Spain Are In A League Of Their Own

It has been two weeks since Spain successfully defended their European Championship crown which also counted as their third straight tournament win. The former under-achievers of world football have had a remarkable five years with almost the same group of players taking part in the last three tournaments. It is amazing to see what La Roja have achieved and for some of the squad, it still hasn’t sunk in.

We have seen the likes of the French squads of 1998 and 2000 winning the World Cup and European Championships respectively, who almost had the same group of players where Spain have replicated that in the past few years, however they didn’t play with the style of play and commitment that the Spanish have. The 4-0 victory over a brave Italy side in Kiev was the first time that any country had secured back-to-back European titles. The goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata rounded off a superb Spanish performance, saving the best until last, to increase the number of silverware. 

Before Euro 2012 began, the majority of fans around the world predicted Spain would win the tournament despite facing some stiff competition from the likes of Germany and the Netherlands. Spain were placed in Group C along with Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland in what looked a decent group for Vicente Del Bosque’s men. The opening game with Italy was a stern test for the Spanish who had to come from behind to rescue a draw thanks to Cesc Fabregas. The main talking point before the match was the announcement of no striker in the starting line-up with goalscorer Fabregas in the centre of the forward three where it surprisingly worked for the Champions. 

After the 4-0 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland in their next match, Spain faced a determined Croatia side who had been impressive so far. Despite Spain narrowly beating the Croats, it was a poor performance overall which Del Bosque admitted to the media after the match. I admit that it wasn’t the best match to watch as a fan nevertheless, Spain made their passage into the quarter-finals. Next up was France, where Xabi Alonso was the centre of attention as he achieved his century of caps for his country. In honour of his milestone, he was awarded the captaincy for the match and scored both goals to set up a semi-final with Iberian neighbours Portugal. 

At this stage of the tournament, there were criticisms of Spain’s ‘tiki-taka’ style from a number of fans and journalists suggesting that La Roja were “boring to watch” As a Spain fan (thanks to my Spanish dad), I always enjoy watching them play with the different range of passing and the movement off the ball is simply sublime. There hasn’t been an international team who has played this way in my lifetime as a football fan and Spain are the only team that can play this certain brand of football. They have some world-class individuals; Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and David Silva are a few examples to mention. 

After a penalty shoot-out win over their neighbours, Spain met Italy once again in Kiev for the chance to make football history. It was a superb team performance to continue their success of top dog in European football, where you can see the highlights of the match below:

The midfield is what makes Spain tick for me as they have the skill and imagination to conjure up passes left, right and centre, to try and break the opposition down. Most teams who play against Spain, play quite defensively which makes Spain’s task even more difficult. I can’t understand how anybody can say that watching the current World Champions is boring to watch because if their local or inernational team played anywhere near the style Spain play, they would be saluting it like there is no tomorrow.

Possession is very crucial in football however the important statistic is what you do with the ball which is what Spain are very good at. Forward or backwards, they manage to keep the ball in a manner that other teams would love to replicate. One of the players of the tournament as well as Spain’s is left-back Jordi Alba. The 23-year-old, who recently signed for Barcelona, made a big impression at Euro 2012 with his bursting pace and the ability to deliver decent crosses into the box. He will get the opportunity to impress once more as he will represent Spain at the London 2012 Olympic Games next month along with Juan Mata and Javi Martinez who were part of the Euro 2012 winning squad.

 The question now is can Spain defend the World Cup in two years time in Brazil? They’ll certainly be the favourites and it wouldn’t surprise me if they went on to achieve the feat. After the Euro 2012 final, goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas said: “I’ll tell you something, in a couple of years there will be new players and, although it is true that we have great Under-21s, you have to unite that group and make it work.”

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