Thursday, July 24, 2014

LESSONS FROM BRAZIL - ANGELO LAWFORD - 7/24/2014



LESSONS FROM BRAZIL
Written by: Angelo Lawford
Date posted: 7/24/2014
I think it's safe to say that we learned a lot from this past World Cup. It's incredible how time flies by. I can't believe that it's over now. It was an incredible ride though. One that I doubt I will ever forget and whose end is hard to come to grips with. 
But for all truly great things, when they come to an end, there is a legacy left behind. And that is what I hold on to. Not just the YouTube.com homages of the goals and glory that are now left behind, but the understanding that soccer, maybe more than any other sport, is truly an expression of her people, wherever she is played and by whomever she's played. 
So what did we learn? The world has caught up to Brazil. I am not certain if within my lifetime, Brazil will be the out-and-out favorite to win a World Cup again. I think the expectation going into this World Cup was generous on behalf of Brazil. I think the fact that Brazil was the host nation, skewed the opinions of pundits and fans alike. 
Brazil has a roster with individual talent, but they had no cohesion as a team and there were many signs heading into the tournament that this particular generation of Brazilian players was most likely in over-their-heads. And that's okay honestly. The expectation for them was unfair and it is no wonder, that by the end of the tournament, the pressure crushed them. The pressure was surely superior to the talent.
With that said, I do believe that they accomplished more than the assembled roster dictated going into the tournament. And for that, they should always keep their heads held high.
As for the champions, Germany proved not just to the world, but to themselves, that patience is a virtue. Germany hasn't missed a semi-final of a major tournament since 2006. What's overlooked by many from 2006 to now, is that despite always fielding a more than competitive side, in the heart of this eight- to-ten year cycle of players, is the reality that there was a complete rebuild of their structure as a football federation in conjunction with their stylistic approach on the field. To be able to maintain that kind of continuity and sustained belief in a system that by strategy, was continually evolving, is quite remarkable, and it is only fitting that they endured to be champions.
On a side note, a core piece to the German puzzle is one Jurgen Klinsmann, who is currently the USMNT (United States Men's National Team) head coach, and was the overseer of the German youth movement, which began when he became the German National Team coach in 2004. It's his ideas that saw a shift in how the German National Team played and developed players from a grass-roots level. 
The coach of the World Cup winning German side, Joachim Low, was Klinsmann's top assistant and was awarded the job of becoming Germany's head coach, once Klinsmann resigned, in order to seize on an opportunity to coach soccer club giant, Bayern Munich, which occurred shortly after Germany's semi-final performance in the 2004 World Cup, which was hosted by Germany that saw the Germans lose to eventual World Cup champions, Italy, in the semi-finals.
That's the expectation for the USMNT now that Klinsmann is in charge. I think you saw that strategy take place this past World Cup cycle for the USMNT. There was an injection of youth and new ideas. So in the scheme of things, a round-of-sixteen exit for the USMNT, was a pretty fair outcome, if not an out-and-out overachievement, especially considering finding themselves in the dreaded "Group of Death," in the group stage.
In regards to the USMNT, you saw the beginning of a new era whose goal wasn't necessarily to win this past World Cup, more than it was as a preparation for World Cups to come.
If Klinsmann can replicate for the USMNT and for soccer in this country, what he did for soccer in Germany, the USMNT can take the game in America, where it has never gone before.
Another valuable lesson that we learned as a nation, is that the 2014 United States of America, can absolutely consider itself a soccer country. She might not look like a duck, talk like a duck, or walk like a duck all the time, but rest assured, she is a duck.
The social media and television phenomenon that was the World Cup in this country, spoke volumes as to how much soccer, has woven itself into the fabric of not just the domestic sports landscape, but our general landscape over all, at least for soccer's biggest moments. It was actually an amazing thing to see.
This actually leads me to what was maybe the most important lesson learned. And that is simply, as a nation, we are still in need of a strategy that can take the goodwill earned by an event the magnitude of a World Cup, and accelerate the sports' progression further into the bloodstream of mainstream society, so that we don't have to wait for proof that we are a soccer country, in four-year cycles or intervals. 
Though it has been proven that the United States has sneakily morphed into a soccer accepting country, there is still a ways to go, before it truly becomes a part of the vernacular. Though soccer adds to her army high profile soccer event by high profile soccer event, the sport still hasn't generated a consistent enough dialog, especially within the confines of the sports media complex.
So even though just one week removed from what many consider to be the best World Cup finals tournament ever, especially in regards to the group- stage chapter of the tournament, there is a silence post-World Cup stateside, that makes me question if the event even happened. Was it all a dream? If it was just a dream, it was a good one.
I hope whomever the powers that be that can maybe incite change and has an ability to create a tangible mechanism that can further advance the scope of the game on behalf of a public that seemingly desires the game, learned what I did. Though I hate to think it has to be the case, because four years is a fairly long time, the real hope for me is that there will come a strategy that builds upon the goodwill that is sure to come, come World Cup 2018.
There is no better time to strike, than while the iron is hot.
Angelo Lawford
HMW

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