Arthur Antunes Coimbra is probably to soccer what Dan Marino is to American Football: Maybe the best play maker ever not to win the big title. Never heard of him? Let’s try his stage name then: The second player in my series on play makers (more about the series here) is no other than “Zico”.
Zico, the “White Pelé”, was an outstanding play maker, his dribblings were the best in the game, his free kicks were a threat and he had a great passing game. Like Diego Maradona, whom I covered in the first part of this series a month ago, one match became the decisive one for his whole career. But unlike Maradona, he did not win it:
When Zico entered the World Cup in 1982, everybody expected that it would be him to be crowned the king of the tournament and that Brazil would win the cup. It was arguably the best Brazilian team ever (and that means a lot considering that Brazil won the cup more often than any other nation). The first round went okay, Brazil won all three matches. In the second round, Brazil beat their arch-rivals Argentina 3-1 while Italy won with only a one goal margin against the same team, so in the final match of the group Brazil just needed a draw against Italy to progress to the semi finals. The match became one of the greatest in World Cup history.
It started with a shock for Brazil: Just five minutes into the game, controversial striker Paolo Rossi (he was suspended for two years prior to the tournament for failing a drug test) scored the lead for Italy. Brazil fought back furiously and just seven minutes later, Zico brilliantly set up a pass to Socrates, who put it away into the low corner of the goal. One all.
Brazil controlled the match after that, but it was Rossi again who broke away after intercepting a Brazilian pass in the 25th minute of the game and scored the surprising 2-1 lead for Italy. From that moment on, the match only went into one direction. Brazil dominated completely but it took them until the 68th minute until Falcao buried a shot from the outside line of the penalty area into the Italian goal. The 2-2 would have been good enough for Brazil to advance to the semi finals. Their head coach Tele Santana was now facing a classical decision: Should they try to protect the result that was enough for them and play defensively or should they try to score another goal to make the margin bigger and secure the match?
Based on the dominance he had seen from his team so far, he took a very Brazilian decision: Play forward and try to score the third goal. And drama struck again: In one of their few counter attack, Italy was awarded a corner kick. Brazil couldn’t get the ball out of their area, somehow it reached Paolo Rossi again and he scored his third goal of the match. Brazil fought back furiously but did not manage to score another goal.
Probably the most artful team of all times was out of the tournament after a game in which they completely dominated their opponents (Italy only had four scoring opportunities and converted three of them).
Brazil did not accept a draw. They wanted to win even though it was not necessary in their position. It was enough not to lose. This is where the notion of cultures comes in. It is valid in sports as much as in business life.
In soccer, Italy is known for a culture of high result orientation. For Italian teams, a 0-0 draw is a good result. Defense comes first. In the 1960s, the very defensive so called “Catenaccio” (“door-bolt”) system was invented in Italy and still has an impact on Italian tactics (thought the 1982 team actually has not been extremely defensive).
Brazil on the other side stands for beautiful, emotional, forward-oriented play. After the loss in 1982 it took them 12 years before they won another World Cup. The 1994 final saw Brazil play Italy again. This time, the Brazilian team was a very untypical one: Very result oriented and tactically well educated. It wasn’t a coincidence that the final ended 0-0 after 90 minutes plus 30 minutes of extra-time. Brazil won the penalty shoot-out. It is considered one of the most boring finals in World Cup history.
If you ask Brazilian soccer fans most of them will prefer the 1982 team over the one from 1994, though the latter won a World Cup. Some even feel that the 1994 team was betraying Brazilian soccer culture.
In your company there will most probably be some people that work more Brazilian style, while others are more on the Italian side.
Some are creative, it is a beauty to watch what they do, they stand out and everybody loves what they do.
Some are result oriented and well structured, they just do what is necessary and nothing more, but they get it done consistently.
Making the result oriented and structured guys in your organization perform well is usually not a big challenge.
For the creative artists it is a lot more complicated, as they usually do not deliver as consistently as others. Zico was the best player in the tournament, Brazil was the best team in 1982, but the structure of the tournament did not allow for one lost game. They dropped out automatically after losing to Italy. If they would have been offered another opportunity to try, I am sure they would have won. In the next two matches against Italy after the 1982 World Cup, Brazil won clearly against the Italian World Champions.
When you have highly creative people in you organization, be prepared to see some bad performances. If you have the greatness to accept it, they will award you with outstanding performances that are way better than anything a result oriented colleague will ever be able to show. Accept that the Zicos in your team may have a bad day. The good days that will automatically follow will more than just compensate for it and it will be a joy to watch.
Footnote: Speaking of a joy to watch: A video of the best goals of the Brazilian team during the 1982 World Cup can be found on Youtube: Click here.
Socrates’ 1-1 on a pass from Zico in the Italy game is goal number 6 in the video, Falcao’s 2-2 is number 10. Zico is the player in jersey #10.