Debunking Fifa World Cup myths

Pundits falling over themselves to call a sixth World Cup victory for Brazil are ignoring several football fundamentals. The hosts’ strong record in the competition and last year’s emphatic Confederation Cup triumph are the main reasons being touted by those backing Luis Felipe Scolari’s side. However, those calling a Selecao win just because they are hosting the global showpiece have completely missed the game’s evolution over the last thirty years. Here are some myths are that are certain to be debunked at the World Cup.

Saturday June 14 2014

Mesut Ozil and his Germany mates look good for a semifinal

Mesut Ozil and his Germany mates look good for a semifinal berth in Brazil. Agencies photo  

By Allan Ssekamatte

Myth one: Hosts have big advantage
This will be the twentieth World Cup and hosts have won the event only six times – 1930, 1934, 1966, 1974, 1978 and 1998.
In fact, the 1978 World Cup in Argentina was the last time a team won the event because of an intimidating fans’ atmosphere and bribery from local authorities.

Besides, Brazil react poorly to high expectations and fans’ pressure. They have fallen flat on their faces in every World Cup in which they have been touted as overwhelming favourites.

Starting with the 1950 final in which they fell to Uruguay in front of 200,000 fans at the Maracana, through to the 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1998 finals; Brazil have floundered each time they have carried the favourites’ tag.

Diego Armando Maradona is not one to quote on many things but he certainly knew what he was talking about when he said, “Favourites never win.” Referees might give them many of the 50-50 decisions but Brazil will not win the tournament just because they are hosts.

Myth two: You need a top scorer
It’s a granted that goals win football games. It is also true that Brazil’s Ronaldo da Lima (2002), Italy’s Paolo Rossi (1982) and Argentina’s Mario Kempes (1978) scored the goals that powered their countries to success.
However, the team producing the tournament top scorer doesn’t necessarily win the event. In fact, three aforementioned players are the only ones to top score at the World Cup and also win the event.

Otherwise, Argetina’s Guillermo Stabile (1930), Czechoslovakia’s Oldrich Nejedy (1938), Brazil’s Leonidas da Silva (1938), Brazil’s Ademir (1950).
Hungary’s Sandor Koscis (1954) and France’s Just Fontaine all top scored without winning the event. Eusebio (1966), Gerd Muller (1970), Gregorz Lato (1974), Gary Lineker (1986), Salvatore Schillaci (1990), Oleg Salenko (1994), Davor Suker (1998), Miroslav Klose (2006) and Thomas Muller (2010) also won the Golden Boot without winning the World Cup.

Therefore, the magic is in the timing, as was the case of David Villa’s goals for Spain at the South Africa World Cup.

Myth three: Heat is a factor
Those touting Brazil and Argentina also point to the temperature and humidity as their advantages over European rivals.
However, eighty percent of the players in both squads ply their trade in Europe.

They are hence used to the same weather patterns as their Spanish and German rivals. In any case, footballers who feature at the World Cup are thoroughbreds who are not supposed to be vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.

Fatigue occasioned by the length of domestic seasons will, for example, be a bigger factor than heat and humidity.

Myth four: Europeans will struggle
Until Spain won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the myth making rounds was that Europeans only win events staged on their continent. What hogwash! While prior to SA, all of their previous World Cup triumphs had come on European soil, it had little to do with the location of the tournament.

I don’t want to venture into predicting who will win the event but it is easy to foresee ten European teams reaching the knock out phases. If that is struggling, then they must be happy to struggle.

As a footnote, all factors considered, I am calling Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany as my semi-finalists. May the best team win.