Some would have you believe that defence is the most important part of a football team, mentioning that if you don't lose goals then you can't be beaten. Others think that scoring goals is the most vital aspect, Pep Guardiola included "The most difficult thing in football is to put it into the net. Scoring goals is the hardest thing there is."
Depending on your personal preference you may value some parts of the game more than others, but in modern football it is becoming more apparent that being able to create goals is the key component to a successful team. The playmaker role has become of prime importance and after a brief cull between the late-nineties and mid-noughties, the 'Number 10' has returned in magnificent style.
The flamboyance of Ronaldinho, coupled with the emergence of several star creators at Euro 2008, brought an end to the defensive counter-attacking cycle which had threatened to rob football of its entertainment value. The Brazilian combined style with substance in making his club European champions and becoming the best player in the world. Spain's success at the 2008 European Championships was a victory for the purists as Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas provided the finishing touch to Luis Aragones' Spanish masterpiece in Austria and Switzerland. The World Cup of 2010 only added to a victory for the football purists. Creation was on the rise.
Of the four semi-finalists, Uruguay were arguably the poorest, among more illustrious company in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. This being said, they managed to bring pride to a country which, only and years ago, witnessed their idols embarrassingly disposed of by Guus Hiddink's Australia in qualifying. And although Oscar Tabarez, Diego Godin and Luis Suarez played a big part in their success, it was a former English dud who rose to the greatest occasion.
Scoring five goals and assisting another, Diego Forlan wore the 'No.10' shirt proudly for the La Celeste and showed the benefits of having a playmaker who was free to create for the team. He finished the competition as joint top scorer, had more shots on goal than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and beaten finalist Arjen Robben, and if his impressive stats weren't enough, he captained the team to a fourth place finish, their best performance in 60 years, and secured the Golden Ball for the best player at the tournament.
2010 will be remembered for many inspiring displays, but those of Mesut Ozil and Wesley Sneijder, are particular highlights. The German 'wonderkid' was a relative unknown to anyone averse to the Bundesliga, but when he made his World Cup debut he opened the eyes of the football world. Beating Argentina 4-0, Ozil was a constant threat with his combination play. He dropped in to the hole to create space for Klose in the box and broke beyond the defence with equal effect when the game became tight for the German midfield. His assist for Klose in the 4th goal showed hunger, pace, intelligence and passing all combined in to one flurry which put his opponent to sleep. From there a star was born, a man who would go on to provide the main creative thrust to a counter-attacking Real Madrid side who won the La Liga this season.
His Dutch counterpart Wesley Sneijder produced a masterclass Johan Cruyff would have been proud of, as he led Holland to the final against Spain. He scored, assisted or assisted the assist for nine of Netherlands' 11 goals in the competition and his performance against Brazil - when his two goals helped them to a 2-1 fight back - was the arguably the greatest performance of the tournament. Had he not came up against the might of Xavi and Iniesta, it may have been Wesley Sneijder's World Cup.
What can be said about Spain which hasn't already been said? The pass masters, visionaries and a team full of genius' are three terms regularly associated with Del Bosque's side and there are two men who deserve these glowing descriptions. Xavi - winner of the Euro 2008 player of the tournament - was untroubled in South Africa and passed 669 times towards the title. Andres Iniesta was man of the match in the most important game of his life because his creative instincts allowed him to flow around the field, contributing pass after pass, and dribble after dribble and finally the winning goal.
Spain's main playmaker put the icing on the cake for a tournament which deserved to be won by the team most willing to create. Uruguay, Germany, Holland & Spain all reaped the rewards of including a 'trequartista' in their squad, and if anyone is to succeed at Euro 2012, they must use this as an example. Let's hope Euro 2012 is another victory for the playmaker.
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