Tag: Spain

Euro 2012 – The Runners & Riders: Spain

From perennial under-achievers to perpetual favourites in considerably less than ten years, the first decade of the twenty-first century was the one that transformed the world’s perception of the Spanish national football team. Spain began the new century living very much down to people’s expectations, with a quarter-final defeat at the 2000 European Championships being followed up with a quarter-final defeat in the World Cup two years later and a first round elimination at Euro 2004. At some time around the middle of the decade, though, something clicked and Spain became all-conquering and fearsome. They matched France’s turn of the century achievement of winning the European Championships and the World Cup back-to-back – albeit in reverse order – and go into this summers finals as the favourites to win the tournament again. Yet is there a possibility that, in an age in which club football, and in particular European club football, rules the roost absolutely, our minds may get Spain and the two grandest clubs of the era, Barcelona and Real Madrid, a little mixed up. How many people, we might well wonder, will be half-expecting – perhaps in spite of themselves – Lionel Messi to turn out for them this summer? After all, he plays for a team that wear red and blue and seem to win all the time. Spain, however, are more workmanlike than Barcelona. Those...

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European Championship Stories: 1964 – A Battle Of Ideologies

If the early history of the European Championships can be seen as explicitly wrapped up in the politics of the time, then Spain’s victory on home ground in 1964 European Nations Cup could be regarded as one of international football’s ultimate flashes in the pan. This was a victory that was simultaneously the last gasp of one of the greatest club sides that European football has ever seen and the beginning of a lull that would last for more than twenty years, a brief victory for the ultra-nationalism that blighted Spanish political life for the most of the four decades that followed the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. The qualifying competition – this tournament was expanded to take in twenty-nine nations, although West Germany would continue to sit it out – provided a couple of surprises of its own. England, entering the competition for the first time, chose their Preliminary Round Second Leg match against France as the opportunity to debut their new manager, Alf Ramsey. Having drawn 1-1 at Hillsborough in the first leg, Ramsey’s first match as the England manager saw his team lose by five goals to two in Paris. Elsewhere, in the First Round Luxembourg beat the Netherlands by three goals to two – and only narrowly lost in the quarter-finals after a replay in, ironically enough, Amsterdam against Denmark after drawing against...

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European Championship Stories: 1960 – Cold War Football

There are plenty of people, not least within the governing bodies of football itself, who would have it that football and politics don’t mix. This is, of course, bunkum, whether we like it or not. The game holds such influence over so many people that it sometimes seems impossible for politicians not to be able to link the two, from the relatively harmless, “You only win the World Cup under Labour” slogans of Harold Wilson’s British government of the late 1960s to the altogether more sinister machinations of the state organisations and their leaders that ran clubs in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. That the expansion of pan-European football should have come in the years following the second world war shouldn’t be surprising. One lasting legacy of the war was huge progress in the area of aeronautics, which led to the rapid popularisation of commercial air travel in the post-war years. European tours by some of the biggest club sides on the continent – in particular those from behind the newly-formed Iron Curtain, such as Honved of Hungary and Dynamo Moscow – became commonplace and led to the formation of UEFA in 1954. The first European Cup winners would be crowned two years later. What, though, of international football? By the mid-1950s it was more than apparent that the future of the international game would involve further expansion...

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Video Of The Week: Football & Fascism

As some of you may have noticed, we’ve restarted the “Video Of The Week” section on the site, and this week we have a particular treat for you in the form of the outstanding BBC documentary from 2003, “Football & Fascism”. This film traces the link between three fascist dictators of the twentieth century – Mussonlini, Hitler and Franco – and football, focussing on Mussolini’s, ahem, “hands on” approach towards the 1934 World Cup finals, the importance placed upon Germany’s performances at the 1936 Olympic Games and the 1938 World Cup finals and General Franco’s use of Real Madrid to bolster his popularity in Spain. That this is a BBC documentary is, of course, as much as you need to know in so far as an assurance of quality is concerned. Excellently researched, with some fascinating archive footage (the 1934 World Cup finals, for example, come alive before your very eyes in a way that is seldom seen elsewhere) and interviews with both historians and players that were there at the time, this is essential viewing to understand how football, for an ideology that was fundamentally atheist, was plied into being, to a lesser or greater extent, an opiate for the masses. It is critical that we remember that, just as the game can be a force for good, it can also be a force for evil and that...

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The 2010 World Cup Final: Netherlands 0-1 Spain

It’s a curious sight. The BBC’s panel is sitting, for the first time in this tournament suited and booted, in its base studio outside the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, almost eight hundred miles from Johannesberg, where the match itself is being played. It looks deserted, behind them. It probably is – everybody will be at home, watching the build-up to the 2010 World Cup final. Still, at least they won’t have anybody banging on the glass behind them and laughing at Alan Shearer’s male pattern baldness. The preamble to this match carries a somewhat curiously dislocated air to it. The Netherlands have never played Spain in either the European Championship or World Cup finals, so there is no historical precedent between the two teams that can particularly drawn upon, no matter how irrelevant it may be. Instead, the BBC choose to interview Howard Webb (memo to the 2018 bid committee – “England: Referee Of The World” is not an appropriate sub-heading for the tender documents), recreate some moments from the finals through the medium of smiling African boys and then interview a number of people on the subject of what it means to South Africa to host the World Cup (the answer, condensed to three words, is, “quite a lot”). Next up is Garth Crooks, who meets Ruud Krol, a man who, according to Crooks, “epitomised the...

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