England’s victory over World Champions Spain at Wembley, doesn’t signify and end of an era, but it does give hope to the rest of Europe. Having collected the two biggest trophies on offer in International football, many were backing the Spanish to dominate again in 2012, but perhaps England has shown us where Spain’s weakness is.
Fabio Capello, whose England career has been unjustly criticised, gave the Wembley crowd, the Three Lions first victory over the Spanish in a decade. The Italian, who was denied key players for this fixture, built a new look 11 who worked tirelessly and showed glimpses of quality.
It would be premature to say England are finally justified their tag as the fourth best team in the world, just as it would be to claim Spain are finished, but realisations will be dawning on the Spanish public and management today.
With every wonderful creation, there is the keystone, the part that makes everything else sparkle. In the second half, Spain had wonderfully gifted players on show, but they unable to function as a team.
Xavi Hernadez, perhaps the greatest ever Spanish footballer, is the brain behind this incredible squad. The moment he was withdrawn the La Furia Roja lost their timing, their grace and more even more worryingly for Vincente Del Bosque, their identity. We are used to seeing Spain attack as a team, but as the clocked ticked away last night they lost their cool and in true Latin style, their temperament.
In Alicante against a third rate Scottish team, Spain was cruising. The ball was being moved with a purpose and orchestrator of each move was the Barcelona man. Xavi who is blessed with a chess players mind oversees each attacking manoeuvre; when there is no opening, he slows the play and patiently waits for the moment to strike. The moment he was substituted the Spanish lost their rhythm and Scotland started creating chances and managed to grab a goal.
Last night with England being forced further and further back, Del Bosque removed Xavi at half time and England suddenly had hope, but even more importantly, they got hold of the ball.
When Xavi plays the Spanish team look invincible and his teammates grow in stature. So influential is Xavi that Leo Messi, when in the Barca strip, is hailed as the greatest player in the world, but when he wears his national jersey, he is just a good player.
This may have only been a friendly, but the signs are there that this Spanish team is beatable. England’s goal, which came from a set piece, sparked the World Champions into action, but it was with long balls into the channels or over the top that they hoped to claim an equaliser. The pass and move, which has come to symbolise not only the national team but also Barcelona was lost.
Since Spain lifted the European Championships in 2008, they have been hailed as the greatest team in the world, and rightfully so, but this greatness has been built on one player. Remove the keystone from this wonderful footballing masterpiece, and you are left with just good team.
With a long and arduous season still to go with Barcelona, Xavi may arrive in Poland and Ukraine tired and out of sorts. The rest of the Europe will be hoping that this is the case, because without him the current Gods of world football are vulnerable.