Hindsight… not always right!

Hindsight can make us believe unjustified claims or force us to seek causality where it doesn’t exist. While assessing the non-selection of a few stars at the recently concluded World Cup in Brazil, it was important to be aware of such dangers, writes Priyansh.

As many managers of international teams have admitted in the past, the toughest calls they make are the ones before the World Cup. While qualification gives them the freedom to use the national talent pool comprehensively, only 23 players can represent the country at a major tournament. Hence, it’s inevitable that a few dreams will be shattered and most managers perform the onerous task of letting the unfortunate player know in person.

The agony suffered by the head coach and footballer is unimaginable. Yet, for the latter, there’s always the chance to experience a little schadenfreude a few months down the line. If his team fails to make an impact, the footballer’s standing grows in his absence. It’s not uncommon to see fans debate what a particular player would have brought to the side, mostly after the team has failed.

Hindsight, though, can mislead us in various ways. It can make us believe unjustified claims or force us to seek causality where it doesn’t exist. While assessing the non-selection of a few stars at the recently concluded World Cup in Brazil, it was important to be aware of such dangers.

The host exited the tournament in such a disgraceful fashion, it was inevitable that manager Luiz Felipe Scolari would have to shoulder the blame for the debacle. As he should, for his tactical acumen was found wanting at the biggest stage of them all. Yet, the criticism ‘Felipao’ has received from some quarters for not selecting Kaka and Robinho seems a little unjust since it wasn’t Brazil’s offence that crumbled against Germany in the semifinal.

While it could be argued that Brazil experienced trouble in creating chances throughout the tournament, the AC Milan duo had not convinced enough during the preceding league campaign. Kaka and Robinho could muster only a combined 10 goals and nine assists in the entire Serie A season.

Contrast this with Lucas Moura’s numbers, a player whose exclusion from the Brazilian squad was justifiably met with louder noise.

While he doesn’t offer great finishing or defensive contribution like the AC Milan duo, the Paris-Saint Germain wide playmaker is a direct threat in the opposition half and accomplished 11 assists in Ligue 1. Some believed that Lucas’ club team-mate Javier Pastore should have featured in Brazil as well, but the latter’s two goals and three assists last season don’t suggest that he would have sharpened Argentina’s offence. However, there’s a greater clamour over the exclusion of Carlos Tevez.

His 20-goal season with Juventus highlighted why he’s one of the most feared strikers in the world, but Tevez has never been picked for the national side by Alejandro Sabella. Many claim that this is a political decision since Lionel Messi doesn’t get along well with the 30-year-old striker.

While the rumour could be true, we need to remember that Argentina lost in the extra-time of the World Cup final. For a team that could have been the world champion if it had finished its chances on the day, it seems churlish to say that Tevez could have made a major difference. Sure Argentina could have done with better finishing in the final, but it was more down to nervous shooting than a lack of skill. Tevez, notably, has scored only 13 times for the national side in 64 appearances.

One side that could have done with a better finisher, though, was Italy. Cesare Prandelli was roundly criticised when he left Giuseppe Rossi out of the squad. The Italian manager was apprehensive about the Fiorentina striker’s fitness as he had been absent from football for four months due to a severe medial ligament injury. Rossi had returned to the pitch only at the beginning of May; his previous comeback from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, that had kept him out for nearly two years, had been quite impressive. The US-born striker had scored 14 goals in 18 appearances for Fiorentina, but Prandelli couldn’t be persuaded.

Italy eventually went out in the Group stage, failing to score in defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay.

Spain left the World Cup in the first round too and many could claim that this was partly down to the absence of Fernando Llorente and Jesus Navas. In a side built to keep the ball and play short passes, the excluded duo could have brought a different threat. Llorente is a veritable menace in the air, while Navas offers width, directness and impressive crossing ability. Spain had used the duo in the past to break the opposition down, but Vicente del Bosque surprisingly chose to discard a successful Plan B.

England joined Spain and Italy at the end of the Group stage and its light midfield duo of Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard was one of the reasons for the side’s defensive fragility. Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry — both are natural holding midfielders — weren’t even part of the 23-man squad. When the Liverpool pair was roundly exposed at the tournament, Roy Hodgson couldn’t find a way to address the problem.

The list of those who merited a place in Brazil would be incomplete without Samir Nasri. Despite a wonderful season, the Manchester City playmaker couldn’t find a spot in the French squad as Didier Deschamps didn’t want “unhappy” players in the side.

While the France manager maintained that he had no regrets over leaving Nasri out even though his team went out in the quarters, it was evident during the match against Germany that France lacked creative spark. It didn’t miss Nasri’s girlfriend Anara Atanes’ attention certainly. After France’s exit was confirmed, she tweeted — “Ooooopppsssiiiie! And that's the reason u need ur world class players!”

Hindsight, eh?