"Winning is for losers. Many of life's more interesting stories focus on those who didn't quite make it; who didn't get the girl or the job or the epiphany or even the Jules Rimet trophy. Johan Cruyff said his Holland side of the 70s were immortalised by their failure to win the World Cup and, when World Soccer invited a group of experts to select the greatest teams of all time a couple of years ago, three of the top five sides won nothing: Hungary 1953, Holland 1974 and Brazil 1982. Lying 16th on the list – above any side from Argentina, Spain, Germany, Liverpool, Manchester United or Internazionale – was the Danish team of the mid-80s."
(See the rest of the story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2009/oct/13/forgotten-story-denmark-1980s)
[15/06/2010 - 14:48]
I'd just watched the extremely tight game between Italy and Paraguay. As the commentator aptly put it, four-time world champs Italy will definitely feel like they've been in a game. Paraguay matched them ball for ball throughout the entire match, and forced Italy to chase the game after taking the lead from a good set-piece.
This really makes me think about the state of the game in modern day football, along with the article I'd just posted. Denmark's coach, Olsen, who came from the Danish Dynamite era, commented that the modern game can't be played with the sort of wild abandon that accompanied swashbuckling, 'romantic' teams of old - the modern game is extremely streamlined, tight, efficient. You can't just win with skillful players alone - that's for the weaker teams to depend on. Every team that hopes to claim the label of being a contender needs to have resolve, very sound basic skills and touches, physical strength, speed and fitness. You can only then begin to discuss flowery soccer skills.
In a match like the one between Italy and Paraguay where both teams delivered a performance at the highest level, the only things that can differentiate both sides has to come from either a mistake committed or a solid set-piece.'
And that was precisely what happened. Paraguay took the lead with a good cross and header from a set-piece on the left side, while Italy equalized with a mistake by Paraguay's goalkeeper as he totally flapped at a dangerous corner kick.
This is an era where most players at the top-level of the game don't even have the luxury of taking multiple touches of the ball - the opponent is going to be fast enough to close you down so you'd better pass it. The ball moves around the park quickly and the team that loses will be the one that can't chase it. Having a player bring the ball around by himself will be a rarity when he is up against a solid opponent.
So perhaps gone are the days when players could afford the space and time to dribble about. One wonders if the likes of Zidane and Figo could play the way they do in today's soccer arena.
Also gone are the days when there are colourful players who drank, smoke and lived decadently, and still boasted skills and commanded respect on the pitch. It also seems that this isn't a trend in football; many other sportsmen, such as tennis players, F1 drivers and basketballers, are also evolving to be at the top of the game, and nothing less.
I'm not too sure what to feel about this.