After a summer of thrills, spills and all round-entertainment the international football season is back for the first time since an overwhelming World Cup in Russia. The likes of Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain will regroup after disappointing tournaments whilst the likes of Croatia, England and World Cup winners France will be in much greater spirits, but the question on my mind is..
Do we expect too much from International Football?
Amidst the drama and excitement of the 2018 Russia World Cup, one criticism of the tournament was the overall quality of the winners and the lack of a defining team within the competition, e.g a team that will go down in the history books as one to remember such as Brazil team of 1970. Some people were quick to dismiss Russia as the greatest world cup of all time, sheerly down to this factor.
Whilst comparatively the winners of this year’s world cup; France will not go down as one of the all-time greats it is worth noting that the perception around the World Cup and International Football in general is significantly different in the current age than those of yesteryear.
I believe this is sheerly down to the perception around international football has changed significantly throughout the difference in generations.
The beauty of the World Cup is that it is broadcasted to the entire world (hence the name), and is an incredible base platform for any player to catapult themselves from zero to hero, where amateurs face up against the greatest in the world and where footballing nobodies can become somebodies. The World Cup will be perceived a lot differently in 2018, as in 1970 for example.
Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winning team is often hailed as one of/if not the greatest team in World Cup history and is a matter of opinion as a pose of fact. Whilst boasting the likes of Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Tostao amongst others, it is worth noting that the 1970 World Cup was one of the first ever to be broadcasted on TV, and took place in a time where televisions were just beginning to creep into peoples homes, so for the majority of people, 1970 would have been the first World Cup to watch.
Whilst the Brazilian team of 1970 was undoubtedly incredible and are rightfully credited amongst the best in football history, the Spain team of 2010 was revolutionary and one of the most exciting and impressive sides to ever grace International Football, winning two consecutive European Championships (2008 and 2012) and a World Cup in 2010. Yet whilst this Spanish dominance is often credited as a great team, they’re often overlooked as one of the greatest teams in football history.
Could this be because the existential TV coverage around in the modern era had simply normalised the brilliance of the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi etc and therefore they had not been held in as high regard as the heroes of yesteryear?
Perhaps the fact that Brazil’s class of 1970 were somewhat unknown to the everyday football fan at the time, and the sheer excitement around first watching some of the talent on display created such buzz and excitement that these were hailed as the greatest due to the sheer nostalgia of a first glimpse at international football?
Whilst the Russia World Cup was hailed as one of the greatest in recent memory, there was a notable lack of underachievement from both players and nations alike. Whilst some undoubtedly were rightfully branded as underachievers, many were unfairly tarnished with this underwhelming brush.
The likes of Argentina, Germany and Spain were undoubtedly underachievers at the tournament, with Argentina and Spain falling at the first knockout round whilst holders Germany were sent home at the Group Stage.
Many were quick to throw blame on the underachievers and rightfully in some cases, the sheer volume of early exits from so called ‘big’ sides were used as a blackmark against the Russia World Cup as a whole.
Yet the perception around international football is false, realistically each nation plays around 6-8 matches per calendar year with a 23 man squad that is chopped and changed most times. So a criticism of winners France playing pragmatic football is just some of the rough taken with the smooth of international football.
It would be easy to look at the French squad and see the attacking riches of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Lemar and assume that Les Bleus should play this swashbuckling, free-flowing football that we have become accustomed to within the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A etc.
France eventually came into form and became more and more expressive as the tournament went on, yet after the opening three games Didier Deschamps was criticised for his side’s laboured approach within the group stage. Were the criticisms of France’s performances justified? or were we being too reactive and creating narratives, ignoring the foundations laid for World Cup glory?
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!