Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
Read earlier columns
The 10 Commandments for winning the World Cup
So you want to be a World Cup
winner? Here is what youíve got to do!
1. Donít make the preparations too long
Players need to be well-rested during the World Cup, and this is very
difficult these days as most of the topstars have a very busy programme to
get through. Itís the league, Champions League, international games and more
of that stuff. So give them time to recover, and donít bring them into a
trainingcamp for a month or so. Two weeks is more than enough. Play two
friendly matches before the tournament starts, no more, as more matches will
make you change the line-up and change the tactics. This will only make you
2. Choose a permanent starting line-up
A team that wants to be successful, needs stability. A team, where the players
do not know whether they will play or not in the next game, lacks stability.
And that will kill you. There should be 9 or 10 players sure about their
place when the tournament begins, do not change too much. When the
other players will be dissatisfied about not playing? See point 3!
3. Take some reserve players with the right attitude
It is virtually 100% sure that you wonít need all 22 (or 23, as will be
allowed in Japan/Korea) players in a tournament. Normally, 15 or 16 will do.
It will be very useful to include 4 or 5 players who have never expected to be
picked for the World Cup. Players who donít need to play to be satisfied, who
will be more than happy to be drafted in the squad. They will give it all
during training, never break the teamspirit and support the starters at any
time. Itís not necessary that they are the number 18-22, looking at pure
quality as long as they are top in their heads. Holland is known for
problems when they prepare for a big tournament. In 1988 they took some
mediocre players to Euro í88: Wim Koevermans, Wilbert Suvrijn, Sjaak Troost,
Hendrie KrŁzen. So they did in 1974, it seems an old Rinus Michels trick.
There were many, many better players, but these men wanted to work and
always got the best out of the starting XI during training. They must do
everything during training to get into the team, but as soon as the coaches
decide for another player, accept it without making any trouble. Itís the
team that counts, not the individual. Very important!
4. Pick a goalkeeper who can rise to the occasion
Is it of ultimate importancy to have the best goalkeeper in the team? No! It
is important to have a goalkeeper, who will be at his best when it matters
most. Take for instance, again, the current Dutch team: Edwin van der Sar is
the undisputed number 1, but he has never saved the Dutch team when it got
really important. A good goalie for sure, but when it counts, donít bet on
him. No vital saves, not a penaltystopper. PSV-goalie Waterreus could be
good choice, although overall Van der Sar is better. Waterreus gets
better the more important the game is, and he often makes vital saves. If
you have a goalkeeper available who would normally be the number two or
three, but has proven that he can make a vital save when it matters, take
him. You simply need a Fillol, a Goycochea, a Taffarel or a Barthez, who
were at their best when the title was at stake.
5. Put defence first
Since 1966, World Cup winners have condeded only 0.64 goal per game in average.
No World Cup winner conceded more than one goal a game, like Brazil (Felix,
Brito, Everaldo, Piazza .....) did in 1970. Without a perfect defensive
structure, forget about the title. So at least four defenders, and two
defensive midfielders. Four attack-minded players is the absolute maximum.
In a sequence of seven matches, there will always be moments when one goal
will decide. Itís the reason why you must make sure to be the team, that won
ít concede that one goal.
6. Not too many World Cup experienced players in the team
It wonít strengthen your team when there is too much World Cup experience
involved. The players need to be eager and hungry. There are plenty of
examples. How many players, apart from the ďHorse CategorieĒ of Maradona,
Beckenbauer and Pelť, have been successful on more than one occasion? Very,
very few, only the mentally very strong of the Dunga-kind. And there are not
too many mentally strong players around nowadays. And with all those
different international competitions going on, there are not too many hungry
either. Make sure you have a bunch of players who still have to achieve
international success. It is much better to have many young players in the
team to support three or four experienced veterans.
7. Three creative players is enough
There are players in a team to make the difference, and there are players
who do the dirty work. Forget about the idea of having more ballerinas than
workers in the team. No, you need a lot of workers to let the creative
forces do their work. Itís enough to have three players, capable of forcing
openings and scoring a solo-goal. I think it will take two workers, runners
or defence-thinking players to make up for one creative player, just to
allow him to put on the show. So do not include more than three creative
players, it will disbalance the team.
8. Play in a careful and economic way
Donít throw energy away! You will need it during the tournament. Itís not
only about not training too intense, but you need to be careful during
matches as well. Be satisfied with a 2-0 win, take a player off to give him
some rest. As soon as you are qualified, bring in some fresh players. Donít
take any risks of conceding unnecessary yellow cards, or get a intentional
yellow card when it gets you suspended in a game that doesnít count. Not
that I like it, not to say that I hate it, but it may be smart.
9. Draft in some players who can take a penalty kick
France 1998 went through a penalty shoot-out before winning the cup,
Brazil did so in 1994 and Germany in 1990. Currently there is very little
difference in strength between the nations, so when I say (in point 5) that
there will most likely be a situation where a single goal will decide a
game, it is almost as certain that a penalty shoot-out will do so as well. So
you must have at least 5 players who are very stable when taking a
penalty kick. Men who are strong in mind, who wonít break under the highest
10. Shoot the penalty kick high
It is something that I dedicated one of my earlier columns to. But it is
very important, so I will mention it once again. A penaltykick taken in
the upper part of the goal, between the posts and under the bar, will give
you statistically a 97% chance of scoring. Hardly ever will a goalkeeper get a
finger to it, let alone stop it. When you take it low (again, between
the posts) your chance is 71%. Nothing more to say.
So Camacho, Bielsa, Lemerre, Eriksson and colleagues, take these advices for
free. In June, the world will see what you learned from it.
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