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How to win the World Cup

By Paul Bassey
I am not joking. I want to share with my readers today, tips on how to win the World Cup. In doing so, I know that Lars Lagerback is likely to peep and steal some ideas. Well and good.

Before I do that however, let me acknowledge the volume of mails, sms and calls I got on last week’s column, regarding sports in the Jonathan Goodluck dispensation.

My colleague and friend Mithell Obi had a good laugh reminding me that the National Sports Commission as presently constituted was an illegal body lacking the constitutional plank to operate, not to talk about the setting up of  a board.

He wondered why the bill that will set up the Commission has not been formalized.

During the week also, I ran into George Essien of Brila Radio who wanted my comments on what has come to be known as ‘Messiphobia’. I said to him that I have also fallen victim of the phobia, but henceforth I will rather concern myself with team Nigeria, the Super Eagles. My argument is a very simple one. I told the young man that before I can comment on how effective or otherwise Messi will be, I needed to see or know my own team.

If for instance Coach Lagerback comes out tomorrow to say that Shittu will be the pivot of his defence, then I can conclude that the dimunitive  Argentinian, world footballer of the year, will score a hat trick……etc…etc

A reader also called wondering what Lagerback was doing at a time that his colleagues were ready for the World Cup. I ignored the sms regulation and called him to explain that it may not be the Swede’s fault that he inherited a team that most of us said was inadequate. Now that he has decided to start afresh as it were, the players available to him are tied down to the European league calendar that will not end till May.

So, how does he get to the semi final of the World Cup?

I came across this very instructive edition ( May 2010 ) of FourFourTwo magazine with England coach, the Italian Fabio Capello on the cover. After lapping a very interesting interview, I went on to read a revealing piece entitled “

How to win the world cup by the men who have done it”

Read this “……There is no secret formula for winning the world cup. Every tournament is different from the crowds and the climate to the rules and the balls. Sometimes the most famous trophy on earth is lifted by a team of superstars, think Brazil in 1970. On other occasions underdogs prevail. Witness Uruguay toppling Brazil in the Maracana in 1950, or the miracle of Berne four years later.

“but amid the chaos of variables, some patterns do emerge” That is why the magazine sought out famous men who had won the cup before and tried to pick their brains, find out how they won the World Cup.

“….Their answers may surprise you. Amid talks of  tactics, preparation and backroom staff….” There are also the bizarre and the funny.

Before this, I think I should share with you some of the highlights of the Capello interview, a man the English are waiting eagerly to Knight and elevate above Sir Alf Ramsey because should he win the World Cup, he would have done so outside England and winning the World Cup in the modern era is a lot harder than it was in 1966. “….There are more teams involved, there are more professional footballers in the world than ever before and the World Cup is far more representative than in the past” says journalist and author Gabriele Marcotti.

Back to the Capello interview.

After a near perfect qualifying tournament that saw him winning nine and losing only one of ten matches, the England manager is now faced with a disastrous campaign no thanks to injuries to Rooney, Glen Johnson, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Aaron Lennon…then the John Terry and Wayne Bridge affair “ A moral minefield with a footballing fall out of nuclear proportions….” Who says Lagerback is the only one with player problems?

The difference here, however is that Capello has been long enough in the saddle to be able to have instant replacements without disrupting the foundation of his squad. “ Will Rooney be the same? Rio will be ready? Joe, Ashley, Cole will be ok? I don’t know….we have to prepare alternatives, other people. We have to be ready.

“We are preparing everything, gathering information…we are looking at the technical and physical level of players, we are doing blood tests, physical analyses. Investigating combinations of players —I know, for example what Wayne Rooney is like with Crouch or Heskey but maybe not with other players. We are looking at everything. But the most important thing you have to understand after this season is the physical situation of the players. It is vital, but we just don’t know now what condition the players will arrive in”  he said.

Did he say blood test? Lagerback, over to you.

Another question that I found interesting had to do with Ashley Cole. If he is fit will he make the World Cup squad? Capello replied that it was not enough to be fit. That “….if for example, Ashley Cole is fit, that’s not enough-he needs to play too. After three months of being injured he will need games” Does that tell us anything about all those Eagles players warming their club benches?

Ok, what do we need to do to get to the semi-final of the World Cup,…..win it?

Gordon Banks ( England) Be good mates — The main reason we were such a good team was because of the camaraderie between the players. There was no jealousy, no big egos, we all just got along really well and we took that spirit onto the pitch.

Mario Zagallo (Brazil ) Have the best set up — The secret is to have a great structure off the pitch: a top medical team, physiotherapist, physiologist, psychologist and all other specialists who help you to build an amazing team. It’s also important to have an outstanding team-players who can win matches. But they have to be well maintained; that is very important.

Enzo Bearzot ( Italy) Be patriotic —  Turning out for the national team is the ultimate achievement for a player, the ultimate recognition of his talents. You have to make sure your players understand that, you have to ensure that they draw confidence from it. Is that sort of pride in the national team dying out? I do hope not.

Paolo Amaral ( Brazil 1958) Remove temptation_When we arrived at the hotel in Sweden there were two beautiful women there. But the head of the delegation asked the hotel if these girls could stop serving us.

Luiz Scolari ( Brazil ) Select your squad logically — First,  imagine a scheme of play, then a group who would play like I want. Then I say OK these are my players in total, but if one is unavailable? Before I select my final 23 I think of all the possible scenarios I would have to face in the World Cup. I use a lot of analyses of personal characteristics of each player.

A player might be the best in the world, but without a good personality and the ability to develop, he will be worth less.
Carlos Bilardo ( Argentina ) Win your first match — It is critical to start on the right foot, because the pressure of the second game if you have lost the first one is terrible. We found that out in 1990.

This last one, coming from an Argentine is to say the least, very interesting with reference to June 12 in Jo’Burg.
There were also views like “Pick brains over brawn”, “Stress the human side”, “Instill belief”, “Be confident” and so on. Need I say more? Lagerback, over to you.
See you next week.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.