All Hail Spain, Champions Of The World


Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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5 Responses

  1. Tim Vickerman says:

    Nice article, thanks.

    I generally agree and find the criticism this Spanish side has been receiving baffling. There was an interesting interview with Xavi before the final where he described how difficult it was playing sides who set up defensively and closing you down at every opportunity. Perhaps some elements of the media have gone over the top in painting Spain as whiter than white. They do have players who can compete in the ‘dark arts’ of simulation, hard tackling and card waving. And I can accept the point that some of Spain’s matches aren’t gripping as they aren’t end-to-end thrillers.

    But to put this down to Spain being dull and passing it endlessly sideways is, I think, to not actually watch the way they play. One of the most ridiculous, bone-headed arguments against Spain I’ve seen a few people post is along the lines of, ‘if they’re so good, why did they only score with a header from a set-piece in the semi-final?’. That doesn’t even justify a comment…

    As has been pointed out by Sid Lowe and others, the Spanish style of play works superbly as a defensive tactic, without defensive strength being its primary purpose. Another argument I’ve heard often is that without a natural ball-winner in Marcos Senna, the side is not as fluent as it was in Euro 2008. Though Senna undoubtedly was an important part of that side, I think his replacement with Busquets actually means that they can keep possession to an even greater degree and, with the often unnoticed high pressing they apply, there is effectively no need for such a player. The other factor is that, at Euro 2008, they weren’t favourites at the outset and teams would set out to try and beat them. At this World Cup, everyone (bar Chile) has tried to sit back, press and catch them on the break.

    I’m not in the ‘tiki-taka’ Taliban, I just appreciate a great side playing good football.

  2. ejh says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve ever read a chess/football comparison written by somebody who actually knows their chess. Splendid stuff, and more than substantially right.

  3. Martin says:

    Great article.

    The fact that they lost their opening game to more limited opposition trying to contain them and yet persisted in playing their normal way makes them a better, not a worse, team in my eyes.

    Four 1-0 wins against different opposition from different cultures and scoring different types of goals doesn’t lie. Not enough has been written about just how good their defence (all down the pitch) has been.

    They are worthy champions and certainly a degree better than that lucky Italian team of 2006.

  4. Really enjoyed this, thanks – a well-reasoned argument against the naysayers.

    The difficult thing for me has been balancing admiration for Spain’s purity of intention, their solid system, their passing ability, their moments of individual brilliance with the nagging feeling that that there could and should be more entertainment and excitement from a talented, winning side. (I appreciate that this is monumentally unreasonable of me, especially given the point about other teams ‘parking the bus’, but I can’t shake it.)

    They play a certain way, and do it brilliantly, but Spain’s near-perfection in their successes makes me wish we’d had a less functional (less-deserving?!) winning team that rode their luck more, had less defensive discipline, and crazily threw more caution to the wind and went for the jugular when it wasn’t necessary to do so. The team with these characteristics was the eventually-outclassed Germany side. Spain are a better team than Germany/anyone else in the world but I didn’t find them better to watch.

    Still, I’ve referred to them recently as being ‘dull’ myself and you’ve made me re-think that here; it’s a reactionary term that doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny. They’re clearly not dull, but perhaps because of their ability their games were often less exciting than certain others to watch, for some neutrals.

    I also thoroughly enjoyed the tournament after the cagey first week; didn’t enjoy the final too much but I thought the knockout stages were pretty special.

  5. Showboating says:

    Personally I do find Spain dull to watch. Brilliantly effective, but dull.

    I think there’s two reasons:

    It is partly due to the relentless mechanical perfection of their game. In the same way that Pete Sampras, Stephen Hendry, and Gary Lineker were nowhere near as exciting as John McEnroe, Jimmy White, or Paul Gascoigne. Flawed genius is always more exciting than consistent reliability.

    The other reason is the style of their play. Totally dominating possession with endless quick passing and good movement. It occasionally produces moments of delightful flowing football, but most of the time it’s just pragmatic possession retention. Some people, particularly TV pundits, love this style of play, but it leaves me cold. I like quick, direct, counter-attacking, end-to-end stuff, and Spain’s system snuffs that out.
    I also like teams to be adaptable, but Spain have a Plan A that they just force to work in all situations. Arsenal do pretty much the same thing, but at least they have the decency to be completely undone every now and then, followed by an amusing tantrum from Wenger.

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