World Cup: Early verdict: Brazil 2014 the greatest

By Henry Winter

Technical report to highlight coaches' audacious tactics and attacking verve

Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama makes a save from France's Karim Benzema during the World Cup round of 16. Photo / AP
Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama makes a save from France's Karim Benzema during the World Cup round of 16. Photo / AP

A report on the World Cup being hailed as one of the greatest ever will be compiled by Fifa's Technical Studies Group and presented to all national associations, including the Football Association, in September.

With eight games remaining, and the World Cup record of 171 goals under threat, the TSG's early verdict is that a combination of coaches' "audacious" tactics, an unparalleled generation of attacking talent and intelligent preparation has helped make Brazil 2014 so special.

"This is my ninth World Cup and this is the best one in terms of quality of football and entertainment," said Gerard Houllier of the TSG. "Some games are like basketball, end to end, like Germany and Ghana and USA versus Belgium. I was struck by coaches saying, 'because we are here, let's have a go, whatever happens'.

"You know that after a World Cup, 15 coaches minimum leave their jobs, so it's, 'let's have a go'.

It's the end of a four-year cycle or the results have not been good enough, so they are dismissed.

"The record of goals is 171 at France '98; we are 154 with eight games to play and with an average of 2.75 goals per game, this record could be beaten. The football gets better each tournament.

"There's been the recent contribution of Spanish football, with Barcelona and the national team, and that has passed on to a lot of teams, raising the tempo and quality, and this World Cup has taken it higher.

"A lot of teams play with two strikers, sometimes three. Argentina played three up against Switzerland with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi. In Europe, they used to play with one lone striker and a line of three behind [like England did in Brazil]; now usually they have two strikers." Agreement on the attacking verve came from Sunday Oliseh, another respected member of the TSG. "You would have thought that in the second round teams might be more cautious, get compact and play off the errors of the other team but no, no, no. Everyone has come out blazing. Fullbacks are coming into midfield, overlapping." "I ask myself is there this vibrancy because the World Cup is in Brazil?" said Houllier. "The South American teams have got an aggressive bite here which I don't see when they travel away -- teams like Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, although with Uruguay maybe bite is not a good word to use!

"Chile are out of the competition but summarised practically everything that is needed: an audacious system, technique, good spirit, good energy, plus real desire to win."

Houllier ventured that the World Cup has never seen "so many good strikers at one time", although the 1970 tournament of Pele, Teofilio Cubillas and Gerd Muller was pretty special -- and you could say the same about the goalkeepers, too. "We have a generation of outstanding strikers now, Neymar, Messi, Benzema, Van Persie, Robben, James Rodriguez, top players who really give everything," said Houllier. "Great players make a difference like Messi against Bosnia, Neymar against Croatia."

Oliseh, a former defensive midfielder, elaborated: "You want to know one of the reasons why it's difficult to play against Messi? When Argentina don't have possession, Messi walks to the side, and the defensive player follows him, his team doesn't have balance now and Angel di Maria says, 'thank you'. Di Maria finished off a quick counter against Switzerland helped by Messi.

"You are playing for your nation. It's like going to war on behalf of 170 million people, a friendly war. When players are crying here that shows you how much they care. We saw the Algeria coach crying and he's not even Algerian. It shows the love for football and the World Cup."

- Daily Telegraph UK

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 02 Aug 2014 00:26:58 Processing Time: 1848ms