Prior to Euro 2012, it seemed to be a case of “Love is all round,” but to an extent it’s now a case of “Where did our love go?”
Whilst the mood in the Spanish headlines suggested a euphoric mood ahead of a third consecutive major tournament final, some, particularly here in England, are prepared to be quite critical of Spain.
Now of course, this isn’t a problem in itself – it is the media’s job to question what they see. However, it seems bizarre that Eurosport’s title to their Paper Round Up after Spain’s penalty shoot-out victory over Portugal was “Are Spain killing football?” showing the extent of criticism being written about the World and European Champions.
In this, it details the Daily Mirror’s comments (although when “Googled,” the article is unavailable). They claimed it was: “the night when football fell out love with the World and European Champions.”
It’s not just in England either as SB Nation’s Graham McAree went further a few days before the semi-final by saying “Spain are a really boring football team. They’re a highly effective one, but they’re incredibly dull to watch.”
These comments are not out of the blue – this view has been building throughout the tournament and in some cases, before it too. Still it is a bit far reaching. It begs the question if we’ve been spoiled with the amount of tiki-taka seen over the last few years. Even if the praise which has been lavished on Spain on the past may have seemed a bit excessive, in all honesty it is not undeserved. For as one-sided as watching a Spain game is, it demonstrates the sort of technical ability England can only dream of.
Yet, McAree points out, “national teams are far, far less coordinated than their club counterparts, who are given years of training together, as opposed to a few short weeks,” which is why the standard of international football is declining. You can point to the group stages of Euro 2012 and say otherwise but there was more loose defending than there was brilliant attacking.
So does that mean Spain’s success isn’t that impressive?
No, far from it – as the old saying goes “success is relative.”
Criticism of Vicente Del Bosque’s team at Euro 2012 ignores the fact they’ve been without two players integral to the side’s success in the last two major tournaments – Carles Puyol and David Villa.
The latter’s absence has actually brought joy to tactical enthusiasts (especially fans of False Nines) leading to Del Bosque deploying a 4-6-0 a few times. Football can never have enough tactical innovation and to see it used in a major tournament is intriguing, even if its success hasn’t been aesthetically pleasing to all. Football has been always a question of taste too. The endless Spanish passing sequences though are mesmerising with the mixture of pace and patience impressive.
Debates on Spain being boring could be rendered futile should they become the first ever European side to win three consecutive major tournament finals if they beat Italy on Sunday evening. Germany, more specifically West Germany, were the last team to come close to this, back in the seventies as they managed two despite reaching the final of a third.
Ironically, they had been playing some of the most fluid football in Poland and Ukraine until they were dumped out by Italy on Thursday night. Ultimately, the Germans couldn’t win when they weren’t at the best – something the Spanish have done.
For some reason though, the criticism of Spain in the UK shows hints of hypocrisy after the praise which Chelsea received on their way to lifting the Champions League in May. Spain are playing much more enterprisingly and openly than Chelsea but aren’t receiving anywhere near the same level of plaudits. This isn’t too surprising though.
In all honesty, the Spanish won’t care about what is written about them, so long as they lift the European Championship trophy in Kiev on Sunday. For if they do, regardless of their critics, this Spain side won’t just be remembered as one of Europe’s best teams, but also the World’s best in years to come. Perhaps they might even be remembered as the Supremes.