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Spain: a New World Order

July 1, 2012
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Spain: cool unsmiling Jedi knights.

 

Four years ago, still at the tender age of 25, I appropriately behaved as a person in their mid-twenties would and reached a totally brainless conclusion after the curtains came down on the 2008 Euro Championship:

Spain’s victory was just a glitch in the system. An anomaly. A bizarre outcome due to Dutch inefficiency or German incompetence.

I had no idea of what was to follow.

Spain grew. Spain improved. Spain dominated.

Today, 4 years later, on the cusp of my thirties, I have had the pleasure (and horror, let’s face it, after all, I am a Brazilian fan) of watching Spain put the 2010 World Cup and another Euro in the bag.

A feat no other team has ever achieved. A dominance so impeccably orchestrated that Spain didn’t even need to play in full gears until the very final match of each tournament in order to win it all – and thus showing us how miserably behind the rest of the world of football is compared to them at this point.

Many, myself included, called them boring. Bureaucratic. Neo-liberal, even.

I believe those statements, however heatedly exaggerated, are true.

There is a certain coldness to the way Spain play football; it’s slightly off-putting. Chilling.

But that only speaks to how utterly focused their players are – which makes those statements above kind of false.

To put it simply: nothing fazes them.

With a slick style based on incessant passing and sheer rhythmic control through ball possession, Spain play a type of football that’s heavy in psychology, devastatingly frustrating at times and delightfully mesmerizing.

In terms of football, it is more like chess. It requires analysis. It requires patience.

Kind of like a strong cup of  black coffee; or that very first time you tried a pint a Guinness.

They arrived at South Africa 2010 as favourites and lost their very first match, against a highly inferior Switzerland. Rapidly, everyone busted out their World Cup stats and reminded them that no team had ever won the tournament after losing their opening match.

But the Spaniards didn’t care. They plowed ahead and, on bare-bones scores of 1 x 0, they reached the final and, playing against an antagonizing and violent Dutch side, they claimed the World Cup victory (by a score of 1 x 0, again) for the very first time.

And thus, destroying yet another tabu: the very first European team to win a World Cup outside Europe.

Fast-forward 2 years,  and Spain does the un-doable, again: they turn on their jets and beat Italy, 4-time World Cup champions, by a score of 4 x 0.

And they achieve that glory with two of their biggest stars side-lined due to injuries: Villa (their 2010 Top Scorer) and Puyol (their Vice-Captain).

Their post-game celebrations in Ukraine tonight resembled more a Thanksgiving dinner than a crazy night at the disco, with the players bringing their wives and kids to the pitch for photos and whatnot. It was calm, gentle – and rather touching, actually.

But it was also cold, if compared to the usual testosterone-filled dance party a group of 23 patriotic men in their twenties are capable of throwing…

But, hey, this is Spain. They are unfazed by defeat, low scores, lack of striking power or glorified victories.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s why they are winners.

We can confidently say, as of now, that this Spanish side has entered the history books.

We can confidently say that, as of now, they are up there as one of the greatest squads football has ever seen.

Up there with the Brazils of 1958 – 1970.

Quite possibly the greatest team we will get to watch in our lifetime.

Not that they care.

They are Spain, after all.

Unfazed.

 

RB.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 6, 2012 3:40 pm

    While I may not agree 100% (but probably at least 80%), this is really well-written and enjoyable to read.

    —-
    “Spain play a type of football that’s heavy in psychology, devastatingly frustrating at times and delightfully mesmerizing.

    In terms of football, it is more like chess. It requires analysis. It requires patience.”
    —-

    I guess part of what frustrates me about people calling Spain boring is that it leads me to believe they are watching soccer simply (or, at least, primarily) for the level of EXCITEMENT. Some of my best friends feel this way about the game, and it leads to disagreements about games we watch together. They might say “it was 0-0, that’s so boring, there were no goals”. But you’ve highlighted a few of the important aspects of their game that make me enjoy watching them play more than any other team.

    When they get their passing going the way only they can, it is, as you say, delightfully mesmerizing. It requires analysis and patience because there is a level of complexity only fully detectable after thousands of hours worth of playing/watching/studying soccer. Why should a team’s performance be judged on the level of excitement? Why is excitement the determining factor? Some people might watch soccer for excitement, but many watch it for the hundreds of little encounters that happen on the field and the culmination of a well-executed game-plan over 90 minutes, for every time a ball out of the air is met with a perfect first touch, for every time a pass splits two or three players, for every time a defender loses his patience and gets dragged out of position, chasing shadows as their opponents deny them the ball.

    It just seems like there are so many things to marvel at with a team like Spain…instead of just enjoying all of the things that make them great, why must the most prevalent thing be that they are “boring”? Are people even watching to watch the sport be played, or are they watching for goals?

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