The Spanish Corner

The world remembers Carlos Alberto as the footballer who scored arguably the best goal in World cup history. But there is one more thing he will be remembered for – his prediction in 1994 was that the world would see the most successful team with playing no recognised No. 9.

Spain and to some extent Barcelona have and are realising this vision. The game has evolved from the traditional 4-4-2 to the 4-5-1 formation and now the world champions are happily playing 4-6-0. As a football fan it is very fascinating to see something which was thought to be unthinkable and was just a mere theory. The Spanish team keeps the ball better than any of the international team in the history of football. Achieving consistency in major international tournaments is not at all an easy task. History is evident that no team has won three major tournaments consecutively. But Spain is here to change that.

The system Spain has adopted in EURO12 is worthy of professional respect and appreciation but for football fans like me who has no emotional connection to the national side, it’s not enough.

From EURO2008, WC2010 and now EURO2012 the Spanish team has been growing tactically and degrading from an entertainment point of view. The Excitement and edge of the seat football is not generated in a Spanish game (atleast for the neutrals). The emotions generated when we see a winger beat a man, someone with pace going past defenders etc. is almost absent from the matches Spain play. Calling it ‘boring football’ would be me doing the Spanish team disservice, but yes you cannot completely take away the excitement quotient from the game. The Spanish players are more absorbed in tactical play. There won’t be any football fan who doesn’t appreciate the kind of football Spain plays but there is always something missing. The kind of football Spain plays requires the players to be very flexible and adaptive, the Spanish midfield has been the best in a good four years period, it can run past any midfield like they don’t exist even Germany’s midfield. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure it out. Anybody who knows even little about Football gives them the total credit of being technically superior any day. Fans sometimes like to keep their brains aside and just enjoy then football and become a Pundit after it’s all said and done. The quick passing, the possession play, the build-up, the 70-80% possession, the 800-900 passes in 90mins sound good in a post-match review but ‘Hey, who are we kidding’

Spain tries to play the kind of football that Barcelona does. But everyone has seen it’s not happening, not even close. Barcelona has great wide players and Messi which gives them the cutting edge. I feel that the Barcelona philosophy is being dragged into the national side and it is affecting them. Because there are many players in the Spanish side that don’t play the kind of football Barcelona does. So, on one hand you see Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta doing something and in comes Alonso making a 40 yard cross field pass. The ambiguity is clearly visible. Spain opted for a midfield solution because that would allow them to put their best players on the field so what happened against Argentina (4-1) and Portugal (4-0) doesn’t happen again. Spain haven’t been the same since the World cup, they do miss David Villa who despite being a wide player had the instinct to go beyond defenders. In 2008, it was even better with Torres there with Villa. Despite their flaws they still were and are the team to beat, they have always been better than the opposition, they made it to the finals (though unconvincingly) one can’t question that they still are the favourites. We saw teams like Portugal and Croatia getting close but after FT they were the second favourites. One began to wonder is the Worst of Spain still better than rest of the top international teams?

If Spain wins the EURO12, it would be the first team in the history of Football to achieve the mighty treble. And some may claim it to be the greatest team ever. However I’m not yet convinced, in my personal opinion Spain are over-complicating the theory of football. The greatest international and club teams’ world has seen has this amazing blend of defensive soundness, attacking threat, technical expertise and entertainment quotient – The Brazilian team of 1970 or even 1982, the French team of 1984, 70s team of Holland, Dream team of Barcelona, the Mighty Milan back in the day are the sides world remembers.

If Spain wins today I don’t think they would get a standing ovation like they did in 2008. Now are the times when a team runs more behind success and glory if appreciation comes along with it, it just a BONUS. Spain will get all the respect they deserve from the fans but it is also a fact that they will be without the appreciation. But I’m sure Spain wouldn’t give a damn about it.

Hoping for an exciting final, Enjoy It.

– Ravi Sadrani


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