It’s finally happened. Spain, the Iberian giants, have rewritten footballing history by winning three consecutive major titles and retaining the European Championship crown. After a rampant and professional victory against the Italians, have the Spanish finally displaced the ‘boring’ label that has followed their football and have they joined the footballing greats?
Well, for a start, sundays final was nowhere near boring. The precise inter-play and poetic passing of Spain eased on to the path of glory once again, following a more than successful four year stint of epitomising world football, by being ranked number one in the world. Armed with the a squad made up of some of the most illustrious and talented players in the world, such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, to name a few, the Spanish have finally marked another record on the football bible.
Yet, all the individual talent and cross-national divides in domestic football, the team shows no mass of ego or reliance on others. They simply work as a team and depend on each other to keep the function and cognition of the team moving, mechanically seeking and accomplishing the goals they set themselves. Vicente Del Bosque plays the ‘brains’ of the operation. And, after what he has shown us throughout Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, a brave role at that. Having played with no strikers for most of the tournament, whilst having the likes of certified marksmen such as Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres, Pedro, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, all sitting on the bench, Del Bosque sported tremendous faith and critic resilience in his tactics and his midfield.
Spain have the players, the manager and the silky, delicate style football that gives them their identity on the world stage. But are they up there with the greats? Could they match the great 1970’s Brazil squad or the German side of the same decade. Would they be beaten by the fiery France squad who threatened to match the efforts of Spain between 1998 and 2000? In my opinion, and from what we have seen over the past four years, they are up there with the best. They could beat the best. And, certainly now, they are the best footballing side in history.
I watched sundays final and I can honestly say I’ve never seen football like it. Even by Spain’s standards it was sublime. The movement of the players, the interchanges in space, the quick two-touch lay-offs, the skill in the ball, the unity and the tactical awareness of the players seemed almost determined. Each Spanish player walked out of the tunnel and knew exactly what they have to do. After all, competitively, Spain tend not to lose. There have been the odd slip ups, like the one-nil defeat they shockingly suffered against Switzerland in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Italy, who had a surprisingly good tournament under the admirable and proud Cesare Prandelli, seemed as disposable as any other team in the tournament who faced Spain, despite the stalemate that met the teams in their group opener of the competition. During the final, Spain simply neutralised the peerless Andrea Pirlo and tied a leash around Italian bulldog Balotelli, taking Italy’s main threats out of the game.
Can we expect more trophies from Spain? Absolutely. With the World Cup in Brazil just around the corner, only one team will really be on the lips of the spectators. I have to say, I had my doubts over Spain coming into this tournament. Ironically, I thought there performance against Italy in the opening match of their group was rather lackluster and ‘un-Spanish-like’ compared to how well they’ve played on the international level. I found it bemusing how they played with no striker and expected to get goals. An idea that lead to the mass labeling of ‘boring’ possession football. I had my money on the Germans doing the business, but yet again, despite playing some decent football themselves, they have since undergone the ‘Andy Murray effect’ in major international tournaments and only achieve semi-final places.
Even more astoundingly, Spain seem to reproduce more elusive and captivating talents to replace the legends they have already birthed. Jordi Alba, for instance, slots perfectly into the squad adding pace, elegance and skill to the teams qualities. One must remember that spain were missing two of their greatest sons throughout the tournament, with solid centre-half Carlos Puyol and David Villa, Spain’s record goal scorer, both missing out due to injury. Yet, Spain still went on to win their third consecutive international title. If England were to miss some of their stars, which we in fact were missing through our European campaign, we would resign ourselves to defeat, again, which we did do. Spain, however, just slot players of equal quality into the mould of their conspiracy and team equilibrium.
Perhaps that’s the difference between Spain and the rest of the world. Amongst their individual talent, they value a team talent above each other. “There is no ‘I’ in team” has never sounded so prolific.
No team has ever played the game better than Spain. And, for now, I cannot see a team who will ever play the game better.
La Furia Roja. The Red Fury. Remember the name.