Nick Perera on Soccer View: Evolve or Die
The opening week of the World Cup has blown brackets and bets apart across the world. With all the preparation that goes into a World Cup campaign, it is incredible to think that some teams have not adapted to the challenges that the Brazilian climate demands, and that teams have dropped key games which have left them dejected. To blame the performances exclusively on the climate would be, in my opinion, a cowardly retreat and excuse for something much larger at hand.
Here is new columnist, professional player Nick Perera on Evolve or Die
What happened with the reigning 2010 World Cup Champion Spain?
In Spain’s case, they came to the tournament with high expectations for a possible repeat of 2010’s success, but they were done and dusted handily in two quick and painful games. Neither Spain’s tactical plan nor roster has changed since their 2010 Championship run, but what was different, and starkly so, was the level of preparedness of their opposition.
Soccer is a constantly evolving sport, and technological advances have allowed scouting to be much easier, with game tape readily available through the Internet, and programs like ProZone that actually break down data into manageable and revealing statistics.
Spain, quite simply, did not evolve their style of play, much like the stories of FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich during this last season; where both teams were unable to replicate the glory of past seasons. Spain became stagnant, predictable, and did not offer something that made them extremely difficult to beat, as they did when their “tiki-taka” was a novelty.
England came up against two very strong teams in Italy and Uruguay, and lost both games with identical score-lines and in very similar circumstances: they held much of the possession, and dictated most of the game, but their counterparts converted the goal scoring chances they created.
England, contrary to Spain, is not locked into a tactical scheme that dictates their entire game-plan, but they do have aspects of their game that characterize their play. English soccer usually bases much of its attacking play on the wings, with very quick wingers and outside backs whipping crosses into opposing boxes to create havoc. The difference between this England and some of the more successful teams they have had is the quality of the crossers are not the same, and the strikers do not have the same strength and build as in previous years.
Crossing the ball into Daniel Sturridge just isn’t the same as pumping it up to Andy Carroll or Peter Crouch. There is no David Beckham on the wing, and there’s no true big man in the box. With the style of play the English enjoy, Rickie Lambert was the only forward they brought who really enjoys a whipped cross, and his experience on the international stage isn’t exactly extensive. If England intends to get better and become a dominant international force (like their domestic league – EPL) they will have to develop a style of play that coincides with the type of player which their professional academies are developing.
Brazil is an example of a team who has known how to evolve their game to the style of play that not only excites the crowd, but is also functional and result-driven. Brazil’s style of play has always permitted for moments of individual flair and self-expression, but now they have understood that their roster isn’t as incredibly talented as they were in 2002, when they had Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Denilson, or Ronaldinho for example — who, at any moment — could take over a game, score a few goals and single-handedly occupy an entire back line. They now have a great combination between their workhorses and their game-winners, leaving Neymar, Oscar and Hulk to attack at will, knowing that Luis Gustavo, Paulinho and Ramires will sweep up after them.
This is also why Argentina decided to field a 5 man defensive line; in order to cover the gaps left by Messi, Aguero and Di Maria.
Ultimately, a national team is the representation of the ability to produce not only top talent, but also to create a style of play that not only enables that talent to express their abilities, but also that presents a true difficulty to other teams.
If a team is unable to evolve their style of play into giving them a multi-faceted system that challenges opponents all over the world, independent of scouting, then they are doomed to fizz out over time.