The media narrative constantly changes when it comes to international soccer. Previously, we’ve been subjected to massive over-reaction to every Spanish triumph, but now as we sit two days removed from Spanish defeat at Maracana, we are hearing about how Spain was never that dominant and how a European country cannot win in South America. Much of the European-based press while on the mark about club football are constantly scrambling to explain trends in the international game.
The reality is that all of the reaction positive and negative to the Confederations Cup is overdone. This is after all a competition where the United States eliminated Spain four years ago. Vincent Del Bosque, while he would have certainly liked to have won the competition, used the two weeks of competitive matches to experiment with tactics and personnel. Tiki-taka is not dead but simply needs some refinement, which may be found in the form of Isco who will graduate from the U-21 squad, and perhaps the late integration of Roberto Soldado into the national side ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa. Let’s also not forget Xabi Alonso, arguably the most important player in the 2010 World Cup that was missing from the squad.
All of this having been stated, Brazil are today and have always been a force to be reckoned with despite FIFA’s farcical rankings and lyrical waxing about the death of Joga Bonito. The Brazilians have long been more pragmatic than those in the European press give them credit for.
When Brazil faced an injury and confidence crisis during World Cup 2002 qualifying, tactics shifted and Luiz Felipe Scolari implemented a more disciplined defensive system combined with lethal counter-attacking. Dunga won the 2007 Copa America by setting up Brazil less stylishly but more effectively than Argentina. Now Scolari has returned and show his tactical mettle and that picking hungrier, more tactically adept players is the route forward rather than letting the press pick a squad.
I also wonder if the media has paid attention to Italian football the past few years. Italy’s performance in the Confederations Cup was no surprise to me. In fact, four months go in personal conversations I tipped them to win the World Cup in 2014. The combination of young starlets like Mario Balotelli and experienced pros like Daniel DeRossi and the ageless wonder Andrea Pirlo make the Azzuri under the tactically brilliant Cesare Prandelli a force next summer.
The European press has also seemingly ignored Argentina’s romp through CONMEBOL qualifying because it upsets the established narrative of star club players underperforming at the national level.
And finally of course we have the over blown negativity about England, and Roy Hodgson. I will save a discussion of this for another day, but will tease my views on this by saying I see a clear scenario where Hodgson could develop a way to have England perform better in a major tournament than we have seen in recent years. In fact, he is well on his way to doing so if the media’s self-flagellation about the Three Lions would cease.