With Spain looking forward to their first ever world cup final on Sunday, Peter Jackson asks: are they really nice to watch?
Yes they’re through, yes it was convincing but really… did you enjoy it? Spain beat Germany in the Moses Mabhida stadium after a header by Carlos Puyol but at times you questioned whether the Euro 2008 champions could score.
The group H winners had 61% of possession in front of 60,000 passionate fans but at times I questioned whether I was really enjoying the football the Vicente Del Bosque’s side played.
His side flooded the midfield, with almost a square of Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso positioned behind Barcelona playmakers Xavi and Andreas Iniesta, and passed between themselves with relative ease as Germany looked out of sorts. However, the ‘final ball’ was lacking and my optimism that this would be an excellent spectacle was rapidly deflating.
The previous night’s game was by far the better game. Holland’s 4-2-3-1 formation means that the defensive midfielders leave the ball to the flair player like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. This means that when the Dutch attack, all be it rarely in a tournament where they have failed to play like they can, that there is explosion and pace in the forward line.
When the Spanish have the ball in the midfield it seems there is no need to push the ball forward to a player like David Villa or Pedro, meaning that attacks are stifled by short sharp passes.
Spain are good, world class in fact, but the expression ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ comes to mind when they spray the ball across their back 4 and in the middle of the park without any rush to score.
Even Villa has to wait for long periods of the game before he can burst in from the left-hand side or explode through the middle and show why he is the joint top goal-scorer at this tournament as his soon to be Barca club-mates play keep ball.
Cast your mind back to Spain’s first game of the tournament, “the red fury” trailed to a Gelson Fernandes strike in the second half and they needed to change. Fernando Llorente perched on the bench, waiting for his moment like a Cheetah waiting for an Antelope in the under-growth. It was the other Fernando who got put on though, Liverpool striker Torres coming on to prove that he really is injured in an inept display, and Spain went on to lose.
Why do I mention the name of Llorente? Well, he’s 6 foot 5 inches which must count for something when you need a goal and added to that he evidenced to his manager why he should play when heading in a corner late on in a pre-tournament friendly against Saudi Arabia to save his sides blushes.
When the Athletic Bilbao man was introduced in the last-16 match against Iberian rivals Portugal he went close to scoring two goals instantly. Albeit he didn’t convert those chances but he offered threat and purpose. When Xavi and Iniesta were tapping the ball to each other you felt having an option in the box was needed.
Maybe it’s because I’m an English fan. I get nervous when I watch my team Manchester City pass the ball around Eastland’s and long for the time that they ‘just lump it!’. Maybe I find it boring because I’m not cultured enough and like a ball thrown into the box instead of five minutes of passing in the opposition’s final-third.
On the other hand, the more I think about it the more I realise: the passing of this side is simply mesmeric. ‘Tippy Tappy’ some say and to a certain degree they’re right. Villa may not always be involved but hey, he’s scored five goals and his side has only conceded 2 goals all tournament so who am I to question whether they play good football or not?
Whatever they’re doing, they’re winning. England failed to keep the ball for any real length of time against all opposition in the competition which meant it was difficult to wear down their opposition and eventually succumbed to a superior opponent, Germany.
My attitude and questioning of the way Spain play is indicative of why the three lions lose.
So Fabio Capello, watch Spain, watch the way they play and change the way we play because Spain are the most entertaining and classy team on the planet.