So, France, a team one associates the least with discipline and harmony especially in recent years, emerged as the most well-organized team and eventually deserving FIFA WC champions. The world will again debate over the greatness of some of the most decorated players over the last 10 years. Messi again exited a major tournament with a worryingly familiar forlorn face in what turned out to be one of the most surreal FIFA world cups we ever had in recent memory. Intriguingly, Ronaldo made a similar exit with Portugal, admittedly in less unforgiving circumstances. Unsurprisingly, the critics are back with a customary ridicule for probably one of the best footballers across the globe.
Admittedly, anyone who has been witness to Argentina’s struggles throughout the tournament would have stayed away from putting their money on Messi’s men. The defense looked shaky right from start, the attack looked jaded and out of ideas and the goalkeeper, by the looks of it, gave an impression of being a peacekeeper in Syria! Sadly, it never resembled a team intensified by the problems surrounding the coach. Notwithstanding the presence of a magical Messi in the midfield, Argentina looked far off from the team, one would imagine with the plethora of strikers at their disposal. Higuaín and the questionably sparingly used Aguero never made their presence felt and with Messi, hounded by a minimum of four shadows the moment he got the possession, the goal always seemed a distant destination.
At the other end, we had Argentina's arch-rivals Brazil who were ready to dream again after the debacle of Rio 2014. Sadly, Brazil couldn’t progress to the semis, but Tite’s men very rarely demonstrated the over-reliance on (Box-Office!) Neymar. Coach Tite, in fact, did mention once, the best way to play Neymar was actually by not playing him. Those words in effect define to an extent the way in which the star players could affect the performance of a team. In hindsight, engrossing the opposition defenders with Neymar allowed other Brazilian forwards to take the lead and this never happened with Argentina.
Indian cricket fans (particularly RCB) would nod their heads in approval. Royal Challengers Bangalore, led by the affable Virat Kohli along with the dazzling talent of De Villiers, not to forget the Universe Boss (Gayle) never managed to clinch the IPL title. Contrarily, other teams admittedly with less inspiring names always found a way to the title. What better example than Leicester city memorably winning the Premier League in 2016, the most unlikely title triumphs in the Football history accomplished solely on the back of lower possession but a counter-attacking game.
So does Sports demonstrate a hidden facet in the midst of all these stories? Perhaps it depicts the fact that the very existence of sport lies with Teamwork at its heart. In my memory, no country or rather a team has managed to achieve glory without gelling as a group. This I guess is sports way of signifying that a team can never be called a Team without the core values and culture that defines it. France confirmed it in the best possible manner by going on the win the tournament after 20 years with the coach Didier Deschamps focused on maintaining unity and banishing any notion that squad could get divided. In fact, the squad truly represents the French ethnic diversity similar to the 1998 team and now has a golden opportunity of acting as a unifying force in a country that continues to work through social issues.
Even the great Sachin Tendulkar waited for 22 years after his debut to lay hands on the most prestigious prize in world cricket. That in effect was realized by a memorable amalgamation of a great generation of outgoing cricketers and an upcoming athletic youth culture along with astute Kirsten-Dhoni leadership. Otherwise, Tendulkar alone would have won it in on five other occasions! (read: 2003,1996).
Harsha Bhogle in his delightful book The Winning Way talks about how an average team metamorphoses into a great team just by having those players who are ready to surrender the Me for We. And you witness this regularly now even in Bollywood films where a star with far significant mass appeal pales in comparison to the unified effort of the entire cast.
So maybe if a Messi or a Ronaldo could pick themselves up and find the desired motivation to stay till Qatar 2022, they could have a World cup badge to boast of along with their respective Ballon d’Or medals. That of course if they manage to get a Team in its full sense or they are as fortunate as a Tendulkar! ( though Tendulkar deserved that fortune after toiling for a grueling 20 years). I couldn't have agreed more with Arsene Wenger's words, the longest-serving Football Manager in history,
I believe in work, in the connection between players, I think what makes Football great is that it is a Team sport. It is the team ethic that interests me, always.