be NOTHING like that walk from the halfway line to the ball, knowing the whole country (whole world) is watching. Don’t tell me any England player won’t be nervous. But if they can rely on that technique they’ve been working on in training, that they KNOW as soon as the referee blows his whistle at the end of extra-time, they will know where they’ll put the ball in the shootout, it lessens the chance of a miss.
I like that Roy Hodgson has said England will practice regularly but also looking at two places to put the ball. There is a chance we will have to get past at least one shootout and with the amount of research goalkeepers do now, the players will need a second option.
Who knows who will the World Cup? There are many very good technical teams out there Germany, The Netherlands, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Italy, France and Portugal while my big favourites are the same as most…Spain, Brazil, Argentina and dare I say….England??
Scratch off that last team. While I’m excited about the youth and the fact that many of the players in the squad aren’t scarred by previous experiences, I know I’m thinking with my heart on that one. It’s going to be tough just to get out of the group stages!