Wednesdays 2-0 victory over France in Paris was enough to have the punters rushing to the betting shops. So France might not be the team they once were, and on Wednesday they were poor but, against a team like Spain, being poor is not always your own fault. Spain have won 42 of their last 45 matches, a simply unbelievable stat that should see them given the World Cup by default anyway.
They are quite simply and team to aspire to. With David Villa and Fernando Torres upfront, goal scoring is not an area they need to improve. In Paris, the pair played a half each and should have both left the field with a goal, instead it was just Villa this time, who opened the scoring in the first half.
Amid the boos and jeers for a certain Thierry, the spectacle was unfolding on the pitch. Fabregas, presumably standing in for the injured Xavi, and Iniesta were pulling strings that some people could not even see, such was the intricacy of their passing.
While France were woeful, Spain were sublime and showed exactly why they are favourites for the tournament in South Africa. They have the world’s best goal-keeper in Iker Casillas, and defence that includes two players from Real Madrid and one of Barcelona, and two of the best strikers of the modern era. As if that wasn’t enough, a midfield that could consist of any combination of Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Xavi, David Silva and Jesus Navas, means that they will not be lacking in depth this summer.
An amazing stat I recall seeing from the European Championships was at half-time of the game between Spain and Italy. Marcos Senna, the Spanish holding midfielder had passed the ball over 50 times with a completion rate of….100%! That basically sums up the Spanish way. European Championship quater-final against the World Champions and the main midfield player had not given the ball away once in the first 45 minutes!
Having spent part of last year in Barcelona, the experience of watching Barcelona every week is a priviledge, and one that should be forced upon children who aspire to play football at a top level. From the school playgrounds using a weighted ball to promote passing football to the academies of the top clubs, Spain lives and breathes the national sport.
While the flower was a late bloomer, the ultimate prize could be right around the corner.