Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Patterning (or Why Ronaldo spits)

Ronaldo spitting, his (adams) apple bobbing; Gerrard's thousand yard stare; Rooney's simian growl; Torres's odd gait, like an adolescent whose body is growing too fast for his brain; Messi's shocked awe at a team winning without him. So far, these have been the lowlights of the World Cup; the stars going out, the Nike curse...

Why such terrible form for their country?

There's already plenty of data unfolding, theories being unravelled... you just have to peer through the cracks in the fans' hands to see that everyone has a theory. There's a lot of bellyaching in the British Press about honour and national identity and... guff mostly and unsupportable. It seems unlikely that Patriotism or lack of it is responsible. At least 3 of the Germans actively refuse to sing their National Anthem on the grounds that it isn't their National Anthem but their team spirit doesn't seem to be lacking and, if anything their players seem to be displaying the reverse effect; playing better for their country after an indifferent season for their clubs.

People haven't been going crazy trying to buy Klose or Podolski in the close season but...

An idea struck me while watching the Spain vs Portugal game. A simple idea but one I think is worthy of further investigation. In Ronaldo et al's club teams, the team and the tactics are based around them, are for them, are built around their strengths. Man United buy some wingers to whip crosses in and Rooney scores, gulp, lots of headers. Torres has Gerrard can only really play together now, apart all the flaws start to show - Liverpool have to play in a way that gets the best out of them (Kuyt seems to have had a reasonable tournament; the unflashiness helping the Netherlands steady progress). Ronaldo has nippy strikers to play against and with and some serious looking, though skillful, holding players to negate the problem of him losing the ball (to be fair, he often loses the ball but mostly it matters less because his club team mates are able to get the ball back).

In their club teams, the weaknesses in their teams can be bought around, can be coolly considered and weighted against other other concerns - this inevitably makes the star player even more of a star since everything is weighted in their favour. In the National team, the dynamic is different; there are either more stars or less choice and either way this can be a killer for the over-indulged big players, things aren't set up to go their way and, in fact, in the case of the England set up things may even seem to be actively against them - just look at their little faces...

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