“The competitiveness shown so far gives us hope that it won't just be the usual suspects heading towards the final with Spain eventually passing the life out of everyone on their way to pick up the trophy.”
That’s what I said 3 weeks ago, hoping that a Russia or a Denmark might cause an upset and emerge the winners of a tournament that already had Spain’s name on the trophy. I was wrong.
Spain’s domination has been a hot topic the past few weeks, with many commentators (mostly English press) bemoaning their preference for possession ahead of risky attacks which would leave them open on the counter. “Spain are boring,” they say. “All they want to do is pass.” Even Arsene Wenger has gone so far as to say that Spain have betrayed their philosophy by turning their once positive approach into a negative, and favouring possession as a way to prevent conceding rather than set up attacks. It’s true that Spain is not always a free-scoring attacking machine, but whether the style is boring is purely subjective; and criticism could easily be rooted in jealousy or misunderstanding.
In a country like England – which adores lung-busting runs for a ball that is clearly going out of play, and yearns for players to demonstrate ‘passion’ with every swing of their boot – Spain’s patient approach will always be open to boorish abuse; but elsewhere Spain are largely admired. Other nations will look to Spain and see what they can learn from them; unfortunately, in England they’re looked at with suspicion and disdain for their experimental formations, use of stats, and lack of Scott Parker.
As the rest of the world moves forward, England remains in the past complaining about these fancy foreign ideas and shouting for players to just get stuck in. That’s why England fail.
But hey-ho, never mind. Let’s stick to the positives. Euro 2012, for the most part, has been especially entertaining thanks to some wonderful football, stunning skills and Wayne Rooney’s hair. The play on show in the group stage was not just skilful, but exhilarating; and Russia, Poland, and Denmark stood out as being particularly willing to go out and attempt to win the game rather than just trying not to lose. Of course, it didn’t get them anywhere, as they were eliminated after a crazy final night of Group A games when wins from the Czechs and Greeks dumped Poland and Russia out; but it’s better to go out all guns blazing than with a whimper. (Probably.)
The tournament was a massive improvement on the abomination that was the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and simply remembering Euro 2012 for Spain’s win would be unfair to the majority of the other teams who contributed in making this tournament so good. The adventure and quality on display here should have us salivating in anticipation for Brazil in two years. It may end up being another trophy for a dominant Spain, but if the other nations can perform to the standard of football set here, then I for one won’t mind.
The question is can England adapt their own game to provide the necessary tactical flexibility and focus on technique to see them progress further than the second round? Well, that’s the task the dynamic man at the helm faces.
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