Raining on Spain’s parade


Tomorrow Salut! Sunderland brings you a very positive view of Spain, as you’d expect since it is our Who Are You? feature in which a Spanish supporter is interviewed; Jeremy Robson is not so sure, and gets his retaliation in first …

What a sad indictment it is that Spain will be contesting a World Cup final.

The only pleasure to be derived from this is vicarious. It’s great for the citizens of a true football nation to see their national side in the final for the very first time.

The Primera Liga is a wonderful competition with superb football, great support and wonderful stadiums etc. The people of Spain deserve some success at international level, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Why is it a sad indictment? Take a look at their results. They had the worst possible starts to the tournament losing by a single goal to the unfancied Swiss. Their most convincing scoreline was a 2-0 win over the Hondurans who featured a significant number of part time players in their ranks. The 2-1 victory over a good Chilean side was aided and abetted by poor refereeing which reduced the South Americans to ten men for a huge part of that game.

Spain 1 Portugal 0

Spain 1 Paraguay 0

Spain 1 Germany 0

Spain 2 Honduras 0

Spain 2 Chile 1

However, that’s enough of the statistics. Spain currently has an abundance of talent, to the extent that players of the calibre of Reina, Torres, Fabregas etc are not guaranteed to start. Then there’s Mikel Arteta and Marco Senna!

When Spain won Euro 2008, they did it with some style playing a wonderful brand of possession football keeping the ball for sometimes a couple of minutes at a time and stringing thirty, forty passes or more together in majestic style, and then suddenly bursting to life in the penalty area to score. They seem to have forgotten that this is the purpose of the build up. They keep the ball all day, the possession stats are sometimes overwhelming but they seem to have forgotten the reason why you have the ball.

The CBC commentator remarked that the game against the Germans was “for the purists”; it was more suited to insomniacs. My 17 year old football mad daugher fell asleep at half time and woke up to the sound of post match Spanish celebtrations.

Iniesta has been referred to by some as the best player in the World Cup. He has dazzlingly quick feet and dribbling ability and catches the eye with some of his slick movement. Rarely though, can a player of such high quality have failed so profoundly to produce an end product. Torres has been taken off regularly having failed to deliver in this tournament.

The Germans rather ironically have a concept which has its origins in the philosophies of Kant and Goethe which is termed “Gestalt”, and which is often descibed as “the whole being greater than the sum of the parts”. In layman’s terms it might be thought of as teamwork or synergy.

The Spanish team/squad are providing evidence to turn this theory on it’s head. Arguably Spain have sufficient talent to have fielded two very strong sides in the competition, and yet many of their performances, if not results suggest that Del Bosque’s men are under performing as a unit.

Their success is being determined by a very effective defence and goalkeeper in Iker Casillas. This is perhaps surprising when you look at genuine individual brilliance that they have at their disposal. For me at least, in this tournament that has been sacrificed as part of the team ethic.

The team ethic has superceded the star players according to Diego Maradona as he offered an explanation of why the superstars were unable to shine at this tournament. He way well be right, and Spain may be the best example of that. Without the real stars shining bright, the team will also suffer lets remember. Spain seem to he happy to pass the ball around enlessly, patiently waiting for a defensive lapse, rather than using their inestimably taleneted individuals to unlock the opposition defence.

That should hearten the Dutch who are a very well organised unit. They come into the final in confident mood. They have scored a lot of goals in the last couple of games and will be aware that it may only take one to carry the trophy home on Sunday. I sincerely hope so.

8 thoughts on “Raining on Spain’s parade”

  1. Dead right. I think that Germans were nervous because they found themselve in a semi-final rather than because they were in fear of Spain. The Germans seemed to be incapacitated with nerves and even the seemingly nerveless and immaculate Per Mertesacker looked as jittery as newly born kitten at certain points during the game. The Germans lost the game in the first five minutes because they stood off them, It’s virtually impossible to pick up the pace later on (and they didn’t). You may be right about Holland because they just did enough in the group games which didn’t stretch them at all. Mind you I think we’ve yet to see a team really stretch them. They won rather easily against Brazil and the two goals that Uruguay got suggested a much closer encounter than it really was. I think Holland are a juggernaut that’s just built up speed at the right time.

