LESSONS FROM THE SEMIS

The make-up of the Brazilian team is an all-star lineup with the best players from the English, Spanish, German and Italian leagues.

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The German team can boast of top players too but mostly from the German league alone.

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So for the first semi-final match between the two, one would have rightly expected the team with more experienced top players to come out victorious, right? But that wasn’t what happened.

Why?!

The answer is TEAM. TEAMSPORT has ‘team’ in it for a reason. It is best defined as sport played by a team of players – emphasis on TEAM!

It is not the responsibility of a coach, much less team players, to morph a player into a demi-god. No, the media does that job well enough. The one responsibility of the coach and his players is to play as one team and win the one match. And keep at it consistently.

The German team played as a unit, amplifying individual strengths and glossing over weaknesses.

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Their defense is one of the burliest and pays the price for muscle by being one of the slowest. So they stood as one intimidating ‘Berlin wall’ letting the full backs do any venturing up the field. All of the opponents attempts at attack on their end evoked memories of a three-month old chewing on a plastic toy; and on the other end, the efficiency of their forwards raped the Brazilians over and over again.

The Samba boys should have been giving theirs back, but they had no team. What they had was a group of exceptional players who had been convinced that they weren’t worth much without a fellow also exceptional player. With all respect paid to the quality of the player, I repeat that the Samba boys minus Neymar possess the quality and depth to overcome not just the German but most of the other top teams they hosted at this World cup. But because they had bought into the ‘Neymar = star boy’ agenda, they struggled to win matches with him on the pitch, and with him off it, they fell apart.

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Yes, there are certain players whose talents and influence are so extraordinary that they single-handedly lead their teams to victory. But that is it – they LEAD the TEAM to victory, they don’t assume the glorified status of a deity while their fellow players play priests rendering sacrifices at their altar. Muller is one such player for Germany, always turning up with the goals; so is Messi for Argentina and Robben for Netherlands. And the team and coach recognize this.

But we don’t see suspended players wearing customized clothing in their honor, not because they died, but because they got injured. I can also bet that if Messi for instance, had need to miss the finals, Mascherano wouldn’t don the captain’s band and walk out to start the match by singing the national anthem while Messi’s #10 jersey like some talisman.

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The team’s passion was evident in the gusto with which they yelled the Brazilian anthem – as they had done in previous matches, they clearly wanted to make their country proud. But that jersey in the hands of a man who was supposed to lead a team to victory sent a shorter and woeful message: “We are finished without Neymar” Fortunately for soccer, Germany read that loud and clear.

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With heart battered and broken, Scolari might be thinking – and he said so too – that Tuesday’s 7-UP was the worst day of his life.

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And the PSG-bound most expensive defender of all time, David Luiz might be contemplating scraping off all of his curly hair in an attempt to resurrect the reputation of ‘Brazilian hair’ in the GWE – Global Weave-on Economy.

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But worse fates await them both if the Selecao fails to at least grab the Bronze off of Netherlands at the third-place match. Suffice it to say that a lot of hair ‘re-torching’ will be happening…

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and a lot of nationality re-identification as well…

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If by some off-chance you still need some convincing, reminisce on the second semi-final match between Argentina and Netherlands where Messi was clearly the point-man for Argentina and Robben the ‘star boy’ for Netherlands.

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In the words of a Goal.com commentator, “(Dutch) Vlaar trailed Messi like a shadow the whole match” The case was similar for Netherlands with the Argentine Mascherano staying glued to Robben for the entire match duration.

The result was the drabbest match of the two semi-final matches and a – if even possible – drabber score-line of 0 – 0.

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That is what happens when a team forgets to be a team, and elects to serve as mere scaffolding for one individual player.

A victory is a victory, you might say, and the Argentines won it and are in the finals. I completely agree, but come Sunday night in Rio Janeiro, the ‘star boy’ oriented group of players will be dancing sekem…

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while the TEAM will lift the World Cup.

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I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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