World Cup personality clashes reminded exactly why we love football
It was expected that by now, the football fatigue would be in full flow. If memory serves, that’s usually the case in a World Cup or European Championships summer off the back of the domestic season.
But the fatigue was held at bay – in fact, the opposite happened. In what was a wonderful World Cup, there has also been a little reminder of what it is that marks football out as a rather special sport and why I love following it.
As much as you have to admire the individual stars, what has stood out as a stark reminder in Brazil is the way football teams work together and exude their own personality.
Likewise, it’s not unreasonable to say the countries who fell flat on their faces in South America were the ones who didn’t have any – or at least looked confused over what it should be. And yes England, that’s your group.
You can talk about countries as entities in their own right. From Germany, who were fluent, cultured, resolute at the back, too swift to catch going forward – and ultimately world champions.
Argentina were complicated – grinding out what they’ve needed to, when they’ve needed to, as far as they could. Prodding and probing, in the knowledge they should get you in the end.
Costa Rica bubbled with enthusiasm and confidence in what they were doing, while Algeria were as quick as lightning and enjoyed putting right those preconceptions most still held about their philosophy.
Even Brazil’s overflowing emotion and unconditional attacking – and fouling – was a personality that got them so far. It’s just that in the end, Germany knew how to exploit its many failings when they clashed in the semi-finals.
The Netherlands’ personality came straight from the manager – organised, stubborn resistance gilded in something bordering on arrogance. The fact Louis van Gaal refers to himself in the third person at press conferences underlines the point.
It was also what may have cost them in their semi-final, given Tim Krul had to sit on the bench for the shootout due to Robin van Persie’s earlier substitution – robbing the Dutch of their penalty-saving expert and top penalty taker in one decision.
The personality of Van Gaal’s Dutch team may well transfer nicely to Manchester United next season – so expect thrashings of lesser clubs and goalless draws against the big boys.
It’s a neat segue – because now the fun is all over in Brazil and we start looking at the return of our domestic season, the joy of personality will come to the fore for all 92 English clubs.
Those without it will either struggle or be anonymous. Those with it will pick up fans and, for my money, success too.
It’s probably Neil Adams’ primary task at Carrow Road come next season – because the fact is last term, City were effectively devoid of personality.
They were the equivalent of going on a date with someone who turned up looking fairly presentable – they’d made the effort – only for them to sit down and either stare into space or at their phone, trying desperately not to open their mouth for fear of saying something stupid and losing what they had. Which was a dull conversational stalemate.
In the end, that’s why Norwich City and the Premier League broke up. And now Adams has to reinvigorate the club – be it inspired by the likes of Algeria, Germany, Greece, Argentina or someone else. In reality, it doesn’t matter who or how – it just matters that it happens and that it works.
Personality was what has underpinned the successes and redefined the failures at this summer’s World Cup.
And it will do just the same across English football – and especially at Carrow Road – next season.