Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWhat the FIFA World XI tells us about modern football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough What the FIFA World XI tells us about modern football - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

What the FIFA World XI tells us about modern football

Spain just can’t seem to stop winning, can they? They’ve certainly achieved on the pitch – having been the first ever side to retain the European title, and picking up a World Cup in between. However, their recent off-pitch success has been almost equally as great. Every single player in the Fifa World XI side came from La Liga, and 6 of them (over half the side) were Spain internationals. Even the FIFA Manager of the Year – Vincente Del Bosque – is the Spanish national team coach. Not much of a ‘World XI’ some would say, and arguably, the omissions of players such as: Manuel Neuer, Vincent Kompany, Philipp Lahm, Andrea Pirlo, and Robin van Persie were outrageous. The failure to include any German, Italian, French, Dutch, or African talent (not to mention the countless other top footballing nations) will no doubt be questioned. Unfortunately, as a cynical but loyal England supporter, I must be truthful and say that it is very little surprise that there is not a single English player in the line-up. The only player who I feel has a reasonable shout is Joe Hart, but considering his age, experience, and current success, you can see why he wasn’t picked. In the same token, it isn’t hard to see why the players picked managed to get their spots in the team.

This side screams the style of Spain, and of the current most powerful driving force in club football i.e. Barcelona, the style being, of course, tiki-taka. We live in an age where we have successfully ushered in the era of the pass-and-move, which now dominates world football. None can argue with the recent international success of the Spanish side, nor has anyone won more at club level in recent years than Barcelona, and this XI embodies that in terms of players chosen, although there was an even split between Real Madrid and Barcelona players (5 apiece). In eras come and gone we have transitioned from one dominating, successful style to another. Physicality and the traditional number 9 won you matches in the old days, with the best players possessing strength and power. Then came the age of flair, in which the Brazilians thrived and flourished, the influence of which has not yet fully dissipated, and it’s remnants may well live on to indulge the more selfish players blessed with extraordinary ball control in the footballing community. To counter the strength of footballers of the age, players honed their tricks and skills, not giving their opponents a chance to put in a strong tackle without giving away a foul, and skipping past them as a result. And to come full circle, today’s tiki-taka style counters that, with constant pressing making dribbling difficult and highly risky, and then ball retention to keep the skilful players from working their magic. He can’t make it disappear if he never had it in the first place, right? And thus this team mirrors the style of football that has proven so successful in the modern day, with maybe one or two exceptions in the side, explaining (though not necessarily excusing) the lack of diversity in the talent chosen. 

Maybe we’ll go back to physicality, or flair, or discover a brand new way to play football that will eventually surpass this one, and when that happens, the players that become the world’s best will inevitably fit in with that style. However, until then, the rest of us will either have to adapt, or lie in the shadow of the Spanish monopoly. Some have the capabilities – others, less so. Hold tight fellow England fans, it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.

Sean Wilson