By Santosh Rao
The last two editions of the FIFA World Cup (2010 and 2014) have clearly brought one key message to the fore — team cohesion and chemistry. The 2010 winners Spain were predominantly made up of two sides — Barcelona and Real Madrid — with more than half the team being constituted of Catalan players. This meant that most of these players were already used to playing with each other, increasing cohesion and chemistry. Barcelona players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Jordi Alba and Cesc Fabregas were present this year as well meaning that the cohesion was still there but something else was missing as the defending champions were dumped out in the group stages. Spain’s biggest problem was age and probably a shot of overconfidence. Most of their top players are on their last legs with their club career also winding down. Xavi, Iker Casillas, Fernando Torres and Andrea Iniesta have without any doubt played their last World Cup and their fitness or lack of it was there to see in the Brazilian heat. The newly crowned 2014 champions Germany, who edged Argentina 1-0 in the final Sunday, had a similar recipe for World Cup glory.
Six of Germany’s starters in the final at the Maracana stadium came from the Bavarian club Bayern Munich. Substitute Mario Goetze, who netted the winner late into extra time, also plays for Bayern. When a national team has almost seven members of the club playing at one time it becomes a huge advantage. Football is a sport that runs on players forming connections on and off the field. That is why the main focus of national coaches is team building and increasing the chemistry within the squad. Players are called up early for tournaments such as the World Cup so that they could spend as much time together. The main focus is not training as most of these players have already come from a gruelling season of club football and need the rest to get their energy levels up.
With Germany having almost seven of their starters from the same club, they already had a distinct advantage over others. The German midfield for majority of the tournament constituted Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Goetze. The three were in complete sync and unison for the entire tournament having played with each other all season in Bayern. Then at the back captain Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng had great communication and organised the defence brilliantly and add to that another Bayern player, Manuel Neuer under the bar. The biggest example of cohesion against top level teams was clearly on show in Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of hosts Brazil. Brazil have always relied on individual genius to get them past the line. Minus their superstar Neymar and their heroic leader Thiago Silva, the Brazilians were a bunch of headless chicken running around the field.
The fragmentation and absolute absence of team chemistry and cohesion was the main reason Brazil capitulated like they did. Brazil’s starting eleven in the semi-final, all played for different clubs. One can argue that David Luiz and Oscar were in the same club team Chelsea but the former was bought by Paris Saint Germain before the start of the World Cup. The Germans took advantage of the lack of communication in Brazil’s defence and inflicted on them their worst ever defeat. The clinical and cohesive German machine worked perfectly with coach Joaquim Loew pulling all the right strings. Germany won their first World Cup after the country’s unification and it was only apt that they did so with such camaraderie and team cohesion.