Individuals’ collective triumph

The 2010 World Cup, it has been suggested, has seen the triumph of the collective over the individual.

Countries like Argentina with its array of brilliant individuals like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez — who never performed as a team — were put to the sword by the likes of Germany, who did.

Ghana’s team ethic had prevailed where individually driven nation’s like Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon could not. The indefatigable Uruguayans’ march to the semifinal had been built on the team’s collective strengths minimizing its individuals’ shortcomings and weaknesses.

Team spirit and ethic is, in no small part due to the coach finding the right chemistry in his squad selection and how he moulds a group together

Of the four semifinalists, Spain’s Vincente Del Bosque is perhaps the most laidback, but even he has, in recent months, retained his individual will by ignoring public cries to forego playing two defensive midfielders and persisting with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso in his team’s spine.

Uruguay, Germany, Holland, though, are moulded, singlemindedly by the vision of their managers: respectively, the philosophical El Maestro Oscar Tabarez, the tactically intelligent Joachim Loew and Bert van Marwijk.

It is Van Marwijk though, who has been most resolute in his vision — often heavily criticized by fans and media who consider his approach pragmatic and anathema to Dutch footballing tradition — to maximum effect.

Holland will contest their first World Cup final — something they have never previously won — in 32 years when they face Spain at Soccer City on July 11.

This week, responding to a question about Holland’s previous World Cup experiences of seducing crowds with aesthetically pleasing football, but always failing, Van Marwijk said his aim had been to instill and retain focus amongst his players: ”I don’t look at that [history]. I do things my way. First and foremost, we need as a team to believe, to really believe that you can win … You come to a World Cup to win.”

”Tactically, I try to give this team a bit more stability at the back,” said Marwijk who added that this Holland team had the ”disciplined way we play and our [sense of defensive] positioning” drilled into it to ensure ”retaining possession” which allowed it ”to dare to play freely, in an uninhibited way”.

Van Marwijk admits to using the aesthetic masters at FC Barcelona as models for his side: But, while he appreciates their pretty attacking patterns, his first concern is the fact that ”stars like Messi, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovich, Xavi and Iniesta are prepared to exercise pressure” on oppennets when not in possession. ”They are the first line of defence,” observed Van Marwijk.

Holland have waited a long time for the opportunity inscribe their name on the World Cup trophy for the first time and endorse their claim to being a traditional powerhouse in world football.

Their chance will come because of a man who has dismantled the country’s traditional approach to the game and reconconstituted it into a more winning formula.

But the swagger inherent in Dutch football, and its psyche, may not have been eviscerated, merely put on hold for the right moment. As Van Marwijk noted: ”Usually in tournaments we win and then we get arrogant, and then we lose. I keep reminding the players to keep focus, especially on the next match”.

The next match is the final of the 2010 World Cup.


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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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