he most intriguing aspect of the opening week of this World Cup has surely been the difficulty the tournament favorites have had to win their games. T
Smaller nations now believe in their capacity to cause problems and to challenge the traditional powers of world football. These so-called smaller nations really have the belief they can do something against the big boys.
We saw the changing face of football with the performances of Iceland at the last Euros and here in Russia we saw them holding Argentina to a draw. We saw the victory of Mexico over Germany, why they should not pull off an upset, even if it was the world champions they were up against.
I remember we had a terrible start to the 2002 World Cup, losing to Senegal when we were the reigning world and European champions. In modern football all the teams are capable of getting organised and causing problems. The underdogs are not scared any more. Physically they are ready to compete with the bigger nations and now we will see if their energy levels will last and if they can repeat these performances.
Of all the favorites I think I was most impressed by Spain. The Spanish showed that physically and tactically they are ready for this World Cup. They made a couple of defensive errors that cost them dearly but they played with great intensity and this was the highest level of football I have seen so far at the tournament, even if they struggled to beat Iran. And Spain know they will not come up against Cristiano Ronaldo every game!
We saw Brazil were in difficulty in their draw against Switzerland. They have this great capacity for dribbling, of course. It is in their blood but there was too much individual play and not enough for the team. They do not play collectively. They are not yet a team and I was expecting more from them. While Philippe Coutinho tended to use the ball intelligently, Willian was completely transparent.
Neymar gave off the impression he was playing by himself. Whenever the ball came to him he slowed the game down, irrespective of whether it was the right thing to do or not.
Because he knows he has the talent to change games, he gives the impression that
he wants to be the one to do that something special. But he has to understand it is not like that at international level. He might be the greatest player but he has to think of the collective.
He has to think of his teammates and play with them, using one-twos and triangles to move forward and make those differences. The one time he did that, down the left with Marcelo and Coutinho, brought about Brazil’s goal. But that was not enough.
By Marcel Desailly
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