THE YAWNING GAP: GAME, SET AND SPAIN

The Spanish obsession with ‘Tika Taka’ football will have gained a whole new legion of admirers and fans with their latest flawless display on the world stage. What they did to the resilient Azzuri brigade in final will never be repeated in the finale of any UEFA tournament again, unless it’s a dazzling Barcelona taking on a clueless English team in a Champions League Final. 

Criticized for playing ‘boring’ (dominant) football throughout this tournament, what followed was a casual display of ruthlessly hungry attacking football that demonstrated the sheer extent of mastery over this breathtaking passing style. That it was against one of Europe’s most renowned defensive walls, is a fact that will not go unnoticed by every previous group of players that have made a claim to be called the greatest team of all time. 
 
Those who call it boring probably lie in the same category of disgruntled fans that called the Australian cricket dominance (for 15 years) predictable and boring, and Schumacher or Armstrong’s unparalleled hold over their sport uninteresting. The same fans are known to support underdogs once their own teams go out, and hence, to see a team win 3 major EUFA trophies in four years could be frustrating. These are also the same bunch of enthusiasts that admire the Barcelona brand of fluid football, and are well aware that Spain’s style has been carefully cultivated over decades after successfully fusing the best aspects of the Madrid and Barcelona squads. It is far from easy to master, and to repeat this brand game after game on the biggest stage- frustrating teams to the point of no return with dazzling possession play, is no mean feat. 

The best part of this Spanish team is that they cannot lay claim to having superstar larger-than-life footballers, or best-of-all-time candidates. Their keeper, (Saint) Casillas, who started in all three wins since 2008, is the best keeper in the world, for now. Their midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta are the best and most underrated midfielders in the world- orchestrators par excellence. Torres, who blows hot and cold, was at one point of time, the most lethal striker in the world. Villa, who didn’t even play this Cup, is currently the best specialist striker in world football. Together, they form a team that could outgun the Avengers if they had to, and take on the Brazilian teams of the 60s and 70s, or the Dutch teams that followed. Their signature style of keeping possession at any cost, and cutting out all long balls and corner kicks from their repot are (every English aspect basically), is so mind numblingly well-executed that we couldn’t use a FIFA 2012 PS3 team to outpass them with remotes. While watching them on television or in a stadium, as a spectator, it is easy to pinpoint from your vantage point where the next pass should go, and at what speed and trajectory it should go at- much like you do in a video game. But this current team of freakishly good kickers, actually go ahead and read minds, putting down our dreams on paper, and then showing us what perfect football looks like. 

A 4-0 thumping of the only team that held them to a draw in Euro 2012, was an appropriate statement to all those who thought that Spain had everything but the ability to score goals. They found gaps that not even the man on the crane vertically above the pitch could see, and they saw opportunities that even Kasparov wouldn’t see 10 moves ahead. Fabregas’s stunning cross to the tiny Silva in the 14th minute was a glimpse of what could be done if you entered a World Gaming competition in World Class mode. Jordi Alba’s bolt-like run through the midfield to compliment Xavi’s 15798273th through-ball was vindication of his move to the best club team of all time. Torres’s ability to find himself at the right place at the right time (except in a blue shirt), made a mockery of all the teams that played with actual strikers throughout the competition. Torres played 189 minutes in all, and finished with the Golden Boot. 
 
Yes, you heard that right. Tied on assists (1) with Gomez, Torres took the prize because of the lesser minutes he played. This, after probably the worst club season in his career with Chelsea. This, after not being given a minute of playing time in the semi-final against Portugal. 
 
Del Bosque could bale their economy out, with such stunning foresight and strategy. Not only did the manager win his third consecutive cup with the team, but he confounded critics with his no-striker formation time and again, and STILL managed to propel Fabregas AND Torres into the record books. 

This is no ordinary feat. This is no ordinary team. 

Pirlo looked shattered, and Balotelli threw a tantrum. It was understandable after being blown off the field by a team that looked ‘beatable’ for 3 weeks. The funny part is- nobody beat them. Some came close. But that isn’t enough. Even Djokovic came close to crashing out of every Slam he’s played in, but nobody finishes him off. Look where he is now. 

In the end, sit back and contemplate what you will be telling your grandkids years from now:
I’m from an era that has three separate tennis players, playing at the same time, who can lay claim to the greatest-of-all-time title. The era that has Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic– all at once! I’m from an era that had the Australian cricket team win 3 World Cups in a row. I’m from an era that had Michael Schumacher win 5 world titles in a row. I’m from an era that had Lance Armstrong win 7 Tour De France titles in a row. I’m from an era that has the greatest Olympian of all time, a swimmer that won 7 Gold medals in 2008. I’m from an era that has Tiger Woods. I’m from an era that has Sachin Tendulkar. I’m also from an era that has the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt. I’m from an era that has Lionel Messi. I’m from an era that has Barcelona and Spain playing in tandem. 

Basically, I’m from an era to end all previous and coming eras. 

I was there.

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1 Comment

  1. monal

    July 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    as masterfully written as the football on display…

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