It is finally here – South Africa 2010 sees
10 – Fortune
World Cup hopefuls always need a side order of luck. Avoiding injuries to high calibre players is essential – avoiding a criminal misjudgement from an obscure official is most desirable. England have cursed their bad luck at the championships – the Hand of God, the penalty misses against Germany and Portugal, Sol Campbell’s golden goal against Argentina that never was. That said, fortune favours not just the brave, but also the most mentally resilient and consistently creative of teams. Good teams make their own luck and rise above misfortune.
9 – Humility
Stay under the radar. In both 2002 and 2008, Germany were ridiculed for poor squads – yet they quietly reached the final and semi-final respectively. Recent winners France (1998) and Italy (2006) were regarded as semi-finalists at best. Notably Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has been quick to minimise expectations of his team: “Everybody thinks that anything except winning the World Cup is a failure. I think that’s nonsense.’’ England’s absence from Euro 2008 should reduce the pressure on players often weighed down by their ‘Golden Generation’ tag-line.
8 – Geographical advantage
The pride and adulation associated with hosting the World Cup tends to deliver handsome dividends also – out of the 19 previous host nations, 12 have reached at least the semi-finals and six secured ultimate victory. Also notable, no European country has ever won the World Cup outside of Europe. Second favourites Brazil have no experience of travel sickness having secured glory in Asia, North America, Central America and South America.
7 – Positive camp spirit
The legendary Gordon Banks saw team spirit as crucial to England’s World Cup success in 1966: “There was no jealousy, no big egos, we all just got along really well and we took that spirit onto the pitch.” Such sentiments have often been lost on the wasted talents of Holland – they have have had more internal collisions than atoms in the Large Hadron Collider. Disruption led by Roy Keane also seemed to put a nail in the coffin of the Republic of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup . Where there is distraction, squads must develop a siege mentality – in 2006 Italy turned a match-fixing controversy into a source of unified resilience.
6 – Momentum
Start as you mean to go on – the last six winners all won their opening game. Carlos Bilardo, who coached Argentina to victory in 1986, agrees: “It is critical to start on the right foot, because the pressure of the second game if you have lost the first one is terrible.” But do not peak too soon. In 2006 Argentina sparkled in a 6-0 group game thrashing of Serbia and Montenegro. A favourites tag was draped around their necks and they failed to maintain momentum.
5 – Formation flexibility
More traditionally English than the Queen herself, the rigid 4-4-2 has been indelible on England’s World Cup escapades. However, as Everton manager David Moyes noted: “Teams who win World Cup are ones who alter line-up and approach to overcome different opponents.”In short, managers in South Africa must have the clich