  2. I wasn’t planning to watch the playoff and I may well not watch the whole thing. But I’ve decided to give it a try, in the hope that, pointless as it most certainly is, it might produce some decent, creative football for a change. That is, if the players aren’t sulking because they’re not at home and decide to make a game of it. At best, it could be like watching a good, international friendly — though “friendly” isn’t a word I associate with Uruguay any more.

  3. Re your “might also add:” I’m not sure that I’d call the Dutch adventurous so much as pragmatic. They do whatever it takes and I think they’ll have figured out the way to get the ball past the Spanish. My fear is that once they’re a goal to the good, they’ll
    fall back into a relentlessly defensive posture.
    If the Germans had played their usual game (and paid a bit of attention to their defence during Spanish set-pieces), they’d have been all over Spain.

  4. I agree with everything you say Bill, except the bit about the third place play off. I really don’t know why anyone would have any interest in this, as it’s pointless; an anachronism in the modern world where the participants in it would much rather be at home with their wives and kids. I very much doubt if I will watch it.

    “Convincing” is a good word to describe what we are discussing here. It’s precisely what they’ve not been.

  5. Sorry, you misunderstand me. I meant that that simply couldn’t be said (by anyone), given that Spain are in the final, but that they could have been so much better, so much more….. convincing, I guess is one word for it. Their overall performance and low scoring rate point up what a generally unsatisfying World Cup this has been. I was really looking forward to seeing Spain play, given the mass of talent that they have, and I was so disappointed.
    There have been moments of sheer enjoyment in the tournament but they’ve pretty much all been provided by low-ranked sides that played above expectations. That’s why I’m still so bitter about the way Ghana were eliminated. They were surfing on a wave of adrenalin that could have carried them past any of the bigger, supposedly more accomplished teams. It’s woeful that the final will instead come down to a slogging match between two sides that will almost certainly be as afraid to lose as they are keen to win. That’s why I think it could easily be a one-goal game.
    I’m hoping that Germany and (god help us) Uruguay will not feel themselves under any pressure to finish 3rd rather than 4th and will throw caution to the winds and have some fun out there. All the same, it is, as you say, a real shame that this is as good as it gets.

  6. I might also add. I do feel that the Dutch are considerably more adventurous when they have to be. Their group games (as you pointed out Bill were rather turgid affairs). They have become more enterprising with each game and can find the net.

    The peculiar thing about the way that Spain play seems to have a kind of numbing or hypnotic effect on the opposition as they are happy to stand off (as the Germans were) in the belief that they aren’t going to threaten that often, and which they didn’t. The German tactics were puzzling, depending on packing the midfield in a bunch and trying to play through Spain in little triangles about three yards square. If there’s a way to beat Spain then it will come from putting the ball down the flanks to get behind the likes of Sergio Ramos or with dropping balls in the channels over the top of their midfield. The few opportunities that the Germans had arose when they started to knock balls forward to run on to and stopped playing to feet. They simply didn’t do that enough. I expect that the likes of Kuyt and Robben will take the game to Spain more and that Holland will have learned a great deal from Spain’s encounter with the Germans, and will have seen fundamentally how not to play against them.

  7. I’m not suggesting that Spain were not effective Bill. They wouldn’t have reached the final if they hadn’t been very effective. It’s the nature of that effectiveness which I have been disappointed in. For an amazingly talented squad, I’ve been bitterly disappointed in the football that they’ve played, depending largely on very tight defensive displays to see off the opposition. Del Bosque would probably argue that his tactics have worked (thus far at least) and with total justification. He would also argue that it’s not his responsibility to provide entertainment. I have no issue with that at all, other than the fact that it isn’t exciting to watch and I don’t like it. I do feel that we have a right to expect more from such a talented squad. Moreover, the absence of a side that’s capable of dealing with the way that Spain have been playing in this tournament is frankly lamentable. What I’m really saying is that whilst from a technical point of view the Spanish team are probably the best in this tournament it’s a real shame that this is as good as it gets. They are the best of a bad bunch.

  8. You can’t say Spain hasn’t been effective in this World Cup but they might have been better to watch and higher-scoring if Del Bosque would only show a bit of enthusiasm. He’s seldom cracked even a half-smile when Spain has won and from his expression when one of his lads has put the ball in the net, you’d swear it was an own-goal. I don’t know what he’s like in the dressing room but this kind of dour approach can’t do anything for team morale.

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