Long-termism and football

By Pip Cole 

Brazil 1 Germany 7

7-1… Humiliation……Failures……Disgraced the nation… Having been born in Rio de Janeiro, waking up the morning after that game was tough. I am fairly confident I have seen the worst Brazilian performance I will ever see, however, I do not believe it will be the last major footballing nation to suffer in a similar style.

In reflection on the World Cup two features have stood out for me: firstly, some footballing federations have become strategic, organised, forward thinking where some still allow the manager who ‘played the game so must know best’ to dominate the team; secondly, despite the hurt of seeing on Facebook Angela Merkel replace Jesus Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro, there is no doubt globally the World Cup has been a great success despite previous and well due fears before the tournament started.

In watching Brazil throughout this World Cup I feel I can summaries the teams’ tactics as, ‘let’s sing the national anthem louder than the opposition, be tearful whatever the result and as the World Cup is in Brazil the stars will align and we will win the World Cup’. In the background the football federation had built no long term strategy leading to the World Cup and was constantly battling stadia and transport issues, Brazilian football had no stability and more worryingly no plan B, they were going to win, ‘we don’t know how but we will’.

I hasten to add Brazil did make it to the semi-finals, Scolari has won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, and regardless of Sunday’s result Brazil have won the most World Cups (5) – rant over.

In contrast the German Football Federation in the 90’s reviewed the nations unsatisfactory results (two World Cup quarter finals and winning Euro 96) and came up with a long term strategy, utilising resources, highlighting opportunities and committing to a long-term plan, resulting in them reaching four World Cup semi finals in a row, having great German club success in Europe and becoming market leaders in evolving football.

Similar was seen with the Spanish team that dominated the early 21st century, whose first era of success finished at this World Cup. However, as with any good business, while Model 1 was bringing in revenue, Model 2 was being developed and I have no doubt Spain will return and return quickly.

So while the Brazil team looked like stock brokers tangled in speculation at the Wall Street Crash, doomed to fail, flapping and lacking any ideas, the German team had a long-term strategy that delivered and had accounted for different eventualities.

In conclusion, I believe it will be exceptional if any team wins the World Cup without a long-term business-esque strategy backed by the football federation. The coach will always be vital (although less and less are ‘old school- I played the game I must know the game’ managers) but more and more the World Cups of the future will highlight which countries have sporting management brains in their federations utilising their resources in a long-term strategy that allow performance on the pitch.

The positive for England is in Greg Dyke, the vision is there. Basic Management Textbook Level 1 states that you must know where your business is, and Dyke fills me with encouragement because he knows where English Football is. Not because he said England would struggle this year but he understands the English game and has gone out and got to know football in England.

The FA went for Roy Hodgson, a man who understands his part in the England machine rather than a manger whose ego would push English football back into the 90’s. The FA has the new St George’s Park training facility and has committed to youth, female and disability football like never before- if England men’s team are to succeed have no doubts that football must flourish for all competitors and the sooner the Women’s team continue their great success and win a title the better for football as a whole in England. England’s future is positive!

As for Brazil, although there are a few tough years ahead, the nation will bounce back and often from such disasters a new way of thinking is brought in. But Brazil must not try and copy Spain or Germany; both utilised their assets to gain success. If there’s one nation that could come back and re-invent the game it is Brazil, but first, please lets qualify for Russia 2018.

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