Alan Pardew: Tournament with little flair or skill saved by Germans

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Coaches won the World Cup, not players. And that's not a good thing. It's been overcautious, overly tactical and there's been little room for players to excel. They were simply not given the space in which to work, in which to get into attacking situations.

The set-up of teams is more thorough than ever, they are better prepared, better conditioned. Statistically I think that this World Cup, from the group stages onwards, has probably had fewer shots on target than any other. It's a great disappointment, especially as it started so promisingly with some great performances in the early matches. From the last 16 onwards, there have been few memorable games.

You can't necessarily fault the coaches. Players will have to adapt, have to get better - and coaches are going to have to come up with a way of overcoming it. That is the challenge for the future because we have to protect the game and its entertainment factor. At present, that's diminishing and it worries me. We have to keep a close eye on that.

I'm not sure we want to be coming out of tournaments saying that coaching, rather than individual skill or moments of brilliance, won the day.

We need to unlock the 4-5-1. Most teams are now turning to it. Ninety per cent of coaches replicate rather than innovate, so I think we will see that formation used more often in the Premier League. It's the way it's been going for a couple of years now and I have to say I don't believe it's good for the game. At West Ham we'll certainly continue to look at ways to open up the game and, hopefully, we'll be able to do that.

It's not just the coaches' fault. The blame lies with the pressure they are under and, also, the media spotlight. Every coach at the World Cup knew that if he made mistakes it was his head on the block and that made him more wary. And because every team is so competitive it was very easy to lose a game.

In a sense, the final itself represented the whole tournament. It panned out the way I thought it would. It was very tight with not many runners going beyond the ball and there were lots of clever, technical play with two very tactically well-drilled teams.

But it was a World Cup that lacked individuality and that also summed up Italy. They did not have any flair players, didn't have any great pace and were disciplined - and in brilliant condition. That was a major asset that's not really been touched on. When it came to handing out the medals, the physios and fitness coaches certainly deserved them too. It was the back-room team that won it for Italy.

I don't think, hand on heart, there are many people who would say Italy were the best team. It was a tight tournament and any one of four or five could have won it. That also makes you wonder about England and what a fully fit team with a bit less fear could have achieved. We will have to carry that regret with us for the next four years.

The players of the tournament were defenders: Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro. They were both outstanding. I think Thierry Henry did his reputation no harm and came out of it confirming his status as the world's best striker. But it's been a disappointing World Cup for skill. The exception was maybe France against Brazil when we had that excellent performance from Zinedine Zidane, but that was probably because the Brazilians allowed him space in the mistaken belief they could do that and win anyway. Ronaldinho was the biggest disappointment.

It all meant that, as things progressed, I actually wanted Germany to win it. I never thought I'd say that but there's one simple reason why I rooted for them: they went for it. They played 4-4-2 with two out-and-out strikers and attacked. That's why they got that amazing ovation for finishing third. They wanted to have a go and, hopefully, that's a lesson for other coaches. Jürgen Klinsmann has enhanced his reputation. He's come out of this far stronger and it has everything to do with the approach he took. That positive outlook was fantastic. He was the knight in shining armour or, rather, the Volkswagen Beetle.

Alan Pardew has been writing for 'The Independent' throughout the World Cup. The fee for his column is being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

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