Oh, What a World Cup!

Every World Cup has its moments. But upon the end of this one, we will probably be reminiscing about Colombia’s James Rodriguez’s strike against Uruguay in the last 16, last Saturday.

My word! Hamez as the name James is pronounced in this case and in Spanish, could have you eating your heart out seeing the fashion in which he has announced himself on the big stage. And not only has the Colombian youngster awed with his fine goals, leadership, intelligent passing and high sense of imagination that now carries the hopes of a nation his amazing displays have brought honour to that shirt number 10.

These days few players really don that number and don’t disgrace it. It hurts to the bone when that happens to football’s most glorified shirt number. Apart from Lionel Messi, Francesco Totti and Wayne Rooney today, many clubs struggle to find suitable candidates for it.

At one time Kevin Prince Boateng was wearing it at AC Milan as Edin Dzeko does at Man-City. Not that Prince and Dzeko aren’t good players but I am at pains to even countenance that they were even allowed to touch that shirt in the first place if you are to consider how talented its original ancestors like Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Abedi Pele, JJ Okotcha, Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Baggio and Rui Costa were.

That shirt number was only for the cregraveme de la cregraveme. And that is why some football clubs like Napoli chose to retire it in honour of the legendary Diego Maradona. However, I am not in favour of retiring numbers like Arsenal and Milan did shirt 6 upon the retiring of Tony Adams and Franco Baresi respectively.

Maybe resting numbers like Juventus did when Alessandro Del Piero left is the most appropriate thing until a suitable heir to it is found. But not retiring them like Inter Milan did this week to the shirt 4 following Javier Zanetti’s retirement too.

Football clubs must realize that retiring numbers is purely senseless because so many starlets dream of emulating their gone idols in play and even in donning the shirt numbers they wore before them. Barcelona, Man-Utd, Real Madrid and Juventus are among some historical sides that don’t retire numbers otherwise, Raul’s 7 wouldn’t be on Cristiano Ronaldo’s back now.

It is good to keep the legacy continuing from one generation to another although I must admit that continuity in football styles and philosophies hasn’t been exhibited at this World Cup like we have grown accustomed to over the years.

For example, Italy were known for defensive solidity, which was a highlight of their World Cup triumph in 2006. They only conceded two goals throughout. This time, they were living dangerously throughout. Instead, they were trying to play tikitalia.

Rare as it is for the Italians to play without a fantasista (classic ten), so has it been for Brazil without a dazzling and free-scoring number nine. In fact, apart from troubling the birds in the air, the Brazilians are a real shadow of their ‘samba’ sexy football old selves. However, the same applies to the Dutch, who now play a more pragmatic game than their natural flair style emblazoned with the total football approach.

In addition, the Dutch religiously played in a 4-3-3 formation, yet this time, they have adopted a 3-5-2 affectionately under coach Louis Van Gaal. Although Van Gaal is such a master tactician, whose choice of formation normally depends on the players he has, Holland hasn’t been the only team using the 3-5-2. Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Italy and Algeria have all been part and parcel to the return of this system that has been frowned at for the last fifteen or so years as being complicated while others rendered it archaic.

But the aantages it brings are enormous too. Teams have the chance to use two strikers as they variate between wing play and having midfield numbers, a vital component needed to subdue an opponent. We should see the 3-5-2 become mainstream more commonly in club football as a result, the same way African footballers like crying foul that the rest of the world is against Africa in football isn’t unique anymore.

I don’t know if it is simply inferiority complex or something, but blaming others for one’s shortcomings is so much of an African disease. Yaya Toure commented this week that the manner in which Ivory Coast were bundled out of the World Cup by Greece required a major inquest following the late dubious penalty, yet no one in Fifa appeared to care to do that.

Yaya’s reasoning was that Fifa saw no need to because the victims crying foul were Africans. I really find that so low of Yaya and maybe the record just needs to be set straight. The reason why Bosnia and Herzegovina couldn’t make the second round of the World Cup was because one referee disallowed Edin Dzeko’s legitimate goal against Nigeria.

Football, in its true nature, is full of mistakes, which cancel each other out you get some and lose some. Firstly, if Yaya had played well throughout, and together with his colleagues not fluffed their lines against Greece, maintained concentration and played smartly in keeping the ball in the dying seconds of that game, a weakness seen in all African teams, they would still be in the Championship. So, give us a break, Yaya!


France v Germany: 1-1

Brazil v Colombia: 2-1

Holland v Costa Rica: 3-1

Argentina v Belgium: 1-1

Source : The Observer

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