BY all means, Malaysians should allow themselves to be gripped by sadness that we aren’t represented in the 20th World Cup and sink into depression through lessons gained in the first week of competition.
While the whole world barked at Brazil’s clumsiness in preparing for the biggest show on earth due to delays in the completion of venues that stretched to weeks prior to the opening game last Thursday, once the show got started, it grew into a party bigger than anyone had expected.
A good number of Brazilians bloodied the very presence of the World Cup, as violent protests marred the billions spent by the host country at the expense of expenditure to improve social welfare.
But as soon as Neymar struck the equaliser to cancel out Marcello’s own goal against Croatia last Thursday to set Brazil on their way to a 3-1 win, the violent protests were eclipsed by dreams of a sixth World Cup title.
On the pitch, young Neymar’s masterful show was backed by Brazil’s own football evolution.
The ability to allow its football to evolve and adapt with the times is something that has kept Brazil at the forefront of world football for a century.
From a country known simply for its creative, attack-minded players that mesmerised defences of the past century, Brazil now starts with the world’s costliest, if not the best defence in the world anchored by the PSG pair of Thiago Silva and David Luiz.
Even the best know they need to change and evolve in order to remain at the top, a lesson learned the hard way by defending world champions Spain, hammered 5-1 in a repeat of the 2010 final by the Netherlands in their opening match.
With the majority of aging stars returning, picked again by World Cup winning coach Vicente del Bosque and playing out the same “tiki taka” script, even Spain seemed to require a wake-up call. And the Dutch gave them just that in Salvador.
Making the final and losing to a solitary Andres Iniesta goal in Johannesburg four years ago, the Dutch went through a total revamp, just five of that squad - Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas Jan Huntelaar - making it to their squad in Brazil under Louis van Gaal.
It seemed the “tiki taka” that amazed the world four years ago en route to three major trophies for Spain was running out of steam. A new, more powerful type of football is on the horizon.
And the 40 plus goals in the first week’s 15 matches that featured just one draw, shows why.
Spain aren’t the only ones who look in need of some refreshing, just look at how the stars that took Uruguay to the semi-finals in South Africa lost their opening match 3-1 and made Costa Rica look like world champions in the process.
The obvious reason? Oscar Tabarez has probably overstayed his effectiveness. True, he was at the helm of a transformation since taking charge in 2006 and saw the rise of the new generation, but eight years could be too long.
Look at Belgium, Switzerland, Mexico and Costa Rica, all featuring products of a development system that was revamped a decade ago.
They seem to be on everybody’s list of teams that could go far in this tournament, all with squads with recent honours at youth and Olympic level.
And how does this relate to Malaysia? Our conservative football system that lacks any significant form of evolution.
It lacks the open-mindedness to accept transformation. We have continuously failed to learn from the best, but are forced to accept these circumstances as the best achievable.
One can’t help but reflect on the recent controversies related to the introduction of the National Football Development Plan (NFDP) by the sports ministry.
It showed not just a lack of unity, but a clear divide and the willingness to oppose any progress between both sides of that divide.
That one example, when even the best in the world are introducing not one, but many changes and new programmes to their systems each year, shows just why we are stuck where we were three decades ago.
While the best tinkered with their football and found ways to improve it, our football administrators continued to tinker with their places within a failing system.