Why missing the World Cup may be a blessing in disguise.

Why missing the World Cup may be a blessing in disguise.

Sterling Sellers, Sports Journalist

  Winning the World Cup is undoubtedly the highest achievement in international soccer. For many countries, just making it into the tournament is a colossal success; but for others anything short of a spot in the final stages is considered a failure. 

     A few games still remain in World Cup qualification, but some big teams are already set to miss out on the competition. Italy, Chile, the Netherlands, and the United States are all going to miss the World Cup in Russia.

      While these countries are undoubtedly disappointed about their failure to advance, they should be proactive. History has shown that a country can benefit from World Cup failure.

       In the late 1990’s Germany’s international team underwent a period of mediocrity. The team failed to make it passed the quarterfinals in two straight world cups. Then Germany would go on to exit the 2000 and 2004 European Championships at the group stage.

       While this may not seem like a massive issue for most countries, for Germany it was an absolute catastrophe. After a 5-1 loss at the hands of England in 2001, German football officials saw the need for change.

      They realized that in order to keep a consistent, high level of competition there needed to be a focus on youth development and play style. So the Germans invested more money into the youth squad, and more effectively trained the untapped talent in German academies.

     This revamping process became known as “das reboot” and proved to be extremely effective. Fast forward to the 2014 World Cup, where Germany would bulldoze the competition en route to a dominant tournament victory.

     Germany humiliated host nation Brazil in the semifinal with the final score being 7-1. In the Final, a young midfielder named Mario Götze would score the winning goal in extra time.

     As the 2018 World Cup approaches, Germany remain the outright favorite to win the tournament. In a qualifying tournament, Germany would waltz to the title while using only youth players. The team comprised of players mostly under the age of twenty three, defeated teams that used their strongest players.

     Can this success be replicated? The answer is unclear at this point. The Netherlands and Italy are renowned for their youth development and international success. Italy have already fired their coach, and many established veterans have retired after failing to reach the World Cup.

      The Netherlands have steadily declined since their semifinal loss at World Cup 2014, as they have failed to qualify for a major tournament since. If these teams can revamp the coaching and youth development sectors, then they can bounce back in the future.

     The U.S however, is in a different predicament. The United States doesn’t have the foundation that European powerhouses have. The system in place in the USMNT lacks innovative coaching and a clear youth development directive.

      There has been progress in the U.S youth system; but if the coaching system continues to lack innovation, expect the USMNT to be a step behind the rest of the international soccer landscape.