World Cup 2018 – The Power of Simplicity

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World Cup tournaments are often defined by those moments when a player creates something spectacular.

Diego Maradona’s one man demolition of England in the 1986 quarterfinal for Argentina is perhaps the best example.

Dennis Bergkamp’s finish, set up by precision control, is also majestic.

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But the ability of the team to create something special is what our Top Flight Football Academy athletes need to focus on.

Carlos Alberto’s rocket to cap a 4-1 triumph for Brazil over Italy in the 1970 World Cup Final showcases the best of what a high performing team can provide.

Collective defending, individual brilliance, providing options and space for the ball carrier, awareness (note Pele’s final pass), and clinical finishing are all on show.

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A strong candidate for best team goal is Argentina’s 26 pass tapestry against Serbia in the 2006 World Cup.

A total of 26 passes, virtually all with the inside of the foot, and only two completions made in the opponent’s penalty area result in a wonderful goal for Esteban Cambiasso.

Most of the build-up play is at least 30 metres from the Serbian goal but all the time the Argentine players are probing for space, looking for opportunities to penetrate Serbian lines.

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The Argentine players demonstrate patience and calm while meticulously crafting this goal. This is what we should be aspiring to achieve in New Zealand.

However, too much of the focus at NZ youth level is on individuals showing off skills that have no material gain for the team in the name of fostering creativity. This has no connection with the reality of the game at the highest levels, where impeccable decision making and technical excellence reduce the margins for error to an absolute minimum.

Brazil and Argentina’s best players have been keeping the game simple for decades by passing and moving. Seven World Cup titles between those two countries is testament to the way the game is played in South America.

Yes, their players are also capable of sensational individual moments. But usually those flashes of brilliance are utilised when it is the best or only remaining option – like this strike from Eder for Brazil against the USSR in 1982.

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Our definition of creativity therefore needs to be realigned to the demands of the game at the highest level. Creativity is the ability to consistently perceive the time-space problem at hand and craft solutions accordingly for the benefit of the collective. Teams that follow this philosophy will be the ones dominating the later stages of World Cup 2018.

The more we can embed this message from a young age the better our footballers and teams are going to be in future.

Creativity isn’t about performing flicks and tricks. Being focused on doing the simple things well is what makes the best players and teams champions.

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